If Instagram was a breakfast spread (which, tbh, it often is), then nostalgia would be its bread and butter. Resurfaced photographs featuring celebrity icons and trends from decades past have become a veritable social media phenomenon, inspiring wistfulness, outfit inspiration, and “likes” in equal measure.
Eager to glean further insight about why this genre of dispatch resonates so acutely right now, I turned to the creator behind @90sanxiety, one of the most well-known nostalgia Instagrams in the biz. Below, he shares his five most-liked posts of all time (a couple of which actually surprised me) and unpacks some theories about what makes them so damn likable.
#5: Cameron Diaz & Umbrella, 1994
I scrubbed some of my earlier photos from the account because they were poor resolution, but the first photo I ever posted was actually a version of this same shot. It’s such an iconic photo. When I posted this one, the Cannes Film Festival was happening, so it was very timely. Pop culture and current events are always top of mind when I’m thinking about what to post. Even though I’m diligent about trying to share things that haven’t been too oversaturated, there are certain points when I decide a shot is such a fitting photograph for the moment that I’m going to completely disregard the fact that it’s been shared millions of times already. That was definitely the case with this. I think it continues to resonate because of the pointed aesthetics–Cameron’s slip dress, her Dr. Martens, the fact that she’s wearing these things on a beach, etc. I tried to find similar, less widely-known posts that I could build around this moment, but ultimately I thought, this is such a beautiful photograph, why not?
#4: Kate and Johnny in Repose, 1994
This is probably one of the greatest photographs of that time period. I received some criticism because Johnny Depp is in it, but posting it wasn’t meant to be a plug for him. I posted it because it’s a beautiful, intimate piece of art shot by Annie Leibovitz. I have to be careful about posting images with nudity now though, because there’s so much scrutiny on my account. I think the monitoring of nipples is ridiculous, especially in the case of something like this that could legitimately be in a museum, but I always try to post photos with nudity as respectfully as I can.
#3: Polaroids From Friends, 1995
The way I ordered this slideshow was really intentional, and I’m guessing part of the reason why it performed so well. When I see Instagrams of the cast of Friends posted on Instagram, I’ve noticed that most of the time people seem to be focusing more on the other actors besides David Schwimmer, so I wanted to put the spotlight on him. I was taken aback by how awesome this photo of him was when I found it, not only because it’s a really high-quality polaroid scan but also because of the contrast between his behavior in the shot and his persona and style as Ross Geller. It’s clearly a true behind-the-scenes moment, and one that I hadn’t seen before.
#2: Bill Clinton’s Cat, 1992
I was so excited when I found a high-quality version of this photo. I don’t think Socks (Bill Clinton’s cat) got out that often when he was in the White House, so these photographers were jumping at the opportunity. It’s so obscure and specific, which I think is why it really resonated. It’s also just funny to think about a cat being followed by paparazzi. Socks had a lot of fans. I found paraphernalia and even books about him when I was researching the history of this photo–maybe his beloved reputation contributed to the post’s success, too.
#1: Young Kim K, 1993
I found this photo when Kim Kardashian posted it in her story to promote a 90s-inspired KKW beauty product launch. It was such an iconic photo of a social media icon, and I was like, this is irresistible. So I screen-grabbed it and posted it on my feed a couple days later. In general I’m never sure if a post is going to perform well or not, but I was with this one. I knew it hadn’t been shared on many other big accounts. Also, the contrast between what she’s wearing in the photo and the kinds of things she wears now is so distinctive that it really places an emphasis on the multitude of 90s style trends present (I think she’s even holding a pager!).
Know of another good nostalgia account on Instagram? I’m always looking for more to add to my arsenal.
Photos via 90sAnxiety.