Rob Callender, our Director of Youth Insights, with the second of three posts on the emerging Centennial Generation:
Millennials are a famously inclusionary generation, and Centennials—the youth cohort born in or after 1997 that follow the Millennials—appear to be doubling down on this live-and-let-live sentiment.
A generation ago, the “wrong” brands or styles of clothes might mean social humiliation. In 1999, two-thirds of 12- to 17-year-old Millennials said they cared a lot about whether their clothes were in style. Today, less than half of Centennials of the same age say style matters.
Why the massive change? Maybe it’s because the fashion police have disarmed themselves. Faced with a peer wearing “different” or “unusual” clothes, about two-thirds of young Centennials say they’d do nothing; most of the rest would compliment the individual or assume they were being fashionable.
Teen cliques still exist, of course: the youth lifestage naturally inspires a need to fit in somewhere. Still, fewer of these groups are based on rigidly enforced conformity than on allowing members to add a different viewpoint that adds richness to the group as a whole. In fact, one aspect of teen social shaming has flipped completely in recent years. The term “basic” is a cutting insult applied to young people deemed insufficiently creative or original. It appears that, in a world of nearly limitless options, the greatest sin is being too timid to take advantage.
Where might this inclusionary impulse lead in coming years? It will likely go far beyond race, ethnicity, and nationality. Brands and cultural leaders are already re-examining traditional standards of beauty and ability—witness the groundbreaking invitation of Jamie Brewer, an actress with Downs Syndrome, to walk the runway at New York Fashion Week.
In the United States and abroad, the traditional divide between male and female gender roles is coming under increased scrutiny. The freelance economy means the line between employed and unemployed is more blurred than ever. And though the internet has long made international and cross-cultural contact possible, a more visual internet language removes linguistics as a barrier to sharing outlooks and experiences.
Going forward, look for the Centennial generation to ignore more and more boundaries—social, cultural, economic—accepted by prior generations as matters of tradition or routine.