"Lookin' back now, I can see meWhen an old, embarrassing outfit is spoofed In-Universe. People can get caught up in the fashions of a certain time, and just cringe thinking about it later on. This can be any time, but usually it's about the decades immediately before most present day works. So for a while, The '70s and The '80s were the most popular subjects for this, and now the 1990s and even the 2000s are slowly becoming this. Sometimes it's the character acknowledging how dumb he/she looked, but just as often it's their friends laughing at how dumb he/she used to look and that character not denying it, or we see the character back then and get a good laugh out of it. Often shown during a Flashback, home video, or Embarrassing Old Photo. This is virtually universally Truth in Television for people looking back on their younger days. Remember, people: whatever you think is fashionable and stylish today will look ridiculous to the next generation, or yourself some years later. Compare Old Shame, Fashion Dissonance, Deader Than Disco, Outdated Outfit, Impossibly Tacky Clothes. Contrast I Was Quite a Looker (when a character looked better in the past).
Oh man, did I look cheesy."
Oh man, did I look cheesy."
— Mark Wills, "Nineteen Somethin'"
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- Denis Leary notes that drugs had to be the reason for platform shoes and bellbottoms. Though he also notes that people born after the '70s may not understand just how hard it was to find clothes on sale that didn't look like that. Clothing like that goes on sale (with big discounts) for a reason.
Denis: There we were in the middle of a sexual revolution, wearing clothing that guaranteed we wouldn't get laid.
- Jeff Dunham starts his Controlled Chaos show with a photo gallery of himself in some horribly tacky outfits. Even he has no idea what the hell he was thinking with some of them.
- Nowadays Superheroes tend to do this, although how much of it is the characters or the writers is up to debate. An especially famous case happened to Black Canary, who, after a stint with a cringe-worthy costume, actually set it on fire on the cover of an issue◊. In an issue of Birds of Prey she and Oracle go to a mall. Upon seeing a display of dolls featuring her 80s costume and having the clerk explain that they can't even sell the things, she buys up all of them so that no one else can see how bad it looked.
- Silk Spectre II mentions it in Watchmen.
- Dick Grayson from Batman does this a lot, with regards to both his scaly green underoo Robin costume and his first, disco-ish Nightwing costume.
- There's a reason Luke Cage just wears a T-shirt and jeans these days. Take this exchange from Cable & Deadpool:
Deadpool: Did I mention I was a huge fan of the yellow silk shirt and chains?
Luke: Me too. Drawback: couldn't even shout-out all the bloodstains.
- In an issue of the '90s Wonder Man series, Wondy makes a list of his top ten villains. Number 2 was "everyone who's designed one of my previous costumes."
- Discussed in Savage Wolverine #12: Kitty Pryde is teaching a class on costume design at the Jean Grey institute, and shows off her old costumes, including the Impossibly Tacky Sprite costume (gold lame, leg warmers, and roller skates!). One student, Quentin Quire, razzes her for it, and she simply notes "It was a more innocent time." Mind you, Quentin's pink fauxhawk isn't exactly timeless...
- Iron Man tries really hard to forget the time he gave his helmet a nose, and sometimes also when he had built-in rollerskates in his armor.
- In IDW's authorized comic book The Forgotten, the Tenth Doctor and Martha discover a museum exhibit displaying several of the Doctor's past looks. Martha's reaction to Six's jacket: "Were you trying out for Joseph?"
- Calvin and Hobbes: While we never see what is in the picture Calvin is looking at, apparently in college his dad wore a "Party Naked" T-shirt and his mom looked like a "bimbo." (Bill Watterson himself claims that college yearbooks should have statutes of limitations.)
- Zits had a strip where Jeremy asks his dad what he was like at 15. Apparently, he had a large poofy afro, bell-bottom pants, ridiculously tacky jacket and shirt, and had braces and granny glasses. Oh, and he played the clarinet. The image scares Jeremy enough it gets rid of his hiccup.
Films — Live-Action
- Dead Poets Society: Some of Professor Keating's students show him an old yearbook from when he was still a student, asking him what the "Dead Poets Society" was. Keating is suitably horrified at his yearbook photo.
Keating: Thank you for this trip down amnesia lane. [hands them back the yearbook] Please burn this.
- In The Berenstain Bears and the Dress Code, most of the students are trying stranger and stranger clothing styles, including one wearing a tiny miniskirt that prompts Miss Glitch to send her home to change. This prompts vice-principal Mervyn "Bullhorn" Grizzmeyer to try to institute a school dress code, which the students promptly rebel against through Loophole Abuse, up until Mr. Grizzmeyer sets the rules as "If I don't like your outfit, you go home and change". The matter is ultimately settled by a public debate with Mr. Grizzmeyer, Miss Glitch and Papa Bear on one side and the cubs on the other, which the cubs (Brother in particular) win without saying a single word: they simply show three slides they got from Grizzly Gran (Papa's mother), Mrs. Grizzmeyer (Mr. Grizzmeyer's wife) and Miss Glitch's mother of the adult trio in various bizarre outfits, including Papa in bellbottoms and Mr. Grizzmeyer in a zoot suit and a wide-brimmed hat. The dress code is promptly discontinued, and having made their point, the students largely abandon their stranger outfits for more normal ones.
- Briefly mentioned in A Murder Is Announced — Miss Blacklock's niece Julia mentions being amused by pictures of Miss Blacklock as a young woman in the fashions of The Roaring '20s. Julia's brother remarks that in thirty years' time, it'll be Julia's turn to cringe at what she's wearing now.
- Doctor Who:
- In the "Power of the Daleks" novelisation, the Second Doctor (on first regenerating) starts going through his jewellery box and finds a large earring, telling Ben and Polly that he used to wear it when he was younger. "Very fashionable once."
- In the book The Roots of Evil, the Fourth Doctor encounters a statue of his Eleventh self and despairs that he will someday think wearing a bow tie is a good idea, insisting that he hates them and that they are not cool.
- Friends did this any time (mainly with Chandler and Ross) there was a flashback to when they were teens or in college:
- Ross spent much of his time in college looking like Lionel Richie.
- Chandler sported A Flock of Seagulls hair and once entered a Vanilla Ice look-alike competition and won (Ross entered too, but he only came in fourth).
- And in one of the Thanksgiving flashback episodes, Ross and Chandler turn up dressed like Sonny Crockett, complete with nonsensical posing and rolling up their sleeves. They also acknowledge their previous looks as embarrassing, failing to realize that they still look ridiculous.
- Subverted in Better Off Ted. A flashback to Phil's first day shows Phil with long hair and a tie-dye shirt and Lem with an afro and purple glasses. Then Lem says, "It's too bad your first day had to be during Sixties Week."
- Bones has one episode in which Cam is revealed to be an actress on an old B movie, that she acted on to pay for med school while she was in New York. On the movie, she uses an afro and tainted top.
- In 2010, when Sigourney Weaver hosted Saturday Night Live for the first time in nearly 24 years, she showed a still of herself when she hosted in 1986 (on the first episode featuring a new cast after the season 11 fiasco that almost got the show canned for good), wearing this outfit◊. Things have changed a lot since then, she acknowledged; she "wears a bra now."
- Emily Prentiss in Criminal Minds is revealed to suffer badly from this in one of the more hilarious moments of the series.
Garcia: You're seriously trying to tell me you don't remember rocking that look?
Reid: Perhaps your lack of recognition stems from a dissociative fugue suffered in adolescence. Say, at a Siouxsie and the Banshees concert?
- Cordelia from Angel, while studying her own photo album to get over her amnesia:
Cordelia: Hmmm. Cute... [flip] cute... [flip] hot... [flip to egregious afro haircut] Yikes!!
- Angel himself sported a rather horrifying mullet (yes, mullet) in the seventies. He's still a residual fanboy of Barry Manilow.
- In Power Rangers Dino Thunder, Kira sees a picture of Tommy in his Mighty Morphin days and makes fun of his long hair. Tommy counters that in the '90s everyone thought it was cool.
- In The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air the whole family sees Phil and Vivian on an episode of Soul Train sporting Afros and Bell bottoms and other wacky 70s styles.
- Top Gear's tribute to the now-defunct Saab includes a clip from the old format of the show, featuring a much younger Jeremy Clarkson, complete with atrocious '80s hair and clothing.
Clarkson: We would like to apologize for the music... and the shirt, and the jacket and the hair...
- In The Nanny episode "The Kibbutz",the '70s flashback scenes show Fran Fine wearing 10-esque cornrows, Maxwell Sheffield wearing a leisure suit and Porn Stache, and C.C. Babcock with long, black Yoko Ono-esque hair.
- In the first episode of The Chris Rock Show, Chris Rock claims he's actually the second Chris Rock, much like how there were two Lionels on The Jeffersons. He shows a picture of "the original Chris", which is a picture of himself with a jheri curl hairdo.
- Doctor Who: The Doctor has made all sorts of short-sighted fashion decisions over the years, making this a frequent theme whenever he recalls his early behavior or meets himself:
- When the Seventh Doctor debuts in "Time and the Rani", having finally shed the Sixth Doctor's... interesting... clothing, he remarks "I'm glad to see I've returned to a sense of haute couture."
- In the 1993 "The Power of the Daleks" audio reconstruction, with narration provided by the Fourth Doctor, he audibly cringes when recalling his decision to go around wearing the First Doctor's clothes, even though they no longer fit him:
The Doctor: I looked like a clown. I will never understand why I thought this ensemble was acceptable garb for a Time Lord.
- In some of the Official Fan-Submitted Content about the Ninth Doctor on Clive's Character Blog, the Ninth Doctor is reported to have been spotted at the dump throwing away frilly shirts, long scarves and a multicoloured coat in the name of "a clear-out".
- In the charity special "Time Crash", the Tenth Doctor is delighted with Five's cricket gear, but has a harder time complimenting the stick of celery. "But fair play to you; not a lot of men can carry off a decorative vegetable."
- In "The Day of the Doctor", the Eleventh Doctor snipes at the Tenth Doctor's "sand shoes" and even remarks negatively on his taste in TARDIS décor, saying it was his "grunge phase" and telling the War Doctor that he'll grow out of it.
- In "Deep Breath", the Twelfth Doctor announces that he needs a new outfit with a really long scarf, then quickly changes his mind about the scarf because it'd look stupid — although not because the scarf itself looks stupid, but because the look is too young for him to pull off (the Fourth Doctor was about 750, and the Twelfth is over 2000).
- In "Time Heist", the Twelfth Doctor allows a psychic alien to feast on his memories, telling it, "Big scarf... bow tie... embarrassing."
- In Torchwood: Miracle Day, Jack, when approached about a picture of him with a bushy Porn Stache, simply responds "The Seventies". His clothing, however, averts this trope as he still wears his World War II greatcoat.
- Only Fools and Horses: Most people tend to look back on what they wore during the 80's with embarrassment. Mickey Pierce on the other hand, averts this by never changing his look at all... leaving his wardrobe stuck Two Decades Behind by the end of the series.
- In Lost, during a round of "I Never" Kate gets Sawyer to admit that he once wore pink. Sawyer just replies with "It was the Eighties!"
- Community: In an election for school president, Jeff runs against Annie for the sole purpose of showing her what a hollow sham politics is — on the last debate she holds him up to ridicule by showing his audition tape for MTV's The Real World where he dresses up, sings, and dances like George Michael.
Jeff: [defensively] I was, like, nineteen!
Annie: We've all been nineteen, Jeff; we didn't do this!
- In How I Met Your Mother
- Lily says of her homecoming picture "the bangs were a mistake" — and then when we flash back to her prom, we see she wasn't kidding. Ted also had incredibly curly hair back in college.
- Barney in his past, far from being the Sharp-Dressed Man he is in the present, was a long-haired hippie. He's mocked considerably for it.
- Robin takes the cake with this one — as it's revealed that she was a Teen Idol in her youth. She sported poofed up blonde hair, a bedazzled denim jacket and other stereotypical '80s fashions. What makes this double is that this was the 90s, and she claims the 80s got to Canada a little later than everywhere else.
- Another episode has Marshall reading a letter he wrote to himself when he was a teenager, and mentions he wore farmer-style suspender overalls because he thought it was cool. Lily states that had he still worn that in college, he would not have gotten laid as fast as he did.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer Buffy says when seeing her mother's yearbook photo:
- Guitar World magazine had a monthly feature where guitarists would answer reader-submitted questions. Alex Lifeson of Rush was questioned on the band's stage clothing in their early years, and he responded, "We're hardly the only band to regret what we wore in The '70s."
- In a Doctor Who Magazine interview about costume design, Tom Baker summarized an imaginary scene of his Doctor shaving, getting dressed, pulling one of the Third Doctor's frilly shirts off the rack, looking at it for a second, and then tossing it to the floor in total disgust. Coincidentally, this is quite similar to a scene in the Target novelization of the Fourth Doctor's regeneration story, "Robot", where the Doctor has just woken up out of a post-regeneration coma to find UNIT has prepared a change of clothes for him ("a velvet jacket, checked trousers, and a frilly shirt") which he refuses to wear, commenting in his internal monologue that they are far too fancy — "What sort of a chap would go around dressed up like that?".
- In Spider-Man: Web of Shadows, Spidey encounters Luke Cage, who has the temerity to joke about his full-body-spandex costume. Spidey, of course, retorts with a full critique of Cage's original costume... ya know, the one with the tiara. Cage's defense is, of course, "It was the '70s! What's your excuse?" Spidey's excuse, given to Ezekiel in the comics:
Spider-Man: I was fifteen, gimme a break.
- There's an ongoing story in Irregular Webcomic!, concerning a time-traveling younger version of the Mythbusters-crew... from the 80's. Complete with ridiculous big hair.
- Flashbacks in the modern arc of Arthur, King of Time and Space occasionally show Merlin in his hippy days.
- A piece of filler art for Commander Kitty has the Velvet Knight crew commenting on how terribly they used to dress after finding an old magazine with them on the cover.
- The Touhou fancomic "Maid Alliance's Dark History Presentation has Kanako dig up some dirt on Sanae's past. Such as this image.◊
Kanako: This looks like the doing of someone who doesn't understand what Visual Kei is, so worked hard and looked it up on Google.
- A Nothing Nice To Say strip has a group of teenagers looking in an old yearbook belonging to one of their fathers, making fun of his striking a Disco pose, in full Disco Dan regalia, sometime in the 70's. The final panel then shows them being modern day hipsters, with all the ridiculous haircuts, accessories and clothes that entails.
- Family Guy:
- Death dressed horribly in The '70s, as seen in the picture.
- Another episode has a flashback about the gang (minus Joe who hadnt moved to Quahog yet) hanging out at the Drunken Clam in the '70s, '80s and finally in 1999. They all wear stereotypical clothing in the '70s and '80s, such as Cleveland having a huge afro and bellbottom pants in the '70s, Quagmire wearing a Miami Vice outfit in the '80s, etc. Also, Clevelands catchphrase changes in each scene.
Cleveland: Oh that's cool/that's fly/you're living a vida!
- Many people in flashbacks in The Simpsons, but particularly Dr. Hibbert (who had an afro when Bart was born, beaded cornrows when Lisa was born, and a Mr. T-style mohawk when Maggie was born.)
- In the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode "Call of the Cutie," Cheerilee shows a class of young ponies a picture of herself when she got her cutie mark, and her 80s clothes and hair gets a laugh.
Cheerilee: Yes, I know, but honestly, that's how everypony was wearing their mane back then.
- Doubly hilarious, because some prior My Little Ponies actually looked like that. Bonus points: Cheerilee is one of the few characters directly named after an existing pony. The "Neigh Anything" story in the comic books shows she did indeed wear her mane like that, along with a group of other like-minded ponies.
- The Fairly OddParents!:
- The Mayor is blackmailed by Vicky with pictures of him from the '70s. Even though he still succumbs to the blackmail, he makes a strong claim that it was fashionable back then.
- "The Secret Origin Of Denzel Crocker" has Timmy travel back to the 80s to figure out why Mr Crocker is so unhappy in the future. He looks for a college-age Crocker in 1984, and remarks that the whole decade is a fashion disaster. He has Cosmo and Wanda poof him up a Miami Vice-outfit with gaudy sunglasses so he'll blend in.
- Done in an episode of Birdz, with Mr and mrs Storkowitz (Mr. Storkowitz is far more embarrassed).
- Code Lyoko:
- One episode involves Odd publishing in the school newpaper an old picture of Yumi dressed in a ridiculous pink fairy costume for a party (in her defense, she was forced to dress like that by her parents). Yumi is not amused.
- In another episode, Odd and Yumi switch bodies following a materialization bug. While at Yumi's house, Odd finds colorful provocative clothes and decides to dress in it, much to Yumi's embarrassment.
- In the Disney Hercules series finale, Hercules gets a hold of Meg's yearbook which we don't get to see...
Hercules: Look at your hair!
Meg: That was the style of the time!
- Parodied in Clerks: The Animated Series where Dante and Randall get locked in a freezer, and remember the first time they met each other at the Quick Stop, with Randall commenting on how he still can't believe how they looked back in the day. The flashback clearly takes place in The '80s so you'd expect them to be wearing some ridiculous 80's clothes, but they're dressed exactly the same as they are in the present day.
- The second "DC Comics Special" of Robot Chicken has The Scarecrow stumble across footage of an old talent show at Smallville High that Lex Luthor participated in as a teenager... as a glam rock act named "Sex Luthor", complete with ridiculous 80s hair.
- Dave Barry has noted that he distinctly remembers looking normal in high school, and was horrified to see that his yearbook photo shows a very stereotypical nerd.
- This photo◊ of a poofy-haired, shirtless, fuzzy-chested, pornstachioed Colin Baker from The '70s has become infamous among Whovians, who dubbed it "Seventies Porn Colin" even though Colin Baker was never involved in actual porn.
- The website Awkward Family Photos gets a lot of mileage from the outfits and hairdos of prior decades, especially the 70s and 80s.