90’s/2000’s Smells You Almost Forgot
Those Axe commercials were right: scent is the strongest sense tied to memory. But you’ve already read every listicle about Warm Vanilla Sugar, Cucumber Melon, and those No Tears shampoos with the side-eye. These are the childhood smells you haven’t thought about in years.
1. Tempera Paint
When you think of 90’s smells, everyone talks about cracking open a new box of crayons. But who could forget that generic, non-toxic paint you’d use in art class? The scent instantly brings me back to fighting for space on the drying rack.
2. Play Tunnels
Between ball pits, jelly shoes, and the clamshells that held every new toy, plastic was the de facto smell of the early aughts. But I want to talk about those pop-up obstacles - the play tents, cubes and tunnels you could crawl through like a hamster. So evocative. So transporting. Vaguely educational.
3. Ice Cream Trucks
Visits from the ice cream truck didn’t just smell like Spongebob “ice cream.” Like most precious summer memories, it smelled like car exhaust and hot tar from the road baking underfoot.
Play-Doh may have been a forbidden fruit, but the nectar of the honeysuckle flower is actually edible. The lightly sweet scent, carried on a gentle breeze, is enough to remind me of times when I wanted to put everything in my mouth. (One of these fresh off the vine was almost as good as a Fruzel jelly cup.)
5. The Freezer Section
You know how cold has a smell? If you remember riding shotgun in the shopping cart, you remember the odd sensory mix of cold, bright and R&B inside the grocery store.
6. The Lunch Line
It wasn’t just the food (though plastic pizza, orange taco meat and Clover chocolate milk are pretty unforgettable). Rather, lunch time smelled like a unique blend of hot bar items and the soaps used to disinfect the cafeteria.
7. Stick Sunscreen
You hated putting this on your nose, but it always signaled fun times. Slicking on some sunscreen - in the glue stick form, obviously - still instantly brings back the rush of wading down the beach or doing a cannonball into the pool at camp.
8. The Mall
Remember when people shopped in stores? This smelled like a melange of hot pretzels, chlorinated water features, and every single cologne combined. (And for that matter, people always talk about Abercrombie smell, but EA could definitely bottle a fragrance called New Video Game.)
9. Plastic Dish Ware
Also known as the smell of eating at someone else’s house, I’m talking about those chubby, child-safe sporks and foons. Taking a sip from a plastic cup, scratched up from washing and use, you’d always get more plastic than juice.
10. Hair Cuts
Similarly, trips to get a haircut had their own scent. The salon smelled like all of the hair products, the PVC cape (that plastic again!!) and the heat from the blow dryers. Like a Glade Plug-In with indistinct flavor notes, it was at once chemical and soothing.
Breathe In Life’s Moments
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