Living in the 90s
The 1990s were an interesting time.
What new items were people enjoying during the decade?
What did Americans do for entertainment?
Families in the 90s
The American family looked increasingly different as the decade progressed.
While there were many families that fit the traditional mold of a mother, father, and
children, many less traditional types of families were becoming commonplace.
Single-parent families became common, and many children had a stepmother or stepfather,or both, as divorced parents remarried. The concept of the “stay-at-home mother” had nearly become a thing of the past, as both parents worked out of necessity to make ends meet and provide additional income for the family.
At the beginning of the decade, the average income was close to $29,000, while at the end of the decade it had risen to more than $40,000. Of course, a person’s income would vary depending on their chosen profession.
The price of a new car in 1990 was about $16,000. By the end of the decade, the price had risen to $21,100. Of course, the price someone paid was largely determined by the make and model of the vehicle.
Some prices actually went down as the decade progressed. For example, in 1990, a gallon of gas cost $1.34, while in 1999, a gallon of gas cost $1.22. The average price of a postage stamp in the 1990s was 30 cents, a loaf of bread cost $1.50, and a gallon of milk cost $2.29.
A nice leather jacket might have cost someone about $100, while a new video game system sold for about $160. Many of these prices would have varied from one region of the country to another.
Technology in the 90s
Throughout the 1990s, several pieces of technology became increasingly common for American families. The cell phone (or mobile phone as they were called at the time) became an everyday sight in many larger cities. However, by the end of the decade, only about 28% of all Americans had a cell phone.
The personal computer became increasingly common in homes as well. Personal computers had been available since the late 1970s, but new operating systems in the 1990s, such as Windows 3.1 and Windows 95, made the computer more user-friendly. Before long, parents were keeping track of their finances and students were typing their homework on their home computer.
In 1989, the “world wide web” was opened for commercial public use. As the decade progressed, most Americans got their first glimpse of the Internet. By the year 2000, it was estimated that there were 295 million Internet users worldwide.
1990 Television and TV Series
Television continued to be a favorite form of family entertainment. Family sitcoms were still popular, just as they were in the 1980s. Full House, Home Improvement, Rosanne, and The Simpsons were amongst the most popular.
However, as most families had more than one television, TV shows became increasingly focused towards certain demographics. For example, adults might have been watching Seinfeld, ER, or Murphy Brown. Whereas, teenagers might have been in the next room enjoying Friends, Beverly Hills 90210, or Beavis & Butthead. Movies also played a dominant role in the entertainment industry throughout the 1990s. Animated films experienced a renaissance, as Disney saw box office success with Beauty & the Beast, Aladdin, and The Lion King.
In 1995, Pixar released Toy Story, the first feature-length computer-animated film. This innovative film helped to revolutionize not only animated films, but live-action films and video games as well.
In June of 1993, director Steven Spielberg kept audiences on the edge of their seats with Jurassic Park, and then in November, he delivered the powerful Holocaust drama Schindler’s List. The Silence of the Lambs and Pulp Fiction were other films that captured the country’s attention.
Sports in the 90s
Most American families enjoyed following professional sports in the 1990s. Major League Baseball suffered in popularity because the players went on strike in 1994. The strike began in August of 1994, which meant there was no post-season play and no World Series that season. The strike did not end until the spring of 1995, causing the 1995 season to begin nearly a month late. On the field, the Atlanta Braves played in five World Series throughout the decade but won only one championship. The Braves were led by pitcher Greg Maddux, an eight-time all-star who won the Cy Young Award four times.
In 1998, Americans were riveted by Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa as they both chased the single season home run record. McGwire established the new record with 70 home runs while Sosa finished with 66. Michael Jordan and his Chicago Bulls dominated the National Basketball Association (NBA) throughout the 1990s. The Bulls won the NBA championship six times, and Jordan was named the league’s Most Valuable Player four times in the decade (an award he won five times in his career). For the first time, NBA players were allowed to participate in the Summer olympics in 1992.
The United States assembled a team of the best players the NBA had to offer and easily won the gold medal. This super team became known as the Dream Team. The best team in the National Football League (NFL) throughout the 1990s was the Dallas Cowboys. Led by quarterback Troy Aikman, running back Emmitt Smith, and wide receiver Michael Irvin, the Cowboys won the Super Bowl in 1992, 1993, and 1996.
The Buffalo Bills, led by Jim Kelly and Thurman Thomas, appeared in four consecutive Super Bowls but did not win a championship. John Elway, Brett Favre, and Barry Sanders were other extremely popular players throughout the decade.
Music in the 90s
In the world of music, Mariah Carey became one of the most popular singers of the decade, producing an impressive fourteen #1 songs. Throughout the decade, Carey sold approximately 97 million albums worldwide. Garth Brooks made country music popular throughout the nation. Brooks sold millions of albums and produced eighteen chart-topping songs, while another thirteen reached the top ten.
The sound that possibly defined the decade became known as “alternative rock” or grunge. This was a distinctive style of music that did not fit the constructs of pop music, rap, country, or any other genre. Pearl Jam, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Stone Temple Pilots were alternative groups who experienced considerable success.
However, it was Nirvana that set the standard for alternative music. Led by Kurt Cobain, Nirvana became extraordinarily popular in the first half of the decade. Sadly, Cobain took his own life in April of 1994. Fashion in the 1990s was molded by other cultural influences of the day. For example, alternative music performers popularized the “grunge” fashion trendof unkempt clothing and hair. Flannel, plaid shirts, and long hair also became popular.
Styles worn by hip-hop artists were also common in the early part of the 1990s. By the end of the decade, fashion was trending more towards the stylish and glamorous. As with the fashion of any decade, the trends would largely be determined by what part of the country someone was living in and that individual’s age at the time. It should be remembered that not every family experienced the 1990s in the same way. These were just a few of the broad trends that were predominant throughout the decade. Each family and individual had a unique situation, with their own stories, tastes, and preferences.