Summer 1990: Shopping Malls, USA

92 Responses

  1. Bangner

    Wow, are we also going to look this weird in another 20 years? Great foresight by the photographer here (however inadvertent).

    Scariest part is I know towns where everyone still looks like this!

    Reply
  2. elmsyrup

    I like the lack of self-consciousness people seem to have in these pictures. I also notice the almost total lack of obese people. Wonder what changed in only 20 years?

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    • Mary

      Mostly? Smoking.. people are now fat because A) they dont smoke anymore, and B) there was a lot of drug use back then.. mostly cocaine.

      Reply
  3. anna

    Wow, I love this photos. I love the way people seem to be having an absolutely normal day of their lives. It makes me want to take photos in the nearest mall to show them in 2031. Thanks for posting this.

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  4. jeff

    hey elms, computers came along…that’s what changed. everyone’s sitting on there butts now instead of walking around the malls.

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    • JR

      Guess it didn’t occur to you the pictures might have been taken at, um…

      Different Times of the Year?

      Reply
  5. Neil

    I think this mall is from Long Island, NY.. is this Smith haven mall or Massapequa mall? Just wondering given the king’s park jackets and common tiling throughout the pictures.

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  6. Noel

    Hi. Woooooooow, i like the 90′s.

    Is amazing how change the life style…

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  7. kct1975

    WOW! Those pictures really take me back! I honestly had forgoten just how bad the clothing and hair style were back then. Ouch. Though, I too am gulilty, I was about 14 and the time and, while I do not remember to well (thankfully), I sure I was dressed just as bad.

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  8. MichaelGalinsky

    @lostinnny

    these were taken in about 20 malls across the us

    a lot of them were taken in the smith haven mall on long island- that’s where i started the project- then i drove across the country with a friend and shot all over- the jump off in terms of influence was frank, eggelston and winogrand.

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  9. MichaelGalinsky

    @lostinnny

    these were taken in about 20 malls across the us

    a lot of them were taken in the smith haven mall on long island- that’s where i started the project- then i drove across the country with a friend and shot all over- the jump off in terms of influence was frank, eggelston and winogrand.

    Reply
    • Disco

      Despair maybe. I dunno. 1990 was a simpler time in my life. In fact, thru August of that year was one of the best times in my life. I was only 12. Then seventh grade started and everything went to shit.

      I was not really into the pop music of that year, but these songs aren’t bad. At least they’re pleasant and not whiny.

      Reply
  10. dianesaysword

    It’s crazy because I was scrolling through these pictures thinking “Man, if this doesn’t look like Smith Haven Mall…” but figured “Nah, malls are malls, especially in the early 1990′s.” lol…but then as soon as I saw that kid in the Kings Park High School jacket, well, that sealed the deal. :)

    I moved out to the general area around the Smith Haven Mall about four and a half years ago, and let me tell you, four and a half years ago, that place did not look much different that it does in your pictures, LOL. It has since gotten a pretty large facelift so now it looks…well, it looks nicer, lol, and it still gets an insane crowd like your pictures show, by virtue of being the only thing around for about what, 40 miles? (yes! still!)

    That picture showing the brick work and the “open ’till 9:30″ sign? That should be the entrance to the Macy’s at Smith Haven, and I know this because the outside entrances still have that same sign all over them, LOL. And yes that brick work is still there.

    That aside, they must’ve outlawed smoking in malls like a year after these pictures were taken, because I do not remember that at all, and my parents smoked (granted I was 6 in 1990, but still lol). Oh and also, remember that time that Sears sold American products? :’(

    Thanks for posting these. They’re crazy, lol.

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  11. dianesaysword

    It’s crazy because I was scrolling through these pictures thinking “Man, if this doesn’t look like Smith Haven Mall…” but figured “Nah, malls are malls, especially in the early 1990′s.” lol…but then as soon as I saw that kid in the Kings Park High School jacket, well, that sealed the deal. :)

    I moved out to the general area around the Smith Haven Mall about four and a half years ago, and let me tell you, four and a half years ago, that place did not look much different that it does in your pictures, LOL. It has since gotten a pretty large facelift so now it looks…well, it looks nicer, lol, and it still gets an insane crowd like your pictures show, by virtue of being the only thing around for about what, 40 miles? (yes! still!)

    That picture showing the brick work and the “open ’till 9:30″ sign? That should be the entrance to the Macy’s at Smith Haven, and I know this because the outside entrances still have that same sign all over them, LOL. And yes that brick work is still there.

    That aside, they must’ve outlawed smoking in malls like a year after these pictures were taken, because I do not remember that at all, and my parents smoked (granted I was 6 in 1990, but still lol). Oh and also, remember that time that Sears sold American products? :’(

    Thanks for posting these. They’re crazy, lol.

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  12. dianesaysword

    @JennyEpelMuller Wow that is a painful playlist, LOL. But man, I remember going to the Galleria back then, it was a nice mall at that time (also for the time, lol)…glad to see you made it out of there ok :D

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  13. dianesaysword

    @JennyEpelMuller Wow that is a painful playlist, LOL. But man, I remember going to the Galleria back then, it was a nice mall at that time (also for the time, lol)…glad to see you made it out of there ok :D

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  14. eightiesnostalgiast

    This was so bad it was great. The style, or lack thereof, is awesome!

    I don’t think there is an era in which America looked any trashier. Shout out to the Frizzy Perm Era (ca. 1987 – ca. 1995).

    The only people who look remotely sophisticated are the woman in the 7th photo from the bottom, and some of the people in the “Phil’s Photo Imagry” pics. Oh, and that mannequin, too.

    Amazing how these Northerners bear an uncanny resemblence to Billy Ray Cyrus ca. “Achy Breaky Heart”, style-wise.

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  15. George Gallo

    2 or 3 of these images are NOT from Smith Haven. INCREDIBLE WORK though.
    I have video of Smith Haven back then. Hold onto
    Your hats. :)

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  16. Kraig Karson

    Elms, you nailed it! the lack of self awareness. We need to get back to that. I lived at malls in 1990. Every mall in Chicagoland. Thx for the pics retronaut!

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  17. Tyler

    Wow. Especially fascinating for me as I was born in the summer of 1990. A world I existed in yet never knew…

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  18. dean

    I like the stored named “Tape world” in one of the pictures. Try finding any store today that primarily sells music on cassette tapes! Also the smoking inside the malls is pretty funny.

    There is still a sort of late 80′s/madonna/flashdance vibe left over in 1990 – strange….

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  19. Camille

    What happened to the great long hair the men and woman used to have, and their sizes have tripled? What happened to the people that used to excercize. We need more Jack LaLanes!
    Did you know that eating sugar increases your appetite, and your desire for sugar?

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  20. frank

    1990….wow…..remember this is within one year of Cheers ending, Seinfeld & The Simpsons beginning!

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  21. seabear70

    REguarding the lack of obese people, I also noted the number of people smoking in public…

    Corelation is not causation, but is it possible the two are somehow linked?

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    • Mary

      Yup everyone smoked and was thin. Amazing how that works. All of my friends who quit blew up like Balloons. Everyone who still smokes is thin and a whole lot healthier.

      Reply
  22. Rob

    I, too, am laughing about Tape World. I remember they came around in the late 80s and starting taking business away from Record Bar. But by the mid-90s, they started losing out to CD Alley, which eventually died about ten years later when mp3s became big. Ah the cycle of life.

    Yeah the scenes of smokers was shocking in a way. Some malls in the south still allowed smokers all the way into the late 90s even.

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  23. Jason

    Oh wow, is that the Smithaven Mall in Lake Grove?? I practically grew up in that mall!

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  24. Axe

    Crazy. Those kids in the Kings Park jackets are my friends!! That was the year we graduated high school.

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  25. michael

    Hey Axe-
    if you do know those people in the pictures can you contact me via the facebook.com/rumur site- I would love to be in touch with some of the people in the images for a media story.

    thanks

    Reply
  26. Jeff

    A few things:
    1) I think the better term would be “self-consciousness“, not “self-awareness.” Self-awareness is good–self-consciousness, not quite so much.
    2) I don’t want to look “sophisticated” if it means baggy grey shorts and a wife-beater–I know, I know, “it’s all in how you wear it”. Feh! I want to look GOOD! These people may be making mistakes, but the mistakes are all fixable (anyone “horrified” by this needs to take a look around at today), and at least they’re trying to take pleasure in their appearance. We might as well all be wearing office wear for the attitude we take toward our so-called casual wear these days, even as sloppy as it is. We get to “relax”, but we don’t get to enjoy our clothes any more. Who really wants a world like that? And yet we continue to put up with it. Why??

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  27. simmer

    definitely smith haven mall. i recognized it instantly by the brickwork as well. and black people definitely did goto malls back then, the southshore mall in bayshore. and sunrise mall. smith haven, not so much.

    Reply
  28. Riverledge

    The photo of the popcorn koisk in front of the Zales (mall #67) offers different demographics (they tend to be the only obese within)as well as floor tiling is so totally different from the Smith Haven. Probably shot somewhere else. Mall #68 also has white flooring. Not enough to identify.

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  29. ben

    I feel like I’m right out of frame in every shot. Thanks for bringing me back tot the terror.

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  30. Spicoli

    @waza – I was a mall rat throughout the 80s (think Fast Times At Ridgemont High). The big thing for my klan was visiting the arcade and playing video games. But even in the early to mid 90s my generation still enjoyed going to malls, but only for shopping, not socializing. Soon after the internet and email took off and then online shopping. By the late 90s/early 00s just about all of my non-staple, non-clothing purchases were done on line through etailers and brick stores that shipped to the home (specifically electronics and small/large appliances). That was about the same time computer games and console games started blowing away those in arcades. Malls – and those who frequent them – are a dying breed. I’d wager that before another 20 years passes, they’ll all be extinct. All we’ll have by then are strip malls anchored by a few major retail chains still around like Target (Sears & JCPenney probably won’t be one of them).

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  31. Jersey

    These pics bring me way back.Thanks Mike Galinsky.Just curious if any of these were taken in New Jersey as one of the pics looks just like my wife but she denies she ever owned those high top sneakers.

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  32. ricky lee

    This definitely takes me back! You can almost feel the vibe of a slightly simpler time. Two things I took away most is that 1990 was still a time you could smoke almost anywhere in public without the politically correct shame division decending upon American society. And secondly, as elmsyrup pinted out, there’s almost a complete lack of obese people. Sure, there have always been obese people but as we venture into malls today it’s hard to escape that a large number of people are obese. The only other irony worth mentioning is that mall clothing stores still cater to the thin and pretty crowd. That has never changed. More people use wal-mart and big and tall stores instead of traditional retail to cover an increasing number of obese people.

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  33. Phil Woodford

    There is a surprisingly 80s feel to some of the fashion and hairstyles. I would have placed it perhaps at 1987 or 1988. Nice record.

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  34. Champagne

    I was 14 in 1990 in Boston and boy does this bring back memories of the malls in the smaller towns I sometimes lived in as a kid in the late 80s, early 90s. I love this project!

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  35. Jim

    I like this. I wish we could still dress like this and not be considered strange. I remember as a kid in the 80s/early 90s, clothes used to be fun. And not just a kid-clothes vs adult-clothes thing, but there’s been a real change. Everything has to be so subdued now. No more bright colours, flashy designs, etc. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t like EVERYTHING here (especially most of the hair – most, not all). But I would be a happy camper if today’s style would go by the wayside and something more akin to this would return.

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  36. Russell123

    In some parts of Canada there are malls where people still look like this.

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  37. Dan

    These captures are fantastic!! Slice of life gems, they are. I was 9 years old when these were taken and can remember scenes like this like it was yesterday. Makes me want to watch the original Dawn of the Dead. KUDOS!!

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  38. Nick R

    A lot of these look like they’re in the Smithhaven mall on Long Island.

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  39. silvestar

    …even though not from the USA but Australia and now living in Croatia these pics hit the spot….the malls looked the same even in Australia!in 1990…..even though the style is not the 90′s….more like a spill over from the 80′s as one person has already mentioned…the first shot with Patrick swayze is great…the fashion was awful….but we were all guilty :]

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  40. silvestar

    ….oh I forgot to mention stonewash denim was king but actually on the way out by 1990….

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  41. Ruthanne Urquhart

    The great equalizer across the US is not liberty or justice for all; it is the mullet. Gah!

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  42. ivan

    I really enjoyed looking through your photographs – an unpretentious snapshot of a big hair era. just wtf were men doing wearing mid-riffs!
    cheers

    Reply
  43. Dan

    Yes I for sure noticed the tobacco use in these photos..there is no way in the world that would take place now! I was 30 in 1990 and I dont remember that being real prevelant in any of the malls I went to..Yes it was funny seeing not one cellphone being held up to a persons ear! This is so common now we just take it for granted!

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  44. Dougie

    Wow America used to be so cool. I mean they look ridiculous now but they had style!

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  45. Eric

    Wow this is truly amazing. I was browsing these images, and i couldn’t stop thinking… “Why do i feel like i’ve been here before?”. I soon realized i HAVE been there before. Many times lol.

    I grew up in selden/centereach (town over from lake grove where the smithaven mall is located) and i was at smithaven for the first time in a long time last week and its looks ALOT different!!

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  46. Sebastian

    Add me to the chorus of voices chiming in that they grew up at “that mall”. Having been to the Mall yesterday (granted, not the Smith Haven!) I can testify that the sense of community has been lost. Say what you will about the off-the-charts lack of tact, you can tell that these people are interacting. Kind of like the 80′s version of a Town Square. Nowadays, the social aspect of Mall shopping has been lost. Between the big box stores and people staring at their phones every minute, you don’t get the feeling anymore. This is a real snapshot in time!

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  47. The Grebe

    Having graduated from high school in 1990, I can tell you that the ’80s didn’t end until 1991.

    The shift in pop culture, music, and fashion that occurred right about the time Nirvana’s “Nevermind” was released was as dramatic as it was sudden.

    Quite literally overnight, the big hair, stone-washed denim, and tight jeans you see in these photos, and the Poison and Cinderella that was no doubt playing on the mall’s sound system when they were taken, was no longer cool. Photos of this mall taken only two or three years later would look very different.

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  48. Mike

    What I find amazing about these pictures, is how they could be from anywhere in the US. I am from Atlanta, and this could be from any one of a dozen malls in the metro Atlanta area. I read several posts that they are from the NY area, so it’s uncanny how culture really has assimilated across our country. Thanks for the cool memories!

    Reply
  49. MISSY

    What a great trip down memory lane.I graduated in the 1980′s and I loved the clothes,yep..I loved tight straight leg jeans and the big t-shirts..The big hair-sprayed hair and big hoop earrings etc..I love the things because they represent my youth when I had it together and was hot.

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  50. MISSY

    To the guy who posted this- I’m not sure if you know of this website called deadmalls.com.It’s about once thriving malls that have closed.My facination w/it is unhealthy.The empty mall walkways,empty stores,vacant food courts..The material in this website are mostly all closed mall that you can see the 1980s decorating footprint.It makes me look back.I would think that most of the folks that go to this website and have melencoly feelings about what they see are probably in their early to mid-40′s

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  51. isabella

    thank you for these pictures, i was only a kid back then (90s) but seeing these photos gives me so many bittersweet feelings. wish i could go back!

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  52. Kaye

    Bitch flips AKA Mall Hair everywhere! I was 14 in 1990 and I remember jean jackets, Batman, New Kids on the Block, Skid Row, Janet Jackson, Z Cavaricci’s, The Limited, Guess jeans, Keds, Air Jordans, Skidz. I lived in Florida and everyone wore their hair like this, but for some reason I got an overwhelming Jersey/NY feel to these pics. It took 1/4 can of Aqua Net to get your hair to stand up like that.

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  53. Pradeep Kumar

    I really enjoyed looking through your photographs – an unpretentious snapshot of a big hair era.In some parts of Australia there are malls where people still look like this.

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  54. Astrid

    Oh 1990…I was 12. How I wished my hair was bigger, my mum would let me get a perm and how I worried about whether I’d rolled my jeans correctly, and were my socks slouchy enough?? heh thanks god those times are over, but good memories.

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  55. Mary

    On picture 13, is that a simulator ride behind her?? I was just trying to explain those to my 5 year old son the other day. I loved the 90′s!! Always something to do, never just sat around!

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  56. Reddyfreddy

    This is amazing. and chuckle worthy

    Dont try to guess what mall it is. It seems to represent any ole small to medium sized suburban mall in America or even Canada in fact. Because it dosn’t actually show too many stores, it could be from anywhere…they were all so horribly the same like the suburbs they were in.

    I’m in Canada here acorss the lake form upstate New york…thinking that look like on of our malls

    Reply

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