The '90s were a special time. A time when we had to wait patiently while rewinding our favorite cassettes and when we needed to know how to get to places sans GPS. We were just on the brink of new technology, and many of us recall playing The Oregon Trail on school computers and mail-ordering 10 CDs for a penny. While there are certainly a number of ways to remember our favorite era, like looking back at our old yearbooks or watching home movies, neither of those recall one very important way to recall a memory: through smells that take us back to the '90s.
Every era has a number of scents that are familiar to it. Spray some Aqua Net into a room and you’ll be, rather instantly, transported to the '80s. If a guy walks by smelling of Cool Water, by Davidorff for men, it’s like being back in your high school English class in the aughts. So, what kinds of aromas transport us to the days of Skip-Its and the Spice Girls? Some are the types of things we had in our bathrooms in the '90s, while others are definitely related to the toys we played with or the things we ate in the '90s. The only thing that would make this list better would be if we finally got smell-o-vision for our computers. Sorry guys, you'll just have to close your eyes and do the imagining yourself. So, with that in mind, does anyone remember...
Back in the '90s, Nickelodeon came up with some pretty neat marketing campaigns. At one point they hosted a week of 3D cartoons (and Nick Magazine subscribers could use 3d glasses, included in their purchase, to view). There was also a campaign in which viewers could obtain special scratch and sniff cards, which you would use while watching certain Nickelodeon shows in “Smell-O-Vision.” Awesome? You bet.
Gak and Floam
Nickelodeon ruled the '90s, so of course it will be mentioned more than once when we're basking in the nostalgia of our childhoods. These signature Nickelodeon products had distinct smells that, when even slightly mimicked, instantly transport us to more care-free days. Our kids may never know the joy of holding green ooze in their hands, but as parents, we’re mostly okay with that.
Nothing beats the sugary sweet smell of Bubble Tape. The long strip of pink gum was considered a delicacy for many of our young palates. Best part was you could totally keep the case the "tape" came in and it would retain its smell for days, and even weeks, after the gum was gone.
Kids these days don’t know about VHS tapes, but hopefully you do. Our childhoods were filled with video tapes of old Disney favorites and blank tapes filled with recorded MTV music videos and episodes of Tiny Toons and Animaniacs. These rare relics smelled their finest after a few hours of play inside a VCR. Sigh.
A highly coveted lunch time item, Handi-Snacks were basically just buttery crackers covered in some sort of strong-smelling cheese-type product. Still, we loved them so much, many of us still give into temptation once in awhile. I mean, who says you have to completely grow up?
Mr. Sketch Markers
Art projects in elementary school were the best when we got to use a pack of these amazing, powerfully-scented markers. If inspiration was lacking, you can be sure your time would be well-spent simply sniffing each of these aromatic color sticks. If your nose wound up with a few dots of red and blue and purple, well, you could just call it part of your creative process.
Little Debbie Cakes
Sugar, sugar, and more sugar. Little Debbie Cakes (especially in the Zebra Cake variety) were so incredibly delicious, but also absurdly sugary and definitely smelled like it. You would not want to give this to your kids nowadays and I'm assuming. Try them now as an adult and you’ll see why (seriously, I dare you to finish an entire one).
A brand-new Trapper Keeper was a thing of beauty. Not every kid had one, but we all envied the ones that did. While their scent wasn’t wholly distinctive (more like a whole lot of plastic), coupled with some sheets of white paper and maybe a couple of pencils, it took the aroma of school everywhere you went.
Bath & Body Works
Do teenagers still frequently hang out at the Bath & Body Works? I know '90s kids loved their products and always had to make a "pit stop" while walking around the mall. Who didn’t spritz on about 5 layers of body splash till you couldn’t tell cucumbers from freesia anymore? The best, of course, was when you could still smell it on your wrists and hair after you got home. PS. Looks like they’re bringing a few '90s scents back!
Nothing like the smell of circular cold cuts and cheese and crackers to remind you of your childhood cafeteria. Lunchables were another enviable lunchtime item and definitely carried a distinct smell. Really, it was more or less the same as a ham and cheese sandwich placed inside a piece of tupperware after being cut into smaller pieces.
While the feel of the Koosh Ball is what makes it so damn special, we also remember the rubbery scent of this favored toy. What exactly was the point of the Koosh? Who knows. But pulling on those little bits of plastic brought endless amounts of joy.
A Brand New Delia’s Catalogue
Alright, so technically all freshly minted catalogues smell the same. But when you think back on your younger years in the '90s, you’ll likely recall certain catalogues the most. Delia’s was one. Alloy was definitely another. Your parents probably got catalogs for Sears, Fingerhut, and our beloved and much-missed Service Merchandise.
CK One, Curve, And Other Similar Signature Smells
The '90s were full of signature fragrances you just couldn’t get away from. There was a time when everyone (and I mean everyone) smelled of CK One (hurray for gender-neutral fragrances!) And if they didn’t, they probably smelled like Curve or Candies (each with specific scents for men and women). Those who started their perfume journey in the late 80s brought Exclamation with them into the '90s, while tweens of the '90s (before we used the word tween) were all about Spice Girls Body Spray.