Written by Lily Johnson, photographed by Jalin Cerillo
The phrase “I was born in the wrong generation” is commonly heard amongst people today. Many wish they were growing up in past decades when times were simpler and their daily lives were less influenced by technology. A survey from the U.K. magazine the Sun found that 2,000 adults said children wish they had grown up in the same era as their parents and 15% would prefer to grow up in today’s world. Surprisingly the Gen Z group, born between 1997-2009, longs to see old-time favorite classic bands such as the Ramones or the Beatles perform live, or dream of dressing in polos or poodle skirts to meet friends for milkshakes at neighborhood diner—things from times past.
History is viewed as a highlight reel that glamorizes the life of that era. Today, Gen Z has taken elements like fashion, technology or music from various times in history, and has used them to create a new version of pop culture for today’s audience. Gen Z seeks to live in a simpler time with less responsibility to keep a clean image both on social media and in person.
Is this nostalgia for the past unique to Gen Z or do other generations feel the same way? This question was posed to a wide age-range of people and the answer was perhaps not a surprise. There is a definite sense of nostalgia for the past.
Patricia Wilkins, 77, who grew up in the age of hard rock with a generation wrapped up in self-discovery, said “Yes! I grew up in the ‘40s, ‘50s, and ‘60s, and I loved rock and roll, Elvis, and American Bandstand.”
Although Gen Z’s trends tend to emphasize the ’80s and ‘90s, there still is a love for the fashion trends of the ’50s and how people would go out and do various fun activities with their friends. It was a different type of culture; even in the 80’s kids would go spontaneously spend the day at a mall or park.
Perhaps Gen Z is viewing the past through rose-colored glasses. When they remember the past, it is common to only focus on the music, trends and films but not on the societal, racial or women’s’ rights issues.
“Yes, I do think I was born in the right decade. I appreciate what I have as a woman in the modern age,” millennial Elise Johnson said. “Although many of us still feel like improvements are needed, we have come a long way since the beginning of the 20th century.”
Trends in Fashion and Technology
Trends come and go, but recently Mom jeans, band tees and scrunchies have all been making a comeback in popular Gen Z stores like Urban Outfitters. Teens today are even shopping at thrift stores to get vintage clothes.
“It’s all about the aesthetic,” said Tori Schnibbe of Gen Z. “People want to feel like they’re living in a simpler time where people went out and did stuff instead of chilling at home.”
No matter what fashion trend is popular on social media, it is guaranteed to resurface in a few years.
“I wish the preppy look from the ’80s came back. I loved the argyle sweaters, polo shirts and white tennis shoes,” said Kelly Jean of Generation X.
It is not just fashion that’s influencing the teens today; it is also technology. Now more than ever people are forced to look at our screens for everything, school, work and leisure time. Everything is computerized. There are few things that people do not use technology for. Although technology has greatly advanced over the past few decades, there is still a longing for simplicity.
“I am kind of surprised that people are getting away from digital and downloading music and going back to vinyl records,” Johnson said. “I myself have gone to thrift stores and purchased some.”
Record players have especially gained popularity in the past ten years with people collecting them to play or as aesthetic decoration for their rooms.
People have also been on the lookout for typewriters. There are even organized meetup groups that will get together to write poetry on their typewriters, such as The Typewriter Poetry Group or informational support from sites like The Typewriter Revolution.
“They’re not the most efficient thing to use because if you make a mistake you have to retype the whole paper,” Jean explains. “But it’s nice to see that there’s a following of people that appreciate the machinery of it. I miss the sound, the noise it makes when you type, the bell. There’s nothing like it.”
With unlimited access to entertainment at all times, Gen Z appreciates the chance to unplug once in a while.
Skills That Have Been Lost In the Newer Generations
Everyone who was interviewed agreed that cellphones have caused the newer generations to have weak interpersonal communication skills.
“People have lost the capability to talk to one another,” said Jean. “Cellphones are a big reason for that. People would rather send a text than talk on the phone. They don’t want to look at each other. It’s sad.”
“What is missing from today’s generation is eating dinner together every night as a family, being respectful of adults and authority, and being responsible for their actions,” Wilkins mentioned.
Why do you think Gen Z has been bringing back trends from decades past?
“To them it’s something vintage, something that’s unique and different. There’s a novelty to it,” said Jean.
The newer generations may read old books, wear dated clothes and watch old movies to feel different and escape the pressures of social media.
“I think they’ve become so obsessed because of the representation of simpler times through the nostalgia of being a child where you were allowed to be carefree, without debt, work, and everything that comes from being an adult,” said Johnson.
Would Zoomers actually switch generations if given the chance or are they merely romanticizing a bygone era? We may never know, but it is safe to say that people from all generations appear to take comfort in the simplicity of the past.