Questionable Fashion Decisions People Made Again In 2021

Hindsight is 20/20. Or should we say hindsight is 20/21? While most trends from 2021 have been fun and mostly innocuous, some have caused some serious debate in the fashion world. Are fanny packs high fashion? Are Crocs actually cool, or is the international Crocs craze one big, elaborate prank? And how many times are you really going to wear those patchwork jeans?

As comfortable clothing and high fashion intermingle, there are some serious questions to be had about charging thousands of dollars for fashion decisions labeled tacky not too long ago. Similarly, it's worth discussing the impacts of fast fashion and microtrends on the environment. An item of clothing might look interesting and fun on an influencer's Instagram feed, but the lifecycle of that particular piece needs to be more critically considered before purchase, as environmentalists cautiously examine the role of microtrends in fast fashion cycles. EuroNews reported that the trend cycle as we know it is fundamentally changing with the rise of online shopping and influencer marketing.

At the end of the day, overpriced and overly gimmicky items should be questioned, especially if the item is Balenciaga's heeled Crocs. That said, here are the most questionable fashion trends from 2021.

Can fanny packs be fashionable?

Fanny packs are reliable, comfy, and efficient. But fashionable? The jury is still out for debate, as lovers of utility and fashion want fanny packs to succeed in the world of high fashion. It can be jarring, however, to see brands like Gucci, Prada, and Givenchy capitalize on their growing popularity (via Harper's Bazaar).

Many of the brands that have adopted the fanny pack into their high-end repertoire have rebranded the '80s and '90s mom staple piece as a "belt bag" (via Hozen). The 2021 "belt bag" revival has taken the fashion world by storm because of its practical appeal. "Make it completely hands-free, and it's a no-brainer," stylist Lauren Messiah told The Strategist.

There's no denying the practicality and convenience of the fanny pack: The versatile accessory is comfortable, sensible, and practically theft-proof. The greatest controversy surrounding the fanny pack may be the attempt to turn it into a status symbol. Chanel's line of "waist bags" each cost thousands of dollars. Are fanny packs even practical choices if they cost thousands of dollars to look casual?

Crocs are comfy, but at what cost?

Whether or not Crocs are supposed to be considered legitimately fashionable or intentionally ironic is still ambiguous. Celebrities like Nicki Minaj and Justin Beiber have championed the clunky shoes on their personal Instagram feeds, with Beiber even collaborating with the company to release his very own line (via Grazia).

Crocs have gradually made their sinister breach into mainstream fashion over the past few years, and, in 2016, designer Christopher Kane made headlines by bringing Crocs onto the runway for Fashion Week in London (via Harper's Bazaar). In 2020, the rubbered shoes became the eighth most-wanted fashion item in the world, according to Lyst, a global fashion website. The Guardian reported that Crocs' sales reached $460 million just days after Questlove wore a pair of golden Crocs to the 2021 Oscars.

The comfortable shoes make sense for running errands and kayaking, but images of heeled Crocs by Balenciaga elicit the sneaking suspicion that the high-fashion Crocs trend is some elaborate social psychology experiment.

Pleather: Bad for the environment

As more consumers lean toward cruelty-free products and fashion items, pleather, or fake leather, has replaced the real deal in popular styles. Fake leather can be made from a variety of materials, including pineapple, mushroom, and apples (via Harper's Bazaar). The more accessible and affordable varieties of fake leather, however, are often polyurethane-based (a.k.a. plastic). Plastic microfibers can become dislodged from fake leather products and cause harm to human health through ingestion. As microplastic pollution continues to cause issues for sustainability and human health, the lifecycle of trendy clothing pieces is important for consumers to consider.

Animal rights organizations, like PETA, have advocated for the switch from real to fake leather products to discourage consumers from purchasing animal products. Sandra Sandor, the creative director for the brand Nanushka, told Harper's Bazaar, "There's reasonable ground to state that the environmental impact of producing vegan leather is lower than real leather." Sustainable designer Jourdan Norcose disagreed. "It's actually worse for the planet than regular," he said, referring to the polyurethane-based varieties.

While pleather provides a cheaper alternative and cruelty-free option to real leather, it does have a tendency to bunch up and resemble Hefty garbage bags. Before purchasing a trending pleather clothing piece, it's important to consider how many times it will actually be worn, since pleather is becoming a more questionable fashion choice by the day.

Low-rise jeans need to stay in the 2000s

When Y2K styles began trending in 2021, Millennials braced themselves for the reemergence of the dreaded low-rise jeans. Now that low-rise jeans have picked up some steam from runway shows, the fear of their return is very real.

According to Vogue, low-rise jeans made their way to the runway for brands such as Missoni, Vaquera, and Molly Goddard. The magazine acknowledged the low-rise trend was part of a time when fashion "perpetuated fat phobia and a beauty standard of thin, young, and white." However, Vogue also argued that the newer low-rise trends are more inclusive because some low-rise varieties offer looser fits.

Many people have openly opposed the return of the low-rise jeans. Vox reported that TikTok users have noted that "women's bodies were the fashion, not the clothes" when it came to styles from the early 2000s. TikToker Collin McCarthy elaborated on the sentiment, saying, "If you were anything above a size 2, you were fat. Millennial women learned that through their most formative years, when they were children and teenagers ... they see this trend come back and it's a trigger." Looser-fitting jeans aren't the solution to the low-rise problem.

Nearly 20 years later, it would be best for society to leave awkward pants where they belong: in compilations titled "The 50 Craziest, Most Cringe-Worthy Outfits Celebrities Wore in the Early 2000s."

The patchwork denim trend might need some mending

Patchwork jeans have made waves, as influencers and celebrities have captured amazing outfit moments by incorporating the eclectic wardrobe piece into their look. It's uncertain, however, if these statement jeans are resilient enough to withstand the test of a few months time.

The patchwork denim trend comes in all shapes and colors — some styles are neatly pieced together with hemmed seams, and some are ragged and mismatched with raw edges. Today attributes the rise in popularity of the patchwork denim trend to the rise of the "Granny chic" trend, which refers to vintage and retro fashions that have made a resurgence in recent times.

The greatest criticism of the trend comes from the fact that patchwork jeans are major statement pieces. L'Officiel asserts that both Bella Hadid and Jennifer Lopez have sported the trend for months, but can the average consumer incorporate the statement patchwork pieces into enough outfits to justify purchasing them? Although patchwork denim is a revitalizing take on classic staples, they just might not be worth the price.

Prairie dresses might take the hemline a tad too far

When Target released their line of prairie dresses, the internet did not hold back any punches. The ankle-length dresses caught the attention of online personalities and began trending for all the wrong reasons. Rachel Weingarten, a brand strategist and trend analyst, told Forbes, "I don't think Target meant to create a hideous dress." She continued, "I think they meant to piggyback off the Duchess of Cambridge's ladylike dresses, only an affordable version. It was just bad timing."

After months of isolation and social distancing, the arrival of the Target prairie dress just so happened to coincide with consumers beginning to leave their houses again. After a Facebook group for the #TargetDressChallenge was created, many Target stores quickly sold out of the dresses as people rushed to hop on the trend of taking pictures in the dress wearing bonnets or in farm settings.

Following the Target dress fiasco, many brands began to release their refined take on the prairie dress. As noted by Parade, the dresses are "seriously comfy," and there is a lot of potential in a piece as versatile as the prairie dress. More midi styles have come out of the prairie dress resurgence, which make for a much less questionable look overall.

Too much of anything is a bad thing, layers included

Good layering is a keystone of good fashion. Self-identified New York fashion students on TikTok have possibly taken layering too far, and excessive layers have become a source of parody on the platform. TikTok creator @deletethisalex made his own version of the "Get Ready with Me: Fashion School NYC" videos to add to the growing collection of satire for the over-layering trend.

When done correctly, layering can be an amazing way to reuse summer pieces in the winter or create the illusion of a dress as a skirt. When done poorly, it can look tacky and over-the-top. Many of the original layering videos on TikTok began with too many random layers being added underneath sweaters and jackets. The Lexington Line wrote that the key to the trend is to "layer with purpose." Asking the simple question "Can I see all of my outfit's layers?" can prevent the overly bulky silhouette caused by adding unnecessary pieces to an outfit.

Bermuda shorts need to go

Bermuda shorts came back in style in 2021. The long shorts, which rose to popularity in the U.S. in the 1950s, 1970s, 1990s, and mid-2000s, are best known for their usage in children's apparel (via L'Officiel). The association between Bermuda shorts and children's wardrobes should be discouraging enough for anyone tempted to jump in on the trend, but there's apparently no stopping the surge of the long shorts.

The Editorialist reported that Saint Laurent, Marc Jacobs, and Givenchy have all brought Bermuda shorts to their runway shows over the past few years. There are a few styles of the long shorts that are more acceptable than others, namely the shorts in linen or leather textiles. The denim varieties are still just too childlike and awkward to pass for high fashion.

Overall, the long shorts are just a tad too long for comfort and style and might be best left behind as we move into the new year.

Crochet styles might be a little too extra

Crochet fashions took off in earnest when Harry Styles donned a rainbow cardigan on the "Today" show in 2020 (via Refinery29). Fans of the look began to DIY the rainbow cardigan, and designer Jonathan Anderson took notice of the trend. Soon after, Anderson shared the official pattern for crochet enthusiasts to recreate the cardigan at home. "I am so impressed and incredibly humbled by this trend and everyone knitting the cardigan. I really wanted to show our appreciation so we are sharing the pattern with everyone. Keep it up!" the designer wrote in the release.

Since then, crochet styles have gradually evolved from cute chunky knits into something more granny-like, with looks consisting of fully crocheted crop tops and shorts. Although the kitsch intention is evident in these head-to-toe crochet looks, their gradual transition into everyday wear is, perhaps, just a little too extra.

Trucker hats are trying to make a comeback

With all of the existing varieties of fun and tasteful hats available, it begs the question: Why trucker hats? The signature hat style from the early 2000s has been spotted on celebrities like Rihanna, Gigi Hadid, and Gwen Stefani, indicating its possible return to mainstream consumer fashion in the near future (via Refinery29).

To celebrate the resurgence of the trucker hat, the legendary trucker hat brand, Von Dutch, began rereleasing their most popular styles from the early 2000s. Von Dutch's general manager, Ed Goldman, told Refinery29, "Our brand is taking advantage of the shift by expanding our offerings with new, elevated styles, [while] staying true to the staples that made us so popular."

The new era of trucker hats looks nearly identical to its original surge of popularity in the early 2000s. With Y2K fashion on the rise, the hats have mostly maintained their over-the-top embellishments and basic structure, featuring foam in the front and mesh in the back. As more brands continue to put out new trucker hats, it's likely these questionable fashion choices will stay in the spotlight for quite some time.

The Met Gala 2021 red carpet looks were not it

There have been some incredible Met Gala themes and looks within the past couple of years. Who could possibly forget the "Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination" theme from 2018 or the "Camp: Notes on Fashion" theme from 2019? To say 2021 fell short of its predecessors would be an understatement. 2021's theme, "In America: A Lexicon of Fashion," was bad. The looks from 2021's Met Gala foreshadow trends of disorganized and unfocused fashion that attempts to be kitsch but misses the mark entirely.

Cosmopolitan created a list of the best and worst looks from the event. Some of the worst-dressed celebrities on the ill-fated red carpet were Kim Kardashian in the all-black bodysuit by Balenciaga, Pete Davidson in the dress suit by Thom Browne, and Kim Petras in the "horse girl" gown. According to Vogue, the Met Gala is supposed to be "a grand display of art as fashion and fashion as art." 2021's bizarre Met Gala lineup certainly foreshadowed a year of questionable choices that included Crocs, fanny packs, and crochet.

'Naked' looks got a little out of hand in 2021

The "naked" look is hot. It's daring and sexy, and anyone can crush it. The issue with the "naked" trend in 2021 was the lack of good judgment that accompanied many of the looks from the year.

Kendall Jenner made headlines with her inappropriate wedding guest dress in November. The barely-there dress was immaculate and sexy, but totally inappropriate for someone else's wedding. "We want to select attire that would still be flattering to oneself, but not so overly flattering that it upstages the bride on her special day," said Elaine Swann, a national expert in etiquette (via USA Today).

At the 2021 Billboard Music Awards, Megan Fox wore a similar black cut-out dress that was absolutely stunning (via People). But, the ultra-exposed dress coupled with the cringe-worthy PDA between Fox and her date, Machine Gun Kelly, caused some people to question the taste of the ensemble.

The rules of pulling off a successful "naked" look are simple: Don't wear it to someone else's wedding, and don't French kiss on the red carpet.

Sneaker wedges render athletic shoes completely useless

The sneaker wedges were controversial when they reached peak popularity in the 2010s. The shoes began trending after they were seen on celebrities such as Beyoncé, Alicia Keys, and Kerry Washington. Their comeback in 2021 is, perhaps, even more controversial, as the impractical shoe should have never seen the light of day again.

The French designer behind the shoes, Isabel Marant, said in a press release, "I've never stopped wanting to wear them," citing their comfort and style as the shoes' greatest attributes (via Refinery29). It seems much easier to cut out the middle-man for shoe style and comfort by simply opting for old-fashioned sneakers. Women's Health argued that the shoes might actually provide more comfort than regular sneakers due to the added cushioning that makes up the heel.

After cheap knockoff versions of the wedge sneakers began circulating in the fashion world in the mid-2010s, Marant told The Cut in 2014 that her designs had "become something super-vulgar." When Marant decided to revitalize the shoes in 2021, she told The New York Times that she anticipated the reboot would take off because "there's a whole new audience. Whoever is buying it now, they don't remember the original."

Puffer jackets: Practical but stylish?

There is a need for fashionable and warm winter coats, yes. But, in 2021, has science not eliminated the need to rely on puffer jackets for warmth?

The puffer coat trend has been spotted during Fashion Week for Prada and Balenciaga's winter runways (via Editorialist). Celebrities, such as Bad Bunny, have also been seen wearing the massive coat, bringing the high-fashion look into the real world (via Vogue). Generally, the trend seems to be thriving despite the resemblance to the outfits worn by the kids in "South Park" and "A Christmas Story," though, according to Who What Wear, the unbalanced proportions of the puffer jacket are all part of its appeal.

The practicality of the puffer jacket is undeniable, especially in areas with colder climates. For anyone who remembers being bundled up for snowstorms in giant, fluffy coats, however, the fashion appeal of the puffer jacket may be a harder sell.