When it comes to remembering the '90s, there are few things that pop into my mind quicker than the mall — especially all the things you did at the mall in the '90s with your friends. They feel like they happened light years ago, but they're still some of my favorite and most carefree memories from adolescence.
Looking back, it's definitely not about what we bought or how much money we spent; it's about the bonds we formed and the fun we had together. As adolescents, we go through tons of changes in terms of our bodies, our emotions, and our perspectives of the world, so it's nice to look back and remember those precious afternoons spent with just our friends, talking about our worries and dreams.
Of course, the mall wasn't just about planning our futures and existential thinking. It was also about trying on tons of jewelry, buying coordinating outfits, and eating as many soft pretzels as we could fit into our mouths. In the '90s, malls symbolized freedom for many of America's youths, giving us a place away from our parents and teachers to explore ourselves and exist in the "adult" world for a little while every weekend. If you loved the mall in the '90s, you may relate to many of the following memories:
1. Spraying Every Single Scent at Claire's
What was better than "testing" every single body mist and perfume at Claire's with your friends? Of course, you fully intended to pick one to be your "signature scent" for the school year, but you inevitably went back to your beloved body mists from Bath and Body Works instead. You bothered that poor Claire's employee for nothing.
2. Awkwardly Trying On Bras
Ah, yes: Never, ever forget those precious hours spent awkwardly trying to help your friends try on risque bras without the embarassment of having a parent with you. Those memories are truly irreplaceable now that we understand how cup sizes work and how to adjust bra straps. No trip to the mall was complete without someone trying on a push-up that was three sizes too big — and, with the support of the group, buying it in two different colors.
3. Eating At A Sit-Down Restaurant Without Your Parents
The first time I went out to eat without my family was definitely at a chain restaurant in the local mall. Of course, our servers hated us because we were super giggly and obnoxious about everything from asking for a soda to figuring out how to leave a tip, but at the time, nothing felt more dignified and mature than eating at a sit down restaurant without our parents.
4. Attempting To Flirt With Strangers In The Food Court
Remember all of those people you were half in-love with by the time your mom picked you up in the parking lot? Sure, you never actually said anything to them, but you awkwardly stared and waved from across the food court, so it was basically the same thing.
5. Wasting Tons of Quarters At The Arcade
Who didn't want to win an enormous stuffed animal that was definitely for your little brother (come on, admit it: it was actually for yourself) with all of the change your mom left you in case of an emergency? I never had much luck at arcades because I have terrible hand-eye coordination, but I firmly believe teenagers in a mall somewhere actually won stuff.
6. Trying On A Million Pairs Of Shoes At Payless
What was more exciting than picking out a new pair of shoes at Payless? Sure, your parents would never actually let you wear them to school, but pairing your new wedges and capris, you knew you'd look awesome at that year's pool party.
7. Gossiping On A Bench With Your Friends
After all of that shopping and giggling and eating, what else would you do except sit down and relax? Of course, you didn't want to call your parents for a ride just yet, so you took over several benches with your friends to continue gossiping and chatting with more leisure. If you thought ahead and picked up a sugary snack from the food court, this was also your chance to rejuvenate your energy.
8. Trying Every Sample At Sephora
Sephora's samples are legendary. While as adults, we use them for their intended purpose — swatching — as teenagers, we mostly used them as a way to add a little more body glitter to our mall ensembles.
9. Sulking In Hot Topic
It's basically a fact: Everyone has sulked in a mall Hot Topic at least once in their life. Whether or not you actually bought the band T-shirts, funny pins, or electric blue hair dye on sale there, you've wandered around Hot Topic and felt very "in tune" with the emo music blaring from the speakers at least once in your adolescence.
10. Eating Tons And Tons Of Sugar
If there's one things malls have all over the place, it's candy. You can get it in pharmacies, department stores, machines, and yes, some malls even have entire stores dedicated to candy. If you ever felt your energy drop the smallest bit during a mall trip, you know you found the closest candy vendor and binged. After all, who knows when the next time you'd all get a ride to the mall would be?
11. Pretending You Were The Cast Of Friends
After everyone got over the fact that yes, there could only be one Rachel Greene, pretending everyone was their own character from Friends made trips to the mall feel much more glamorous. After all, it was basically like living in New York City... Right?
12. Calling Your Crush From A Pay Phone
Calling your crush from your house phone had the potential to be super awkward because of caller ID and the chance that your parents would pick up the phone from the other room. Once you were at the mall, however, you were protected from these worries. After all, what's more mysterious than an unknown number calling you?
13. Giggling At Sexy Magazines In The Back Of The Pharmacy
Who didn't eventually end up in the back of a bookstore or pharmacy flipping through risqué magazines? This was the time everyone could talk about what fancy lingerie they'd wear when they grew up, or which bikini they were going to secretly order in time for next summer vacation. Ah, the good old days.