Okay so… the early 2000’s. The noughties. Y2K. I know there’s a lot of disdain for the style of the era. Totally understandable; it was flashy, trashy, and honestly all over the place. But isn’t that what made it so great? Let me just get it out of the way and confess how much I absolutely love this era of fashion. It was a beautiful mess, and seeing the resurgence of Y2K looks today is super exciting. Looks back then had a sense of humor, sex appeal, and an edge; no two outfits were the same. Even in the world of high fashion, different luxury brands embraced this brash direction, ranging from Dior’s fun and sexy collections featuring experimental silhouettes, bright colors, and saddlebags to Alexander McQueen’s dark, moody, and beautifully tailored collections. However, there is one person who stands out above all others in terms of Y2K fashion. She was consistently experimenting, trendsetting, and, obviously, being rich and hot. Let’s dive into the legacy left by the personified blueprint of noughties fashion: Paris Hilton.
Paris, as we all know, is the great-granddaughter of Conrad Hilton, making her heiress to the Hilton Hotel empire’s fortune. She was born in New York in 1981 to an actress/socialite mother and businessman father. Her family was very well-connected, with famous friends such as Lionel Richie (and obviously Nichole Richie), the Trumps, and the Kardashians. In interviews, Paris even recounted her family being personally invited to Micheal Jackson’s concerts when she was a child. Described as a tomboy growing up, she moved around a lot and attended several schools, including a year at Provo Canyon School for troubled teens. She never graduated but instead earned her GED later on.
Paris’s career began when she was 19 after she signed with T management (no matter how hard I try I cannot seem to avoid this man but, yes, this is Donald Trump’s modeling agency). From there, she started to become known for her unique sense of style and charisma. She landed on the pages of Vanity Fair alongside her sister Nicky in a photoshoot by the legendary David LaChapelle in 2001. Paris began to blow up in the nightlife scene after being booked for numerous club promoting gigs, which enhanced her rebellious hot blonde persona and drew even more attention to her daring outfits. Her legendary 21st birthday look from 2002 was a plunging silver chainmail dress with a matching choker, dark eye makeup and cute spiky hair. This look, though it may seem a little typical now, was ahead of its time. Kendall Jenner recreated it for her own 21st birthday, popularizing this look for baddies everywhere.
Paris was catapulted from socialite to international sensation in 2003 with the airing of her hit reality show “The Simple Life,” starring alongside her then-best friend Nichole Richie. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend–it is hilarious. The premise: Paris and Nichole are taken away from their luxurious lifestyles to stay with a family in a small town. They have no money and have to work regular jobs with regular people and abide by the family’s rules. Both Paris and Nichole have huge personalities and pretty much fucked around the entire time. Honestly, I cannot tell you how insane this show is. (I can’t leave out the fact that her sex tape also leaked in 2003, which definitely aided her in becoming the sensation she became). Anyways… “The Simple Life” had a huge impact on pop culture and resulted in legendary trends that are now considered staples of the 2000s. Paris’s well-crafted dumb blonde party girl image was cemented, instantly recognizable, and extremely marketable. Her catchphrase “that’s hot” really stuck, and she was almost single-handedly responsible for the immense success of Juicy Couture because of this television show.
Yes, Juicy Couture. Arguably the most defining brand of the 2000s. Their colorful velour tracksuits were EVERYWHERE and worn by EVERYONE. Juicy made dressing comfortably stylish. The brand popularized and fully established “athleisure,” which has grown massively since then in the United States and abroad. Juicy Couture was relatively small when they released their tracksuits and due to lack of money, they decided to market their line by sending it to celebrities. Though this is a common practice today, Juicy was one of the first companies to do so. In an interview with Vogue, Paris remarked that after receiving her first set, she was obsessed and ordered the entire line. “The Simple Life” comes into play because Juicy was almost all Paris and Nichole wore during filming. They could work their odd jobs in comfort while still looking cute. After “The Simple Life” aired, the brand really blew up, and Paris was basically the face of the company.
In the 2000s, the culture and following of celebrities was huge. People looked up to them, as people do today with influencers, and wanted to replicate their looks. When Paris–along with celebrities like Brittany Spears, JLo, and Beyonce–started wearing Juicy, a “luxury” brand that was accessible to the average person and would make them look and feel like their favorite stars, people went crazy for it. Juicy became a staple of the era. So, with the resurgence of Y2K fashion, Juicy Couture has also made a comeback, releasing a collaboration with Vetements in 2016 as well as a line with Urban Outfitters, utilizing Paris in their marketing. It is a little pricey though (we’re talking $40 for a tube top), so I try to keep an eye out when I go thrifting. Trust me–they’re out there in abundance.
more understated looks of today. Let me just put it out there that I own a good amount of low rise jeans and like Ed Hardy (judge me if you must). It’s tacky in the best way, and Paris is the queen of it all.
Paris was a big reason many of these trends were so popular in the first place. Not to mention, Paris herself was a brand. In an era obsessed with celebrities, she was at the top, constantly in the tabloids, and always had the people’s attention fixed on her. Where she went, what she did, how she looked, etc. She knew how to market herself and truly was famous not just for what she did but for who she was. Keep in mind Kim Kardashian used to work for her. She had her trademarks: the color pink was a big one, along with her little dogs, platinum hair, year-round tan, and her literal trademarking of “that’s hot.” Her trashy Barbie aesthetic went on not only to define her and what many aspired to be in the 2000s, but is something people look to now and will look to in the future when it comes to Y2K culture and style. Her persona plus her look was the perfect storm of 2000s drama, sex, style, tiny dogs in purses, and money. She has never strayed from her brand, playing a dumb blonde to this day and it has made her a household name. She really is the embodiment of this era, as she was THE trendsetter. It is easy for people to dismiss her and her legacy because of her persona, but in reality, she is a businesswoman and much more than she seems at first glance.