5 Gen X Characteristics That Anyone Born In this Cohort Will Immediately Identify With

Gen Xers don’t have the most glamorous reputation, and they certainly don’t get the same amount of attention as Boomers and Millennials—but they also just don’t care, which is pretty freakin’ cool. Of course, no two Gen Xers are exactly alike, but chances are that if you came into adulthood in the ‘90s then you’ll identify with at least a couple of these common Gen X characteristics. So put on a mixtape, lace up those combat boots and read on to discover more about this self-reliant and laid-back cohort.

What is Generation X?

If you were born between the years of 1965 and 1980, congrats: You are the meat in the Boomer-Millennial sandwich. You also belong to an exclusive group, with only about 65 million Gen Xers around, according to recent data from the Census Bureau. (This is compared to 75 million boomers and 83 million millennials). Often described as the ‘Forgotten Generation’ and ‘America’s middle child,’ Gen Xers came of age at a time when both divorce and two-income households were increasingly common facts of family life, two factors that undoubtedly impacted their identity.

What is Gen X known for?

As previously mentioned, the typical family started to look a little different when Generation X came around—namely, more working mothers and higher divorce rates. This in turn led to more latchkey kids (i.e., children hanging out at home without grown-up supervision after school until a parent came back from work). For these reasons, self-reliance, plus a corresponding ability to stay above the fray, are among Generation X’s most defining traits…but more on that below.

25 Signs You’re a Geriatric Millennial (Besides Your DOB)

5 Common Characteristics Of Gen X

gen x characteristics diy
Dasha Burobina

1. They’re Expert Diy-ers

Generation X is also called the “Latchkey Generation,” a moniker that gives a nod to their decidedly hands-off upbringing. The end result? An undeniably hands-on approach to problem solving around the house. Yes, if you belong to Generation X then it probably feels like it was just yesterday that you were learning how to plunge a toilet by trial and error while your mom was at work. That sepia-toned memory actually dates back to the 80s, though, and your can-do attitude has been serving you well ever since. That’s right, friends, the famous self-reliance of Gen Xers translates to some serious skills in the DIY department, or at least a whole lot of confidence. (And that’s half the battle, right?) Bottom line: If something breaks down, you can count on the Gen Xer in your life to bust out the tools and start fixing it faster than you can say, “Let’s just buy a new one.”

gen x characteristics fashion
Dasha Burobina

2. Their Sartorial Style Is Decidedly Dressed-down

Gen Xers rebelled against the excessive and flashy 80s by opting for “anti-fashion” staples such as flannel shirts, Doc Martins and oversized sweaters. Even beauty trends were comparatively pared down, with more natural looks replacing the bright blue eyeshadow of yesteryear. And since they came of age before smartphones hit the scene and social media took the world by storm, the concept of an “influencer” telling them what to wear makes about as much sense as the Friends gang affording their massive New York City apartments. (FYI: Despite its cross-generational popularity, Friends is very much a Gen X TV show.) As such, you typically won’t find Gen Xers chasing the next, hot trend in fashion. When deciding what to wear, comfort and individual style tend to be the biggest priorities for this group (think: sensible shoes and ribbed knits). Also, this group was rocking combat boots and slip dresses before it was cool—but they’re so cool, they don’t even brag about it.

gen x characteristics work life balance
Dasha Burobina

3. They’ve Got The Whole Work-life Balance Thing Down Pat

There’s a reason why Gen Xers have been dubbed the “work hard, play hard” generation. The Gen X childhood coincides with the emergence of the personal computer—a major development that helped individuals from this generation adapt to future technological advancements. That said, the role of technology during the Gen Xers’ formative years was pretty minimal compared to what it was (and continues to be) for millennials. Most importantly, Generation X entered the workforce at a time when technology had not yet made possible the notion of being ‘on call’ 24/7 (sorry, millennials). This reality combined with the experience of growing up with workaholic parents (boomers actually invented the term) who valued company loyalty over all else shaped the priorities of Gen Xers with regard to work-life balance and gave them a leg up on healthy boundary setting. In other words, if you’re off the clock and your boss just sent you an urgent request, you’d be wise to ask yourself what a Gen Xer would do. (Hint: Just say ‘no.’)

gen x characteristics technology
Dasha Burobina

4. They Tech-savvy… But Not Tech-dependent

Just like Gen Xers in the workforce have a different relationship to technology than millennials, the same is true when it comes to their personal lives. Because this group know life before and after the tech boom, they have an excellent understanding of both digital and analog worlds... and are equally comfortable with both. Case in point: While many millennials don’t hesitate to write the next great American novel in a text message, Gen Xers prefer to pick up the phone and give you a ring. Don’t be fooled, though—the highly adaptable Gen Xer doesn’t have any problem keeping up with current technology; they’re just not slaves to it and understand the value of ‘unplugging’ from time to time. As such, a Gen Xer is more likely to object to excessive phone use in social settings. In other words, when socializing with a Gen Xer, you may want to consider leaving your iPhone at home before you head out for that restaurant reservation.

gen x characteristics independent
Dasha Burobina

5. They’re Fiercely Independent

We’re touched on this already, but if there’s one defining characteristic of this generation it would be their self-reliance. Helicopter parenting, lawnmower parenting, snowplow parenting…none of these over-involved forms of child-rearing apply to the Gen X generation, many of whom were left to microwave their own dinners and glued to Saved by the Bell for hours after school. As such, there’s no task too great for the critical thinking skills of these highly independent individuals, whether it’s repairing a leaky dishwasher or learning code. This also means you typically won’t find them asking for help until they’ve tried their very best to tackle any given challenge solo. So yeah, Gen X is pretty great at getting stuff done. But let’s not make a big deal out of it, OK?