20 Years Ago: Cap, Gown, Doc Martens

You know the question where people ask what advice you’d give your younger self?

Well, my total Oprah moment happened, minus the illustrious Lady O, just last weekend when a young seating hostess at my favorite taco place was sporting a pair of black Doc Martens.

“I know what I’d tell my younger self,” I thought as I looked at them longingly. “Never, ever get rid of your Doc Martens because one day, you’ll be wishing you still had yours.”

I know they’re just shoes — boots actually — and I don’t even remember the precise moment they weren’t in my life anymore. But what I do remember is saving up many, many Camp Snoopy and babysitting paychecks before I plunked down what felt like an unearthly amount of money for a college kid’s footwear.

Naturally, I made sure I got my money’s worth and wore them all the time. With jeans, of course, but mostly with really long skirts. There were the broomstick skirts, a late ’90s staple, but my personal favorite were the nearly floor-length, super girly floral print skirts that had a center row of very small buttons that ran vertically almost down to the bottom. There was just something fun about pairing something so feminine with combat boots that made me feel cool. And if you know me, “cool” isn’t the first word that springs to mind. Need proof? I regularly wore Green Bay Packer Zubaz pants and sports jerseys in support of my favorite teams.

I guess it’s appropriate that I’m having a wave of ’90s nostalgia. It was around this time 20 years (!!!) ago, I graduated from college. While I’m clearly no longer in possession of the aforementioned Doc Martens (sigh!), there’s quite a few things from that decade that I still have a fondness for.

While there was no actual irony in her song titled “Ironic,” I still love me some Alanis. Ditto for Sarah McLachlan, Weezer’s Blue Album, PFR and yes, every time I hear the Gin Blossoms or Cranberries, I can’t help but smile and sing along if I’m alone in my car. And while I’m a little sad that “Party of Five” and “90210” didn’t quite stand the test of time (they’re both pretty awful in 2018), I love reruns of “Friends,” “Seinfeld,” and of course, my beloved “Felicity,” ugly sweaters, Julie (just watch, and you’ll loathe her too) and all.

Other reminders of my college years — some embarrassing, some not-so-embarrassing — in no particular order are: “highlights” with burgundy hair mascara, repeat viewings of Jerry Maguire, Clueless and The Wedding Singer, juniper breeze body lotion from Bath & Body Works, Diet Coke, the ginormous muffins I thought were sooo healthy from Perkins, those tiny, sparkly butterfly clips I used to section my hair, riding the city bus to the Mall of America, skipping class and getting cookie dough blizzards at Dairy Queen, changing my outgoing answering machine message again and again and eating so, so much Domino’s pizza.

I also wore those chokers that looked like tattoos, tried (and failed) to line my lips with plum lip liner just so I could fill them in with a much lighter pink gloss like Lisa Loeb and everyone else did. I plucked my eyebrows way too much (a rookie move I’d tell my younger self to avoid at all costs), bought and sold back an enormous amount of used CDs and never quite understood why so many guys wore saggy pants and flannel and listened to Pearl Jam and Sponge.

Like Charles Dickens said in A Tale of Two Cities, it was the best of times, it was the worst of times, and come to think of it, I wouldn’t have changed too much about it. Well, maybe the skipping class thing, but hey, you can’t win them all, right?


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  1. Such a great read. Just put Liz’s Doc Martens in a drawer, salvaging them from the goodwill pile. Just couldn’t part with them… I get you exactly.

    • Thanks so much, Dawne, and I’m SO happy you save Liz’s Doc Martens! She’ll thank you for that one day! :)

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