From My BBC Interview: How Generations Use Style to Stand Out

woman smiling and wearing star-shaped earrings, with BBC logo in top left corner

I shared with BBC Culture the importance of generational style, why it matters to each generation, and how it has changed throughout recent history.

  • Style is a powerful marker for generations
  • Every generation has set itself apart from previous ones through style
  • Generational identity is important—to every generation!

As a generational researcher, speaker, and author of Zconomy, my new book that separates Gen Z and generational myth from truth with data and research, I shared with The BBC how generations use style­–fashion and otherwise–to differentiate and set themselves apart from their parents’ and other generations’ identities. This was an incredibly exciting and fun(!) interview because fashion plays such a big role in helping generations express themselves and also in identifying new generations and emerging trends.

Style changes with each generation

As I share in my virtual keynotes and executive presentations, the key to successfully connecting with Gen Z and every generation is to understand their point of view and meet them where their values, mindset, perspective, and passions are. And yes, that includes their choices in fashion—even if you don’t agree with them (which shows you’re likely in another generation!).

As I shared with The BBC, “Style is a marker that allows us to see the handoff between the former generation of trend drivers and the new one. It’s one of the key areas that lets us know when one generation ends, and a new one begins.”

Every generation has a generation-defining moment

Generations are more than those born between one year and another. Generations are comprised of people who have shared experiences in similar life stages and geographies around the world. The Traditionalists or Silent Generation grew up during the Great Depression and were heavily impacted by World War II. Baby Boomers grew up amongst the abundance of the post-World War II era. Millennials have now had two major economic downturns during their prime earning years—The Great Recession and now the COVID-19 pandemic.

All of these impactful experiences, each of which we at CGK call a “Generation Defining Moment,” help shape how people of certain age groups see their world and interact with it. And that includes what they wear—or won’t wear because they view it as “out of style.”

As I shared with the BBC, “I think it’s healthy to have a generational separation and to coalesce around a new identity. It gives us the best preview of the future.”

New styles aren’t only natural, they’re important for generational identity!

Older generations have critiqued younger generations’ stylistic choices for so long and so often, it is often cliche to say, “Look at what the youth are wearing these days!” Yet, the response has almost always been, “The kids are alright,” and that is because…they are!

Flappers made waves in the 1920s with their “bob” haircuts, Gen X went “grunge,” and Millennials love(d) their skinny jeans. For Gen Z, their style is derived from their generation’s environmental and social justice values. This can be seen in the resurgence of shopping at vintage clothing stores, a burgeoning industry that focuses on previously-owned apparel, and growing interest in “comfy” clothes versus the latest Fashion Week designs.

In addition, our groundbreaking research has shown that Gen Z is demanding clothiers and all businesses to care about the environment in a meaningful way. Going further, having witnessed their Gen X and Millennial parents cope with the financial downturn of The Great Recession, that impression has left them wanting to save more, spend less, and consume more responsibly. If a brand doesn’t fulfill those desires, Gen Z is more than willing to look elsewhere—which can be as easy as shopping on their phone where they expect free shipping, easy returns, and simplicity in paying.

Along with my co-author, Dr. Denise Villa, we write about these important trends and many more we see Gen Z leading in our latest book, Zconomy: How Gen Z Will Change the Future of Business—and What to Do About It. We are thrilled that Zconomy was a #1 New Release on Amazon.

How to Market Your Brand to Engage Gen Z Now

It has never been more essential for leaders, marketers, brands, and retail managers to adapt to generational change to ensure that their business thrives as Gen Z consumers rapidly emerge and extend both their spending power and influence across generations.

At CGK, we are continuously researching how Gen Z and all generations are thinking about fashion, spending, work, brands, family, style, the economy, and much more throughout the pandemic and beyond. My team and I are providing these insights as executive briefings, webinars, and virtual keynote presentations to help leaders at all levels be accurately informed with missing data and solutions to drive results at this incredibly important time.

Contact my friendly team here for information on our custom research, speaking, and generational strategies to help your team and organization solve challenges across generations fast.

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