Where were you the evening of January 8, 2001? Were you listening to "Ms. Jackson" on a CD-R you burned from Napster? Were you still reeling from the news that Vanilla Ice had just been released after spending a night in prison in (obviously) Florida? Were you getting home from finally seeing Cast Away (even though you secretly wished you had seen Dude, Where's My Car? instead)?
Wherever you were, you were probably not aware when you turned on your TV that night that you were you were about to witness the single most important red carpet style moment of the young millennium. And, quite possibly, of all time.
Yes, we are talking about Britney Spears' and Justin Timberlake's matching denim ensembles worn to the 2001 American Music Awards.
One part country-folk-gone-wild, one part teens-with-too-much-money, and all parts insane, the coordinating, his-and-her patchwork denim-on-denim-on-denim-on-denim outfits were a true stroke of attention-getting genius, grabbing us all by the eyeballs and grabbing by the hearts a growing group of pop-culture-devouring teenagers just starting to make a comfortable home on the Internet. It was peak Britney and Justin, two homegrown kids, each just 19 years old at the time, white-knuckling their rise to levels of fame that would go on to break them or drive them to be more successful than ever. And somehow it all made sense. Why wouldn't these two be dressed in head to toe denim at a formal event, with some ostentatious diamonds thrown in for good measure? It's a Southern-fried, new money, celebrity dream.
Just imagine if Twitter had existed during the AMA's back then. These outfits would have been the cause of enough tweets shouting out #relationshipgoals and #mood and #thiscouldbeusbutyouinkhakis to fill a book. Tumblr would have broken. A quick scroll through Instagram would have looked like an explosion at a denim mill. This twofer was a meme before we even knew what memes were, hung on long enough to become an actual meme and then made the jump to becoming a meme IRL. And, then, of course, it's remained in our consciousness long enough that we're marking the 15th anniversary of a denim ball gown and matching cowboy hat today.
So, for that, 2001 Britney and Justin, we salute you. There's no way that you could have known, back when you said yes to starting with a pair of bootcut jeans and building from there, to fastening a back pocket to the front of your blazer and to removing a waistband so you could button it around your hat, that we'd still be talking about you a decade and a half later. Because maybe if you had known that, at least one of you might have vetoed those gradient sunglasses.