It’s so common, it’s officially a trend: A quick scan of TikTok, Instagram, even YouTube and you’ll find loads of Zillennials celebrating and recreating trends from eras gone by. But this isn’t your average trip down memory lane. In fact, given the age range of Gen Z, it’s nostalgia for decades—say, the ‘60s, ‘70s, ‘80s—that they didn’t live through at all. Or, if they were old enough to be alive for it, as is the case with the ‘90s, let’s just say they weren’t watching shows like Friends (a major source of current social media inspo) in real time.
So where does this appreciation and fascination come from? In other words, why is a 19-year-old influencer fantasizing about the ‘80s—VHS tapes and all? Why are curtain bangs a la Farrah Fawcett going viral and accounts fantasizing about simpler times (i.e. pre-social media days when ‘90s kids would capture camcorder footage in the high school parking lot) blossoming into entire brands for Gen Z?
It could be escapism—modern times aren’t the easiest, pandemic and all—but those eras gone by also weren’t a picnic. They were rife with political, social and cultural change, same as now. No, according to the experts we talked to, decade daydreaming (i.e. imagining a world that nods to a past you didn’t live through) signifies something deeper for Zillennials. It’s about gaining an understanding of your self-identity at the exact moment you’re coming of age...all online.
Because, truth be told, every generation has borrowed from the past at one point or another. Zillennials just have a different medium in which to express their exploration and discovery.