Tuesday, July 23, 2024

7 incredible fashion and tech overlaps, including jeweled robots

Key Takeaways

  • Flip phones, like the iconic Motorola Razr, were a major trend in the early 2000s and have made a comeback thanks to the popularity of Y2K fashion and TikTok micro-trends.
  • Apple’s AirPods and AirPods Max have become fashion icons, with their sleek, white design and wireless functionality making them a staple accessory for gym-goers, commuters, and young urbanites.
  • Wired headphones are also making a comeback as a fashion statement, with Gen Z actress Jenna Ortega being named a “Wired It Girl” by Teen Vogue. Despite the rise of Bluetooth headphones, wired headphones have become a symbol of nonchalance and style.

Tech and fashion are powerhouse industries. And while any overlap of the two industries might seem blurry, technology and fashion are inextricably linked, not only when it comes to production, but in their presentation and cultural impact. From 2000s it-girl Paris Hilton as the face of Motorola’s 2024 Razr to 2016’s Met Gala theme, Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology, and even a faux baby covered in computer chips at Paris Fashion Week 2024, we found seven times tech and fashion crossed wires and cultural boundaries together.

1 The flip phone is core Y2K aesthetic

And it’s coming back

Arguably, the early 2000s marked the era when tech went from clunky to pocketable — ushered in by the iconic flip phone. With a simple clamshell design, a few keys, and no camera, the flip-phone reigned long before the smartphone. And while smartphones may rule in functionality, they aren’t nearly as fun or fashionable. Notably, the queen of clunky belts and clutch purses, Paris Hilton, was a major part of the Motorola Razr launch in 2004, and from there, flip phones seemed to become an iconic tween and teen girl accessory.

In 2020, the rise of TikTok made dances, Y2K fashion trends, and content creation a viral sensation. With the spread of “micro-trends,” Y2K fashion, like low-rise jeans, bright colors, metallic materials, and baguette bags, and yes, flip phones were all “in” again. Big names in the tech industry followed suit. Samsung and Motorola launched the Flip and Rar+ series, respectively.

While Samsung’s Flip, debuting in 2020, was likely in production well before Y2K fashion made its big comeback, the following releases of the flip targeted content creators looking for functionality that complemented their overall Y2K aesthetic. Samsung even partnered with Euphoria star, Sydney Sweeney, to promote the Flip 5.


Modern flip phones aren’t the dumb flip phone Gen Z is nostalgic for

Gen Z isn’t answering the smartphone industry’s call to make retro tech smart.

2 AirPods and the “cut-off” earbuds look

The stems weren’t for everyone

AirPods and the


Apple has a brand loyalty like no other, one that many fashion brands — from luxury houses to department stores — strive for. This extreme loyalty is particularly evident when it comes to iPhones, but also, Apple’s in-ear buds. Once critiqued by techies and fashion-lovers alike for looking like “cut off headphones“, Apple’s AirPods and their stems have now achieved icon status and currently grace the ears of gym rats, commuters, travelers, and professionals alike.

Walking around and living in a big metropolitan area like New York City, it’s hard not to see everyone has AirPods hanging out of their ears.

Through all three iterations, and then for the past two Pro generations, the AirPods have only been growing in popularity, likely due to their sleek, white look that doesn’t clash with any outfit. They have become a streetwear staple.


I replaced my AirPods Max with these $9 Temu headphones, and here’s how it went

It might not be a direct comparison, but Temu knock-offs held their own in look and performance. And they even beat AirPods in one important area.

3 Over-ears are everywhere

Gen Z’s unofficial uniform

Renee Rapp in AirPods Max

Renee Rapp via Instagram

Apple’s in-ear buds aren’t the only fashion sensation right now, but its over-ear AirPods Max have suddenly become part of Gen Z’s unofficial “uniform.” In late 2023, a TikTok trend even went viral showing users how they could “dress like they were from New York’s Lower East Side” to achieve a cool aesthetic.

The AirPods Max themselves do have a very futuristic look with their stainless steel finish and mesh headband and even paved the way for all-over-ear headphones to be en vogue, especially for young folks living in cities.

4 Wired headphones say ‘I can’t be bothered’

Jenna Ortega is our Wired It Girl

Wired headphones


Before Bluetooth, there were wired headphones, and like the flip phone, they’re making a comeback. Wired headphones themselves didn’t offer a modern take or added functionality. They merely just became a “look.” Gen Z Wednesday actress Jenna Ortega was even deemed a “Wired It Girl” by Teen Vogue alongside other celebrities like Bella Hadid, many of whom seemingly forecasted the wired headphone trend all the way back in 2019.


I went back to wired headphones in 2024, and here’s how it went

While wired headphones have been largely replaced by Bluetooth over or in-ears, I still think they’re the unsung heroes of music and audio.

While by no means the most practical solution, the return of wired headphones is perhaps an even more pronounced way of signaling to onlookers that you can’t be bothered, especially now that Bluetooth headphones have become even more subtle.

5 Smartwatches are more than timepieces

Health-tracking mini computers

Hermes and Apple Watch

Hermes/ Apple

Apple, Fitbit, Google, and Garmin are just a few of the big names that have revolutionized what used to be an accessory and made it into a health-tracking mini computer we wear on our wrists. However smart, these watches and trackers were first and foremost a classy, and may I even say, timeless fashion staple. While there may be some argument over whether smartwatches look as smart as they perform, big name designers and apparel brands like Hermes, Nike, and Fossil have all partnered with tech brands to make aesthetic timepieces.


Best Apple Watch bands: Top straps for every model and activity

Customizing your Apple Watch goes beyond the software. Complete your wrist wearable with comfortable, stylish, and budget-friendly bands.

Additionally, jewelry brands like Michele, Kate Spade, and Gorjana have all made bracelet-like bands to pair with smart devices. There are countless third-party brands and boutiques on Amazon and Etsy that make unique bands to further style wrist fitness trackers.

6 Smart glasses get a boost from big brands

Ray-Ban style

Especially for my generation, seeing smart glasses on the shelves makes us feel like Cookie from Nickelodeon’s Ned’s Declassified School Survival Guide succeeded in creating the perfect prototype (if you know, you know). While smart glasses may not be completely up to par with how hot smartwatches were at their debut, big name brands like Ray Ban and Carrera are partnering with Meta and Amazon, respectively, to create smart glasses that look like an accessory with added smarts rather than a clunky eyesore.

When we tested Meta’s Ray-Ban smart glasses, we thought they looked great, and with the new Wayfair frame style, looked stylish even apart from its audio and visual capabilities.

7 Robot fashion

Schiaperelli robot baby-1

Schiaperelli via Instagram

In a world filled with ChatGPT and the release of the possibly transformative Apple Vision Pro VR headset, it comes as no surprise that helmets, metallic materials, body armor, and even physical robots have entered the fashion chat (and red carpet).

Gigi and Zayn at the 2016 Met Gala

At the tech-themed 2016 Met Gala, for example, former it-couple model Gigi Hadid and ex-One Direction member Zayn Malik looked like a stunning robot couple. Malik, while otherwise in a simple Versace suit, embellished the clean-cut look with silver robotic arms around the sleeves.

Similarly, Hadid’s silver and sheer Tommy Hilfiger dress on its own seemed like a more subtle nod to the theme, but paired with the long metallic rings on her fingers, the couple’s hands definitely gave homage to a terminator-like era. Perhaps it was a social commentary on how, with the age of smartphones, our hands are turning into an extension of technology — and our technology, even an extension of us.

Schiaparelli’s bejeweled robot baby

I’m sure you may have recycled old technology like an iPod, MP3 player, or even vinyl, but Schiaparelli’s creative director, Daniel Roseberry, converted pre-2007 fashion in an ultra-unique way during this year’s Paris Fashion Week. Showstopping the carpet, a model in all white clothes with only a pop of stunning emerald earrings carried a faux baby covered in old motherboards, flip phones, CDs, wires, and calculators in a maternal manner.

As to what inspired this nostalgia-studded and shocking display, Roseberry claims it’s a creative response to a viral trend. “A lot of people on TikTok have been taking AI and turning my collections into digital collections and seeing who wore it best, so I was thinking, the only card I have to play now is really my memories,” Roseberry said in an interview with WWD.


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