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These Baby Names Were Everywhere In the 90s. Now They’ve Almost Vanished.

For 14 years, these names reigned supreme — what happened?


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vintage 1990s photograph of children sitting in the back of a camper van

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Trends come and go in the ever-evolving world of baby names, but some names stand the test of time — or at least, decades of time. Throughout the ’80s and for most of the ’90s, the glory decades as they were, three baby boy names reigned as the most popular in the land, inspired in large part by some of the biggest stars of the era from Michael Jackson to Matthew Broderick to Chris Rock. That’s right: Michael, Christopher, and Matthew. For those of us who grew up with Chris C.’s and L.’s and Matthew K.’s and J.’s in their class, the fact that basically every boy you knew (or you yourself!) had one of these three names is no surprise.

According to the U.S. Social Security Administration, the popularity of the name Michael is no fluke. It was the 5th most-popular name in 1949, behind James, Robert, John, and William. And from there, it rose quickly to the top until, in 1954, it became the most popular baby boy name in the U.S. “Michael” also held on to the top spot for an impressively long time — 46 years —minus one blip in 1960. Even then, the name didn’t fall out of the top five list until 2011, eventually dropping to the 16th spot in 2022.

Christopher also had an impressive run. It’s a name that always played second fiddle: “Christopher” spent years and years as the 2nd and 3rd most popular baby boy name, behind Michael. Until, in 1995, the name dropped to third; then to fourth, then fifth, before dropping off the top-five list in 2002. It’s currently the 56th most popular baby boy name in the U.S.

Rounding out the trio of your childhood classmates is “Matthew.” Its decades-long domination of the charts in the U.S. is storied: While the name hit its lowest point in 1931 (when it was ranked 208th), it’s been in the top 100 most popular baby boy names in the country for 66 years straight. At the moment, it’s the 39th most popular baby boy name.

While the names aren’t exactly extinct — like Willard, Myrtle, and Ethel — they’ve certainly fallen out of favor, in terms of trendiness and popularity. But who fills their place today? Liam, Noah, and Oliver are the names of this decade — and the last. Liam and Noah have topped the list since 2013 and 2011, respectively. Relative newcomer Oliver has only been a top dog baby boy name since 2018.

Will we look at these ultra-dominant baby boy names in 30 years the same way we look at the once-dominant Matthew, Christopher, and Michael? Perhaps. But for now, these classic baby boy names have a kind of vintage appeal — a fresh patina from a time gone by, when we hung out in person, played hacky sack, listened to grunge and thought about maybe getting into skateboarding.

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This post originally appeared on Fatherly and was published February 20, 2024. This article is republished here with permission.

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