Ah, the good ol’ 1990s – fondly remembered in popular culture for the rise of Mandopop idols and an era of supermodels. If you’re in your thirties or forties now, you may be able to identify your schoolyard days with the awkward Lin Truly in Our Times 我们的少女时代

Lin Truly (Vivian Sung) trying to decide what to buy at the school provision shop.

Lin Truly (Vivian Sung) trying to decide what to buy at the school provision shop.

Ouyang Extraordinary and a made-over Lin Truly.

Ouyang Extraordinary (Dino Lee) and a made-over Lin Truly.

High school student Truly (played by Taiwanese newcomer Vivian Sung) is Andy Lau’s number one fan and self-proclaimed “wife”. She has a huge crush on the most popular guy in school, Ouyang Extraordinary (Dino Lee), but it’s apparent from appearances that her mop of messy hair, dorky glasses and gawky demeanour cannot hold a candle to Tao Minmin (Dewi Chien), the prettiest girl in school.

Tao Minmin

Tao Minmin (Dewi Chien)

Life throws her a curveball when she receives a poison pen chain letter which she must forward to at least three people… And Truly chooses the school’s troublemaker Hsu Taiyu (Ta Lu Wang) as one of her targets.

Big Brother

Hsu Taiyu (Ta Lu Wang)

Set against the backdrop of the halcyon days of no Google, no smartphone and when people still used the Walkman, the character of Truly has inspired us to present you five things we used to collect back when we were schoolchildren.

1. Idol cards

Idol cards once ruled the black market. Credit: 7788.com

Idol cards once ruled the black market. Do you recognise these celebs? Credit: 7788.com

Do you remember turning these out of the neighbourhood tikam machines for $1 apiece? You’d get a glossy photo of one of those Mandopop sensations, like the Little Tigers 小虎队, Faye Wong, Annie Yi or Vivian Chow. Bonus if you got Takeshi Kaneshiro or one of the four Heavenly Kings: Andy Lau, Aaron Kwok, Jacky Cheung and Leon Lai, and double bonus if you got them on a metallic background. You could easily resell a metallic Heavenly King idol card for $20 (a small fortune in those days) on the black market (i.e. in school) if you had the good fortune to come across one.

I’m not sure what intrinsic value these cards held. Maybe as Truly said, it was as if the more memorabilia one collected, the higher the chance of one eventually marrying their idol. Hahaha.

2. Magazines

People magazine cover featuring Prince William as a teenager. Credit: People magazine

People magazine cover featuring Prince William as a teenager. Credit: People magazine

Publishing was a thriving business until the Internet came along and dealt it a huge blow. Magazine covers in those days weren’t just responsible for selling copies, they were the physical embodiment of the zeitgeist. Seventeen, Vogue, People – we looked to them to tell us who and what was cool and what wasn’t. Until all sorts of information became easily available for free on the Internet, saving that magazine copy of Newsweek, TIME or People was the only way to remember how Prince William looked like when he was 16, or what Leonardo DiCaprio said in that interview about his role in The Titanic.

3. Swimsuit calendars

Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Calendar 1990. Credit: colussuscollectibles.com

Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Calendar 1990. Credit: colussuscollectibles.com

If 1990s American TV could be summarised in a gif, I’d vote for a classic scene in Baywatch: Pamela Anderson running down the beach, boobs bouncing in her red hi-cut one-piece swimsuit. Guys will agree that there’s just nothing like getting to know a different well-endowed, bikini-clad babe every month of the year, but if you can’t have the real thing, a calendar would do nicely. Enter the Sports Illustrated swimsuit calendar. It’s still being printed, but I’m sure circulation numbers are nowhere near where they were pre-2000.

4. Pin-up posters of supermodels

Cindy Crawford. Do you notice a trend in hip-high, low-cut one-piece swimsuits? Credit: pinterest.com

Cindy Crawford. Do you notice a trend in hip-high, low-cut one-piece swimsuits? Credit: pinterest.com

Cindy Crawford, Christy Turlington, Naomi Campbell, Kate Moss, Linda Evangelista and Claudia Schiffer – these glamazons were an exclusive crop of supermodels known as The Big Six. They dominated all things hair, makeup and fashion in the late 1980s to the 1990s. Singapore’s very own cover girl, the late Bonny Hicks, published her bestselling autobiography Excuse Me, Are You A Model in 1990, marking a period where girls aspired to be “discovered” by talent agents.

5. Cassette tapes

I actually have this cassette tape too. Credit: buzzfeed.com

I actually have this cassette tape too. Credit: buzzfeed.com

The 1990s must have been the last decade before the compact disc took over, a time when you could still purchase cassette tapes at a record store. Other than solo albums and compilations, Disney audio cassettes of their stories were also wildly popular. And if you were into someone, you’d make them a mix tape – the perfect way, it seemed then, to tell your crush that “I’m giving you everything/All that joy can bring/This I swear.”

How many more retro things can you spot in Our Times? Tell us in your comments below.