A look back at the ’90s: E-mail, SUVs gain favor

Anna Conover

The 1990s were a time of prosperity and economic stability, and these factors have helped influence and define the trends that shaped the decade.

One of the most popular trends in the United States and the world was the growth of the Internet and e-mail.

Even though the Information Superhighway has been around for more than 30 years, it has only recently changed the face of communication.

“The industry was pushing for e-mail,” said Susan Tomlinson, temporary instructor in computer science.

She said because businesses emphasized e-commerce, it lead to the rest of the population engaging in e-mail and Internet. She noted that even universities have pushed for students to have accounts.

Tomlinson also said America On-line (AOL) and WEBtv had much to do with the popularity of e-mail.

“AOL has had a great influence on the e-mail,” she said. “WEBtv has also pushed for e-mail for the average person.”

On the real highway, sport utility vehicles have commanded the automotive market.

“People use them like a car,” said Willie Mayes, sales representative for Willey Ford Lincoln, Mercury, Chrysler, Plymouth Jeep of Ames. “They have four-wheel drive, versatility and can go off road. They function like a sport utility but drive like a car.”

Versatility has been a theme not only defining the auto industry, but also the exercise industry, as cross-training has become the rage in health clubs.

“The big thing now is cross-training,” said John McVan, basic activity coordinator at Iowa State. “People are really into the diversity the training provides.”

People not only run, they now hit the weights, ride bikes or rollerblade, he said.

“I think people always get tired mentally before physically,” McVan said. “So when you’re mentally exhausted, you can move to a different activity.”

But when Americans in the ’90s wanted to relax, many of them ventured to coffeehouses.

“I think part of the popularity of coffeehouses has to do with the atmosphere,” said Chris Omar, manager of Stomping Grounds Coffee, 303 Welch Ave. “It’s a laid-back atmosphere where you can talk with friends and hold a conversation.”

Conversation took on a whole new medium in the ’90s with the cell phone.

“It’s handy and cheaper than the home phone in some cases,” said Heidi Boesma, account executive at Spring Valley Communications in North Grand Mall. “Some also like it because it provides safety when driving.”

But not everyone followed the typical trends of the ’90s, and people created their own trends along the way: body piercing.

Body piercing has grown this decade from just earrings to pierced eyebrows, noses, tongues and belly buttons.

Hugo Kenemer, owner of The Asylum, 120 Hayward Ave., said his business began three years ago.

“It’s relatively new to the Midwest,” he said, “but they’ve been doing it everywhere for a long time now.”

Kenemer called the act of piercing “kind of a novelty thing.”

“In some cases, it’s a hardcore person’s way of their own expression and what they’re feeling at that time,” he said.