Before the reality-television and celebrity-fragrance booms, Paris Hilton was a blip on the radar of mainstream pop culture. Then, she fueled the party girl-heiress archetype, leapfrogging from one club to the next, turning up on red carpets, riding in cars with boys. Now, she's...retired, so to speak, and dancing to a different tune — or just not on a table. And though she wasn't often commended for her style in any of those eras, we decided to look again in hopes of finding a sliver of taste, and boy, did we ever.
The early days of Hilton's fashion sense were strange yet brilliant. The bandanas, bandeaus, and boots of today's Brooklyn raves — a sort of high-low, luxury meets trash, mismatched aesthetic of late '90s grunge and classic Americana — all make appearances. This, of course, was the precursor to phases two, three, and four of Hilton's style: Swarovski crystal bottle girl, die-hard Juicy Couture tracksuit fan (the byproduct of her Simple Life days), and finally, prom-dress shop owner who considers sequins to be a way of life.
And all of that would inherently make Paris Hilton a style icon — right? When we talk about fashion leaders, we're talking about women who are fearless with their clothes; those who takes risks and own it, whether it lands or not. And she did just that, over and over again. If you can reconcile with the missteps along the way, the outfits of Hilton's early days were rooted in something that is so now. And for someone who spent much of her life tricking people into underestimating her, we're not surprised she came out on top.
Ahead, we bookmarked all of the looks that we couldn't get out of our heads. There's enough glitter belts, baby bags, newsboy caps, and platform sandals to go around. Plus, if you pay attention, you'll spot Tinkerbell, and even a couple of cameos from sister Nicky, who, while remaining way less wild about the whole thing, always had a strong showing, too.