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Source: Sourcing Journal
There’s a whole category of articles that position themselves as 'guides' to Gen Z behaviour. In these, the author cites an obliging family member, normally a younger cousin, as the main source of insight into these confusing youngsters.
Then there are those ‘informative pieces’ that try and spill the tea on why all Gen Zers are currently ‘at war’ with boomers, millennials, or whatever group they’re apparently attacking that week.
From a Google search of ‘Why do Gen Z —,” five out of the ten suggested results continued the sentence with ‘hate…’. Apparently, Gen Z is seen as a slightly angry, or at least anti bunch.
And what’s to say that some of them aren’t angry? And that others aren’t angry some of the time? There are a lot of things to be angry about. But also much to celebrate. And that is something that Gen Z does well. Celebrate themselves and others, cherishing every type of diversity.
The best Gen Z fashion articles are often just this, celebrations of this forward-thinking generation — such as i-D’s cinematic run down of Gen Z trends.
Realistically, the clothes that Gen Z wears vary wildly, and drawing up a universal ‘set’ of trends is pointless, not least because things change so quickly. But some things form the backdrop against which Gen Z gets dressed. We spoke to a group of Gen Z Londoners to get some insight.
"My style is unconventional, weird and playful. I like messing around with different silhouettes", Aly, 24
In the google search above, ‘hate skinny jeans’ was the top result. It’s not so much about skinny jeans being unanimously 'cancelled', as some articles would have you believe, but more of a slight lean towards baggy clothes amongst the age group.
Playing With Gender
Some feel the baggy jeans and other baggy clothing could fit into the more general “pacific activism against binary codes and stereotypes socially linked to gender”
“I usually buy ‘men's'’ clothing or clothes which are super baggy and oversized. This is what I feel comfortable and confident in so that is all that matters to me,” 22-year-old, fashion student Jess told us.
According to a Cassandra report, 4 out of 10 women prefer to buy clothes and accessories intended for the opposite sex. As well as moving towards an androgynous version of fashion, playing with traditional gender portrayals and blurring the lines between masculinity and femininity is something that is creeping into mainstream fashion and media — rather than just remaining a hallmark of transgressive resistance to mainstream gendered fashions.
It seems like many Gen Zers actively attempt to free their thinking from outdated boxes, unpacking the reasons why shopping can be a challenging experience for non-conforming individuals. 21-year-old Maisie noticed how difficult it was to find shoes with a “unique design that weren’t being catered specifically towards [her] gender and its stereotype.”
"I have quite a ‘tom boy-ish’ style, in that I prefer to be comfortable; wearing baggy jeans and a t-shirt or hoodie compared to more feminine or ‘flattering’ clothing," Maisie, 21
Maisie’s solution came in the form of her customized designs— she swapped the tired “pink and blue accents” she saw on trainers for “a unique shoe design” that anyone could wear. The shoes automatically tick off two boxes on the Gen Z checklist — inclusivity and personalisation — all achieved without the supposed ‘equality-centered’ marketing of older brands that this generation immediately sees through.
Alternatively, Gen Z trends, more generally, have been linked to lockdown. At what was an extremely pivotal time for self-expression and developing a sense of style for many, the world ground to a halt.
According to fashion theorist, Joanne Entwistle, “the clothes which we choose to wear represent a compromise between the demands of the social world, the milieu in which we belong and our own individual desires.” In other words, our choices emerge from our own creative instincts but are always relational to those around us. As such, we rely on friends, family, and those in our ‘social world’ for both reassurance and inspiration when it comes to clothing choice.
“I think most of us just prefer more relaxed silhouettes, we’re not so rigid on what’s formal and what’s ‘casual’, ” Seren, 21
Our social ‘milieu’ is where we pick up codes from others— which may be a simple as a subconscious ‘attack’ on skinny jeans or as nuanced as the incredibly specific quasi-uniforms used to mark out specific subcultures. These codes and social cues were no longer available to us when we were plunged into quarantine just over a year ago. Like many, 21-year-old Jacob was initially worried that lockdown would impact his sense of style. “Dressing up is like a sport,” he told us at TNC, “and quitting any sport normally results in losing your talent for it.”
But there exists a lockdown-compatible realm for providing this so-called ‘social example’ — Tik Tok, obviously.
For Gen Z, Tik Tok became a tool used to engage with trends and create coherent looks. “Apps such as Instagram and TikTok have become tools that I have used to follow accounts and learn about the history of fashion in ways I could have never imagined before,” Jacob told us, “I have learnt more about fashion in lockdown than ever before and that makes me optimistic”
Even when we try and lay out various patterns and commonalities in the way Gen Zers dress, its impossible to capture the essence of an entire generation. What seems to be at the heart of their dress, however, is self-expression and acceptance of others.
“What you wear shouldn’t define who you are as a person!! Treat people how you’d like to be treated and the world will be a much happier place,” Jess, 22