Rachel Green, Monica Geller, Ross Geller, Joey Tribiani, Phoebe Buffet and Chandler Bing are the friends we feel we’ve always had; iconic characters who are both frozen in time and burnt into our memories. From Chandler’s eye-rolling dad jokes to Joey's nonchalant misogyny, they embody everything we know, love, and sometimes hate about our own immediate friendship groups. 25 years since the sitcom rocked all of our worlds (at the same time), could we BE anymore excited to take a look back at the way Friends has shaped our world since? This week we celebrate the legacy of Friends and its long-lasting charm; how, 25 years on, we’re still watching and some are even still discovering the phenomenon.
Incredibly, a survey this year, taken of British children aged 9 to 16 (who were predominantly born after the finale episode was aired in 2004), Friends comes out on top as their favourite sit-com. And if that doesn’t persuade you of Friends’ never-ending, global cultural relevance, over in the States, Nielsen Holdings - the American information, data and measurement firm - suggest that Friends is the second most-watched program on American Netflix accounts. It cannot just be nostalgia that is keeping the show so relevant, perhaps it’s the distance from the modern-day that still attracts such a large old and new audience?
Despite this success in a digital age, the internet has a worthy preoccupation with the ways in which Friends has “not aged well”. Sadly we concur; when it comes to the flagrant homophobia, transphobia and inherent whitewashing - it hasn’t. But with that being said neither has your republican Uncle Rick whom you love dearly but narrowly avoid tearing apart every time politics and/or social issues are brought up at a family function... and that’s how we choose to view the show’s shortcomings.
Friends is a sugar-coated representation of the good and the bad things about the ’90s and early 00s; for the best part, it was set in a time before 9/11. Before smartphones, social media, reality TV, Deliveroo. Before the wider acceptance of transgender rights and certainly before marriage equality.
It’s a fantasy now to live in a world where you can afford Monica and Rachel’s rent, even to approach a guy in a coffee shop and ask him on a date. In the Friends world, we would actually have one conversation at a time - communicating verbally with others, rather than concurrent conversations both in real-time and over text. Could this be why we’re still so nostalgic for the series and why digital natives are so intrigued by the sitcom? Generations apart, do we long for the same thing? A world where Central Perk is our WhatsApp and that iconic brown sofa is our group chat?
These characters were made for us to love, not for us to be influenced by. The carefree way that they live their lives - caring for each other above all else, with the majority of laughs (when they’re not discluding or ridiculing minorities) coming from their interactions with each other and their dating blunders - we know these characters. We know why a certain “in” joke resonates, we can tell you their parent’s names, the fundamentals of their past. They’re not manufactured to sell us anything other than the half-hour escape from our own realities. That being said, we all know that our friends affect our style; so it’s not a surprise that Friends affects our style. “The Rachel” haircut became an instant trend - impeccably layered and highlighted the cut looked great on Jennifer Aniston. Sadly it left the rest of us mere mortals looking like Billy Ray Cyrus, 25 years prior to Old Town Road.
But what is it about the show’s era, and the prevalence of the show in that era, that has the fashion world captivated on a special loop of 90s clothing appreciation? From Princess Diana to Karl Kani, the 90s saw comfortable clothing reach new heights and the move of these particular shapes and styles into luxury fashion. With their collaborative love for denim, the Friends cast have been described as normcore pioneers by some, but their reach traverses into the realms of high fashion too.
So much so that, in celebration of the 25 year Friends anniversary, Ralph Lauren is honouring their former employee, Rachel Green with a whole collection dedicated to her unsurpassed style in the show. They’ve even teamed up with her other two previous places of work Bloomingdales and Central Perk to take an installation of the coffee shop and Rachel’s office in the show to different Bloomingdale's locations around the United States. It’s like a rolling tour of Rachels’ CV and style - what more could you want?
The collection is a curated ‘wear-to-work’ line, consisting of pieces from Polo and Lauren Ralph Lauren. The collection makes it very easy to embody Friends’ most stylish cast member and is incredibly AW19 appropriate, there are midi and miniskirts in suede, faux leopard fur, crested blazers, and equestrian-inspired accessories. All retailing for upwards of $150, your 90s fashion fix is easily attainable.
25 years of Friends and it’s not nearly enough to have us running for the hills just yet, in all honesty, we’re hoping that the re-adoption of Rachel Green’s wardrobe is the first step in our full circle back to the time that the cast live in, but we’ll head back there, this time armed with our critical mindset. No one told us life was going to be this way, and because of the new Ralph Lauren collection we’re certainly broke but hopefully, our love life will no longer be D.O.A. When you feel like you’re stuck in second gear, or you just need a bit of outfit inspiration, remember that Friends (both your real ones and the ones in your TV) will always be there for you.
By Kezia Navey for Semaine.