A Guide to McBling, or Post-Y2K

Vy Nguyen

McBling, circa 2003-2008, is essentially a painful hangover from the massive party that was Y2K.

McBling is an aesthetic that precedes the Y2K aesthetic, commonly known as Post-Y2K before coined by Evan Collins, the admin of Y2K Aesthetics Institute in 2016. “Mc” deriving from McMansion, representing the McDonaldization of the current times, and “bling” for Bling, the trend reflected a time of glam, glitz, and superficial fun, picking up from the futuristic, upbeat trail of Y2K.

Culture

McBling rose up around 2003, with the start of the Iraq War and the premiere of Paris Hilton’s The Simple Life. It ended in 2008 within the turmoil of the Great Recession and a chaotic start to the Obama administration, gradually washed away by the bottling up backlash against its excessive, exploitative culture. This led to the the Electropop/ Hipster/ Jersey Shore era, lasting until 2013.

Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie in The Simple Life

McBling’s cultural optimism was different from that of Y2K, for while Y2K signified genuine excitement about a new millenium of opportunities, McBling’s risktaking was merely an escape from the grim 9/11 and many other public scares.

The cultural transition from Y2K to McBling was also notable. A lot of Y2K were about exploring with non-binary, androgyny, and technological singularity. However, McBling’s media didn’t preserve the same open-mindedness, for mainstream media, especially teen movies, was oversaturated with bigotry: a lot of homophobia, transphobia, and heteronormative sentiments.

Mean Girls (2004)

Since McBling was about the superficial fun, an orientation towards luxury quickly followed, with people wearing knockoffs and fakes to maintain a Paris Hilton whimsical but spoilt rich demeanor.

Fashion + Beauty

McBling’s color palette is dominated by pink, with a dash of pastels here and there.

Devon Aoki in 2 Fast 2 Furious (2003)

Some staple pieces include low rise jeans, crop tops and camis, short skirts, and kitten heels. Outfits are usually accessorized with baguette bags, tiaras, bandanas, butterfly hair clips, mini sunglasses, trucker hats, and flip phones. An overall frosted look for makeup was trending, consisting of pastel eyeshadow, tons of lipgloss, and unlimited rhinestones.

Paris Hilton for Guess 2005
An advertisement for a pink Swarovski-studded iPod (dock connector, released in 2003)

Many prominent brands in this era include Juicy Couture (especially for their beloved velour tracksuits), Playboy, Louis Vuitton, Dior, True Religion, Prada, and Von Dutch.

Britney Spears in her favorite $460 baby blue Juicy Couture tracksuits

It is easy to mix up between Y2K and McBling due to for their proximity, but the two aesthetics have distinctive features that set them apart. Y2K is characterized by tech optimism, favoring slick futuristic, Vaporware-esque looks possibly inspired by Retro-Futurism. Y2K fashion includes tight leather pants, silver eyeshadow, shiny clothing, Oakleys, gradients, and Blobitecture.

TLC in their 1999 music video for “No Scrubs”

Media

Hilary Duff on a Kohl’s advertisement in 2005

The 2000s was defined by its vigorous celebrity culture, with controversial red carpet looks spearheading mainstream fashion. People were fascinated, to the point of worshipping, mainstream actors, pop stars, and socialites. Some Hollywood royalty including Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake, Hilary Duff, Destiny’s Child, Beyoncé, and the queen herself Paris Hilton. Pop culture references include the Bratz dolls, Powerpuff Girls, CluelessMean Girls, Hello Kitty, and Legally Blonde.

Bratz’s Magic Hair Kit, commerciali in 2007

The golden age of paparazzi, it is not difficult to locate exaggerated, intrusive headlines circling McBling-era tabloids. Some defining celebrity scandals are Britney Spears’ meltdown in 2007, Lindsey Lohan and Amanda Bynes’ declines, leaked celebrity sex tapes, and the Brad Pitt-Jennifer Aniston-Angelina Jolie triangle.

Basically the male gaze capitalized by mass corporatization, McBling media hyper-sexualized femininity and female bodies. While its timing suggested a collective nihilist, “you can do whatever” attitude that potentially crafted the media as a liberal platform for woman expressions, the long-standing, deep-rooted sexualization suggested a reality of exploiting female bodies for commercial values.

People used websites like Myspace and Blingee for socialization.

Music

McBling maintained its inkling for electronic music from Y2K pop, while R&B and hip-hop sustained the blooming success of the Bling/ Shiny Suit/ Jiggy Era. The era also marked the rise of bubblegum pop, a genre already brewed back in the Y2K times under the label bubblegum eurodance. Pop icons include Paris Hilton, Britney Spears, and Beyoncé.

Britney Spears, the trailblazer of bubblegum pop, in her famous “Oops.. I did it again!” red latex catsuit

Architecture

The McBling architectural style was super opulent, though basically vanished after the Great Recession. Common motifs include the combination of sleek, reflective, shiny, glowing materials such as mirror or mosaic tile with more traditional decorative patterns like fleur de lis; excessive chandeliers and& jewels; tufted cushion; edgy decorations like skulls, gothic fonts, or crests. The era incorporates a postmodernism takes on Baroque motifs and furniture, utilizing a homologous color scheme of pink, purple, black, white, and gold.

Holographic decal wallpaper, sexualization of the woman bodies… super McBling

The Resurgence of McBling in 2020s

The most popular McBling trends that have reemerged are Von Dutch clothes, baguette bags, low rise jeans, Juicy Couture tracksuits, mini skirts, satin lingerie-style camisoles and slip dresses, bandanas, cropped grandma cardigans, brands such as Louis Vuitton and Dior, and the color pink.

The McBling playful fun has gained great traction in a pandemic world, where people crave an outlet for fantasizing, a respite away from the confinement in their home or anxiety for a crippling system. Either on Pinterest or at the thrift store, either on they search for items that represent fun, innocence, and playfulness to make up for such absence in the world.