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Lookin' back now, I can see meOh man, did I look cheesy
—Mark Wills: "Nineteen Somethin'"
When an old, embarrassing outfit is spoofed In-Universe.
People can get caught up in the fashions of a certain time, and just cringe thinking about it later on. This can be any time, but The Seventies and The Eighties are popular subjects for this, and The 1990s and The 2000s are quickly becoming this.
Sometimes it's the character acknowledging how dumb he/she looked, but just as often it's their friends laughing at how dumb he/she used to look and that character not denying it, or we see the character back then and get a good laugh out of it.
This is virtually universally Truth in Television for people looking back on their younger days. Remember, people: whatever you think is fashionable and stylish today will look ridiculous to the next generation.
Contrast I Was Quite a Looker (when a character looked better in the past).
- Nowadays Superheroes tend to do this, although how much of it is the characters or the writers is up to debate. An especially famous case happened to Black Canary, who, after a stint with a cringe-worthy costume, actually set it on fire on the cover of an issue.
- In an issue of Birds of Prey she and Oracle go to a mall. Upon seeing a display of dolls featuring her 80s costume, she buys up the entire thing so that no one else can see how bad it looked.
- Silk Spectre II mentions it in Watchmen.
- Dick Grayson from Batman does this a lot, with regards to both his scaly green underoo Robin costume and his first, disco-ish Nightwing costume.
- There's a reason Luke Cage doesn't even bother with a costume and just wears a t-shirt and jeans these days.
Deadpool: Did I mention I was a huge fan of the yellow silk shirt and chains?
Luke: Me too. Drawback: couldn't even shout-out all the bloodstains.
- Parodied in The Muppets: While they're tidying up the studio, Fozzie finds an Embarrassing Old Photo of him with Eighties Hair ... or so he says. In fact, he looks exactly the same as he does now.
- In a Berenstain Bears story about school dress codes, much of the tension is deflated when Grandma Bear displays photos of what Mama and Papa Bear wore back when they were in school.
- Briefly mentioned in A Murder Is Announced -- Miss Blacklock's niece Julia mentions being amused by pictures of Miss Blacklock as a young woman in the fashions of The Roaring Twenties. Julia's brother remarks that in thirty years' time, it'll be Julia's turn to cringe at what she's wearing now.
- Friends did this any time (mainly with Chandler and Ross) there was a flashback to when they were teens or in college:
- Ross spent much of his time in college looking like Lionel Richie.
- Chandler sported A Flock of Seagulls hair and once entered a Vanilla Ice look-alike competition and won.
- And in one of the Thanksgiving flashback episodes, Ross and Chandler turn up dressed like Sonny Crockett, complete with nonsensical posing and rolling up their sleeves.
- Subverted in Better Off Ted. A flashback to Phil's first day shows Phil with long hair and a tie-dye shirt and Lem with an afro and purple glasses. Then Lem says, "It's too bad your first day had to be during Sixties Week."
- In 2010, when Sigourney Weaver hosted Saturday Night Live for the first time in nearly 24 years, she showed a still of herself when she hosted in 1986 (on the first episode featuring a new cast after the season 11 fiasco that almost got the show canned for good), wearing this outfit (sorry for the size). Things have changed a lot since then, she acknowledged; she "wears a bra now."
- Emily Prentiss in Criminal Minds is revealed to suffer badly from this in one of the more hilarious moments of the series.
Garcia:You're seriously trying to tell me you don't remember rocking that look?
Reid: Perhaps your lack of recognition stems from a dissociative fugue suffered in adolescence. Say, at a Siouxsie and the Banshees concert?
- Cordelia from Angel, while studying her own photo album to get over her amnesia:
Cordelia: Hmmm. Cute... [flip] cute... [flip] hot... [flip to Egregious afro haircut] Yikes!!
- This trope is a staple of I Love the Exties shows.
- In Torchwood: Miracle Day, Jack, when approached about a picture of him with a bushy Porn Stache, simply responds "The Seventies".
- In Power Rangers Dino Thunder, one character sees a picture of Tommy in his Mighty Morphin days and makes fun of his Badass Long Hair. Tommy counters that in the '90s everyone thought it was cool.
- In The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air the whole family sees Phil and Vivian on an episode of Soul Train sporting Afros and Bell bottoms and other wacky 70s styles.
- Top Gear's tribute to the now-defunct Saab included a clip from the old format of the show, featuring a much younger Jeremy Clarkson, complete with atrocious 80's hair and clothing.
We would like to apologize for the music...and the shirt, and the jacket and the hair...
- Guitar World magazine had a monthly feature where guitarists would answer reader-submitted questions. Alex Lifeson of Rush was questioned on the band's stage clothing in their early years, and he responded, "We're hardly the only band to regret what we wore in The Seventies."
- Denis Leary notes that drugs had to be the reason for platform shoes and bellbottoms.
There we were in the middle of a sexual revolution, wearing clothing that guaranteed we wouldn't get laid.
- Though he also notes that people born after the '70s may not understand just how hard it was to find clothes on sale that didn't look like that.
- In Spider Man Web of Shadows, Spidey encounters Luke Cage, who has the temerity to joke about his full-body-spandex costume. Spidey, of course, retorts with a full critique of Cage's original costume... ya know, the one with the tiara. Cage's defence is, of course, "It was the '70s! What's your excuse?"
- Spidey's excuse, given to Ezekiel in the comics:
I was fifteen, gimme a break.
- Also, there's an ongoing story in Irregular Webcomic, concerning a time-traveling younger version of the Mythbusters-crew... from the 80's. Complete with ridiculous big hair.
- Flashbacks in the modern arc of Arthur, King of Time and Space occasionally show Merlin in his hippy days.
- Death from Family Guy dressed horribly in The Seventies, as seen in the picture.
- Many people in flashbacks in The Simpsons, but particularly Dr. Hibbert (who had an afro when Bart was born, beaded cornrows when Lisa was born, and a Mr. T-style mohawk when Maggie was born)
- In the My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic episode "Call of the Cutie," Cheerilee shows a class of young ponies a picture of herself when she got her cutie mark, and her 80s clothes and hair gets a laugh. "Yes, I know, but honestly, that's how everypony was wearing their mane back then."
- Doubly hilarious, because some prior My Little Ponies actually looked like that. Bonus points: Cheerilee is one of the few characters directly named after an existing pony.
- The Mayor on The Fairly Odd Parents was blackmailed by Vicky with pictures of him from the 70s. Even though he still succumbs to the blackmail, he makes a strong claim that it was fashionable back then.
- Done in an episode of Birdz, with Mr and mrs Storkowitz (Mr. Storkowitz is far more embarassed).
- When looking through a photo album during In the Heights.
"You can tell it was the 80s due to the volume of their hair."
- Dave Barry has noted that he distinctly remembers looking normal in high school, and was horrified to see that his yearbook photo shows a very stereotypical nerd.