Fashion is often rooted in nostalgia, so it’s no surprise that the American sitcom Friends is having a stylish moment, with show merchandise hitting the high street nearly 25 years after it first aired.
Zara has a T-shirt featuring Rachel in her wedding dress. It reads: “The One Where Monica Gets a Roommate”. On another, Monica is wearing a turkey on her head with the words “The One With All the Thanksgivings”. Primark has Central Perk-themed bedsheets and Phoebe-approved “You’re my lobster” pyjamas. And Urban Outfitters has sold out of its pink T-shirt featuring a picture of Monica, Rachel and Phoebe.
“Friends has provided collective lessons on friendship, love, and trying to be a grown-up,” says trend forecaster Sabrina Faramarzi, aged two when the show first aired. “The merch taps into nostalgia, meme culture and the suspended adulthood of millennials” she says – or, televisual rice pudding for a generation in need of comforting.
“It’s the last documentation of friendship in the pre-digital era,” says Grazia’s TV columnist and culture writer, Paul Flynn. Friends premiered in 1994 and its last episode went out in 2004. In an age craving authenticity, the vision of a group of friends hanging out in a coffee shop and each other’s apartments, says Flynn, “must be so glorious if you are of a generation that has looked at friendship as something complicated, ethereal … and often very isolating”.
The Friends period is also back in vogue. As an exhibition on the Spice Girls opens this weekend at the Business Design Centre in London, their favourite shoe, the Buffalo, is a retro favourite, as are cycling shorts. This trend has a “knock-on effect on the licensed products,” according to Martina Bunting, of Primark, who says other licences are coming through from the 1990s.
Netflix this year made all 10 series available on its UK site – the first time many younger viewers could see the show. Faramarzi says: “Merch used to be the domain of film [think Pulp Fiction posters and T-shirts] but is now increasingly related to the small screen.”
Rachel, Phoebe and Monica have been cited as style muses by Harper’s Bazaar – their oversized knitwear, “dorky denim” and gingham is very on-trend. And arts writer Louis Wise points out: “Chandler is pretty normcore.”