USA Shopping Malls, Summer 1990

These images are by Michael Galinksy. If you would like to support Michael’s goal of publishing the images in book form, please visit his Malls Across America Kickstarter campaign.

All images (c) Michael Galinksy

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If you have stories or recollections connected to American malls during the late 1980s / early 1990s, Michael would like to hear from you.

68 comments to USA Shopping Malls, Summer 1990

  • Bangner

    Wow, are we also going to look this weird in another 20 years? Great foresight by the photographer here (however inadvertent).

    Scariest part is I know towns where everyone still looks like this!

  • elmsyrup

    I like the lack of self-consciousness people seem to have in these pictures. I also notice the almost total lack of obese people. Wonder what changed in only 20 years?

  • anna

    Wow, I love this photos. I love the way people seem to be having an absolutely normal day of their lives. It makes me want to take photos in the nearest mall to show them in 2031. Thanks for posting this.

  • jeff

    hey elms, computers came along…that’s what changed. everyone’s sitting on there butts now instead of walking around the malls.

  • The Sexy Armpit

    this is amazing. I only wish I had photos from my local mall! Love this post. classic.

  • smiggen jones

    why are some people in shorts, and others in coats?

  • Neil

    I think this mall is from Long Island, NY.. is this Smith haven mall or Massapequa mall? Just wondering given the king’s park jackets and common tiling throughout the pictures.

  • Bag of Randomness

    [...] have to take this trip down memory lane and see these pictures taken inside a shopping mall back in the summer of 1990.  It’s hard to believe for some [...]

  • Noel

    Hi. Woooooooow, i like the 90′s.

    Is amazing how change the life style…

  • kct1975

    WOW! Those pictures really take me back! I honestly had forgoten just how bad the clothing and hair style were back then. Ouch. Though, I too am gulilty, I was about 14 and the time and, while I do not remember to well (thankfully), I sure I was dressed just as bad.

  • lostinnny

    Any idea of where in the USA these photos were taken?

  • MichaelGalinsky

    @lostinnny

    these were taken in about 20 malls across the us

    a lot of them were taken in the smith haven mall on long island- that’s where i started the project- then i drove across the country with a friend and shot all over- the jump off in terms of influence was frank, eggelston and winogrand.

  • MichaelGalinsky

    @lostinnny

    these were taken in about 20 malls across the us

    a lot of them were taken in the smith haven mall on long island- that’s where i started the project- then i drove across the country with a friend and shot all over- the jump off in terms of influence was frank, eggelston and winogrand.

  • The American Mall Circa 1990 | WetBandits

    [...] credit goes to Deadspin for this find, which leads to THIS EPIC SITE. Which has a collection of photos from USA shopping malls in the summer of 1990. Jesus this shit [...]

  • JennyEpelMuller

    This is awesome and horrifying, just as I remember it. I spent the summer of ’90, when I was 17, working in a mall (the Galleria in White Plains, NY). The photos inspired me to create this music playlist, which one friend of mine said made her feel “sort of gross inside,” which is exactly the effect it was intended to have.

    http://listen.grooveshark.com/#/playlist/Mallrat+Despair+Mix+C+1990/50568744?src=5

  • JennyEpelMuller

    This is awesome and horrifying, just as I remember it. I spent the summer of ’90, when I was 17, working in a mall (the Galleria in White Plains, NY). The photos inspired me to create this music playlist, which one friend of mine said made her feel “sort of gross inside,” which is exactly the effect it was intended to have.

    http://listen.grooveshark.com/#/playlist/Mallrat+Despair+Mix+C+1990/50568744?src=5

  • dianesaysword

    It’s crazy because I was scrolling through these pictures thinking “Man, if this doesn’t look like Smith Haven Mall…” but figured “Nah, malls are malls, especially in the early 1990′s.” lol…but then as soon as I saw that kid in the Kings Park High School jacket, well, that sealed the deal. :)

    I moved out to the general area around the Smith Haven Mall about four and a half years ago, and let me tell you, four and a half years ago, that place did not look much different that it does in your pictures, LOL. It has since gotten a pretty large facelift so now it looks…well, it looks nicer, lol, and it still gets an insane crowd like your pictures show, by virtue of being the only thing around for about what, 40 miles? (yes! still!)

    That picture showing the brick work and the “open ’till 9:30″ sign? That should be the entrance to the Macy’s at Smith Haven, and I know this because the outside entrances still have that same sign all over them, LOL. And yes that brick work is still there.

    That aside, they must’ve outlawed smoking in malls like a year after these pictures were taken, because I do not remember that at all, and my parents smoked (granted I was 6 in 1990, but still lol). Oh and also, remember that time that Sears sold American products? :’(

    Thanks for posting these. They’re crazy, lol.

  • dianesaysword

    It’s crazy because I was scrolling through these pictures thinking “Man, if this doesn’t look like Smith Haven Mall…” but figured “Nah, malls are malls, especially in the early 1990′s.” lol…but then as soon as I saw that kid in the Kings Park High School jacket, well, that sealed the deal. :)

    I moved out to the general area around the Smith Haven Mall about four and a half years ago, and let me tell you, four and a half years ago, that place did not look much different that it does in your pictures, LOL. It has since gotten a pretty large facelift so now it looks…well, it looks nicer, lol, and it still gets an insane crowd like your pictures show, by virtue of being the only thing around for about what, 40 miles? (yes! still!)

    That picture showing the brick work and the “open ’till 9:30″ sign? That should be the entrance to the Macy’s at Smith Haven, and I know this because the outside entrances still have that same sign all over them, LOL. And yes that brick work is still there.

    That aside, they must’ve outlawed smoking in malls like a year after these pictures were taken, because I do not remember that at all, and my parents smoked (granted I was 6 in 1990, but still lol). Oh and also, remember that time that Sears sold American products? :’(

    Thanks for posting these. They’re crazy, lol.

  • dianesaysword

    @JennyEpelMuller Wow that is a painful playlist, LOL. But man, I remember going to the Galleria back then, it was a nice mall at that time (also for the time, lol)…glad to see you made it out of there ok :D

  • dianesaysword

    @JennyEpelMuller Wow that is a painful playlist, LOL. But man, I remember going to the Galleria back then, it was a nice mall at that time (also for the time, lol)…glad to see you made it out of there ok :D

  • Michael

    Yes, I knew that was the Smith Haven Mall in some of those pics.

  • bronny

    I absolutely love these photos, thanks so much for sharing them!

  • willie

    My favorite is the store sign that says: TAPE WORLD

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  • eightiesnostalgiast

    This was so bad it was great. The style, or lack thereof, is awesome!

    I don’t think there is an era in which America looked any trashier. Shout out to the Frizzy Perm Era (ca. 1987 - ca. 1995).

    The only people who look remotely sophisticated are the woman in the 7th photo from the bottom, and some of the people in the “Phil’s Photo Imagry” pics. Oh, and that mannequin, too.

    Amazing how these Northerners bear an uncanny resemblence to Billy Ray Cyrus ca. “Achy Breaky Heart”, style-wise.

  • George Gallo

    2 or 3 of these images are NOT from Smith Haven. INCREDIBLE WORK though.
    I have video of Smith Haven back then. Hold onto
    Your hats. :)

  • Kraig Karson

    Elms, you nailed it! the lack of self awareness. We need to get back to that. I lived at malls in 1990. Every mall in Chicagoland. Thx for the pics retronaut!

  • Tyler

    Wow. Especially fascinating for me as I was born in the summer of 1990. A world I existed in yet never knew…

  • dean

    I like the stored named “Tape world” in one of the pictures. Try finding any store today that primarily sells music on cassette tapes! Also the smoking inside the malls is pretty funny.

    There is still a sort of late 80′s/madonna/flashdance vibe left over in 1990 - strange….

  • Camille

    What happened to the great long hair the men and woman used to have, and their sizes have tripled? What happened to the people that used to excercize. We need more Jack LaLanes!
    Did you know that eating sugar increases your appetite, and your desire for sugar?

  • Brad

    It’s amazing to see how small everyone was back then!

  • frank

    1990….wow…..remember this is within one year of Cheers ending, Seinfeld & The Simpsons beginning!

  • Greg

    I guess black people didn’t go to malls back then.

  • seabear70

    REguarding the lack of obese people, I also noted the number of people smoking in public…

    Corelation is not causation, but is it possible the two are somehow linked?

  • michael

    Thanks for all the support for this project-
    I wrote up a short piece to give context to the work

    http://www.rumur.com/news/mall-stories/

    in addition a few months ago i made a video for my old band (for a song from this time period) called punk rock city usa - using images from this series.

    http://vimeo.com/17861090

  • James

    a lot of those pictures are from Smith Haven Mall

  • Don

    Who said this is USA.

  • DensityDuck

    The Eighties exploded, and these are pictures of the shrapnel.

  • Wendy

    Is that Julian Casablancas in pic no. 4??

  • Rob

    I, too, am laughing about Tape World. I remember they came around in the late 80s and starting taking business away from Record Bar. But by the mid-90s, they started losing out to CD Alley, which eventually died about ten years later when mp3s became big. Ah the cycle of life.

    Yeah the scenes of smokers was shocking in a way. Some malls in the south still allowed smokers all the way into the late 90s even.

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  • Jason

    Oh wow, is that the Smithaven Mall in Lake Grove?? I practically grew up in that mall!

  • michael

    http://kck.st/gcUEDH

    michael galinsky here- the photographer- i have started a kickstarter campaign in order to raise funds to print a book of the images

    thanks

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  • Axe

    Crazy. Those kids in the Kings Park jackets are my friends!! That was the year we graduated high school.

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  • Disco

    Despair maybe. I dunno. 1990 was a simpler time in my life. In fact, thru August of that year was one of the best times in my life. I was only 12. Then seventh grade started and everything went to shit.

    I was not really into the pop music of that year, but these songs aren’t bad. At least they’re pleasant and not whiny.

  • michael

    Hey Axe-
    if you do know those people in the pictures can you contact me via the facebook.com/rumur site- I would love to be in touch with some of the people in the images for a media story.

    thanks

  • Jeff

    A few things:
    1) I think the better term would be “self-consciousness“, not “self-awareness.” Self-awareness is good-self-consciousness, not quite so much.
    2) I don’t want to look “sophisticated” if it means baggy grey shorts and a wife-beater-I know, I know, “it’s all in how you wear it”. Feh! I want to look GOOD! These people may be making mistakes, but the mistakes are all fixable (anyone “horrified” by this needs to take a look around at today), and at least they’re trying to take pleasure in their appearance. We might as well all be wearing office wear for the attitude we take toward our so-called casual wear these days, even as sloppy as it is. We get to “relax”, but we don’t get to enjoy our clothes any more. Who really wants a world like that? And yet we continue to put up with it. Why??

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  • Michele Askew

    I saw lots of fat people, mostly women.

  • simmer

    definitely smith haven mall. i recognized it instantly by the brickwork as well. and black people definitely did goto malls back then, the southshore mall in bayshore. and sunrise mall. smith haven, not so much.

  • Riverledge

    The photo of the popcorn koisk in front of the Zales (mall #67) offers different demographics (they tend to be the only obese within)as well as floor tiling is so totally different from the Smith Haven. Probably shot somewhere else. Mall #68 also has white flooring. Not enough to identify.

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  • sthlmandsouth

    these are awesome

  • ben

    I feel like I’m right out of frame in every shot. Thanks for bringing me back tot the terror.

  • waza

    what a great collection of shots - there should be a photo-anthology for every year. the cellphone killed the mallrat, and now we actually miss em. malls seem so empty these days, like in this video. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YvJw1t8wHhM

  • Spicoli

    @waza - I was a mall rat throughout the 80s (think Fast Times At Ridgemont High). The big thing for my klan was visiting the arcade and playing video games. But even in the early to mid 90s my generation still enjoyed going to malls, but only for shopping, not socializing. Soon after the internet and email took off and then online shopping. By the late 90s/early 00s just about all of my non-staple, non-clothing purchases were done on line through etailers and brick stores that shipped to the home (specifically electronics and small/large appliances). That was about the same time computer games and console games started blowing away those in arcades. Malls - and those who frequent them - are a dying breed. I’d wager that before another 20 years passes, they’ll all be extinct. All we’ll have by then are strip malls anchored by a few major retail chains still around like Target (Sears & JCPenney probably won’t be one of them).

  • Jersey

    These pics bring me way back.Thanks Mike Galinsky.Just curious if any of these were taken in New Jersey as one of the pics looks just like my wife but she denies she ever owned those high top sneakers.

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  • Phil

    WHAT? NO CELL PHONES? HOW IS IT POSSIBLE?

  • Mike

    Picture 4 looks like Johnny Ramone!!!

  • ricky lee

    This definitely takes me back! You can almost feel the vibe of a slightly simpler time. Two things I took away most is that 1990 was still a time you could smoke almost anywhere in public without the politically correct shame division decending upon American society. And secondly, as elmsyrup pinted out, there’s almost a complete lack of obese people. Sure, there have always been obese people but as we venture into malls today it’s hard to escape that a large number of people are obese. The only other irony worth mentioning is that mall clothing stores still cater to the thin and pretty crowd. That has never changed. More people use wal-mart and big and tall stores instead of traditional retail to cover an increasing number of obese people.

  • Phil Woodford

    There is a surprisingly 80s feel to some of the fashion and hairstyles. I would have placed it perhaps at 1987 or 1988. Nice record.

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