When I was an early ‘90s teenager in 501s, Doc Marten boots and often some variation on burgundy crushed velvet I can tell you with great certainty that I was not dressed anything like my mother.

You can date this picture by the Reg Grundies… Picture: Ten

Nor were any of my friends, whose originality could be measured by whether their Doc Martens were black or cherry. We all pretty much looked the same, and photos from those days place us smack bang in our era. You can look at the pictures of us in black long-sleeve tops and high-waisted Levis and say, yep, that was 1991.

From that photo you would also have been able to say what we listened to and what issues we cared about.

The one fashion trait that linked teenagers all through the second half of last century – from leather and Brylcreem, flares and tie dye, glitter and disco pants, to ripped jeans and Nirvana t-shirts - is that they looked nothing like their parents.

Look around you now and you see dads in their 40s and 50s shepherding their 10-year-old sons who apart from the size variant are carbon copies.

At the park on the weekend I could almost pick which toddler belonged with which Dad by matching up the brand of their trainers.

For some reason this phenomenon is amplified at airports, where it’s often hard to separate the teenage girls from their yummy mummies.

It’s this lack of rebellion in the fashion stakes that has left us without a defining look for a decade we can’t even name (seriously, what is this decade called – the 20 Teens?).

On Sunday night more than 2 million of us stepped back in time to the 70s when we tuned in to Howzat!, and tomorrow night another million of us will do it again when we watch Puberty Blues.

Our current love affair with the 70s extends beyond TV. Taste.com.au reports a huge surge in downloads of meatloaf recipes. The sound tracks for Howzat! And Puberty Blues went straight into the iTunes charts.

We’re officially mad about an era you could name. It was “The 70s” and you could pick it a mile off. You’ve got to wonder how in 40 years time people are going to reminisce about the era we’re in now.

Demographer Bernard Salt says the lack of tension between the current crop of teenagers and their parents is exactly what has left us without a cultural prop to grab on to and swing from like a handle-bar moustache.

He calls it “generational convergence in popular culture.”

“There is not the sharp delineations (between parents and children) that they had in the 60s, 70s and 80s. The authoritative element has dissipated. There is no contrast between a 20-something or a 40-something today. One might be prettier than the other, but there’s a sameness to it.

British journalist Ben Hammersley has a more globalised explanation. In his book 64 Things You Need to Know Now for Then, Hammersley says the internet has allowed people to find the community that suits them.

“If you are thirty-something, you belong to the last generation of people who grew up with a dominant pop culture…”

“Until recently there was a discernible mainstream culture with alternatives defined in relation to it ... In the networked world we can find the other Peruvian nose-flute jazz enthusiasts in seconds. We’ll probably discover that though we thought we were the only aficionado of a niche pursuit, there are in fact thousands of us, all over the world.”

In the face of this networking it’s almost impossible for a pop culture to even catch on, let alone define an entire decade so totally that 40 years later you only have to hear a snippet of a song to conjure a look, taste and smell.

We’re only two years into this one and already trends have come and gone, probably never to be recreated in a television series some time in 2057. It’s a bit exhausting.

Which is why it seems easier to borrow someone else’s era for a couple of hours on a Sunday night.

Comments on this post will close at 8pm AEST.

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63 comments

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    • M says:

      07:31am | 28/08/12

      The sooner we move away from this fad of men wearing womens’ jeans the better.

    • nihonin says:

      08:02am | 28/08/12

      What about women wearing mens t-shirts and nothing else, we shouldn’t move away from that.

    • Fiddler says:

      08:40am | 28/08/12

      yes!!!! Nothing worse than driving down the street with a mate going “would you look at the arse on…... umm never mind, lovely weather we’re having hey”

    • TChong says:

      08:56am | 28/08/12

      Fiddler
      yeah, sure big Fella.
      And it all happened while you were both just coincidentally crooning along to “Lola”
                                  wink

    • M says:

      08:58am | 28/08/12

      What I want to know is where in gods name do they tuck their genitals to fit into those things? I tried to get into a pair once at a girlfriends bidding for fashion’s sake, never again!

    • Black Dynamite says:

      10:13am | 28/08/12

      M. You’ve never heard of a fruit bowl?

      While we’re on the topic of bad fashion trends, tights as pants for 90% of the female population should be banned.

      BD

    • M says:

      10:58am | 28/08/12

      What’s a fruit bowl?

      And only band them for the fat ones.

    • Tubesteak says:

      07:57am | 28/08/12

      “It’s this lack of rebellion in the fashion stakes that has left us without a defining look for a decade we can’t even name (seriously, what is this decade called – the 20 Teens?).”

      I would have said the same about the late 90s or early 2000s. But then you see Seinfeld (ended 1997) or Friends and you realise that there was a “look” that was distinctively of that time and place.

      You just don’t realise it at the time.

    • Markus says:

      09:10am | 28/08/12

      Exactly. I’m fairly sure that the 90% of men in the 80s who never had a perm or wore spandex would have been quite surprised to find out that they must not have really lived in the 80s if they weren’t regularly sporting both with their matching girl leather jacket.

    • fairsfair says:

      09:15am | 28/08/12

      Totally agree. Plus sentiment sees you always look fondly on “ye olden times”... even if that was only five years ago. We inherantly have high hopes for our future, remember the positives of the past and thing the present is crap, its the human condition.

      There is difinitive style in any era. Some I thought would never return - the 80s. The hair, the fluero, the poor quality denim - its all back. I’m shocked.

      In terms of the renaissance of the TV Industry - its because they have run out of ideas. Howzat would have been better as a series, not a miniseries. They’ve stuffed that majorly. Its really been the only half original idea on TV in a decade.

    • Markus says:

      09:34am | 28/08/12

      @fairsfair, nobody has run out of ideas, it is just more financially feasible to rehash an old idea at low cost and with an all but guaranteed return (even if a small one) than to take the risk with a bigger idea that may fail.

      It is a prime example of the risk management mentality that has infested our whole society.

    • Bitten says:

      10:03am | 28/08/12

      I agree. There’ll be a look to this decade and 2000 - 2010. It just takes some distance to be able to spot it.

      For the 2000 - 2010, I’m going to say for women it was skinny jeans (whether they suited your figure or not), ballet flats and layered t shirts, accompanied by iron-straight hair, mega sunnies and a handbag big enough to feed a horse out of, containing nothing more than an iPod, Visa and lip gloss.

      No idea really for dudes but if I had to pick, I’d say skinny jeans, those mock-brogue style shoes that are really freaking long in the toe and a short sleeve button up shirt quite a bit more fitted than your dad probably wears them smile

    • fairsfair says:

      10:36am | 28/08/12

      Correct Markus - there is no funding for the ideas.

      I recently watched “Sick!” on YouTube which was last years winner of the Optus180 Project. I am not usually into video games etc etc but it was something different and because of that it was interesting. Plus this year’s winner of the project “Deadbeat Dads” looks just as good.

      So you are right - there are plenty of ideas, the people with them don’t work for commercial TV stations though.

    • Tubesteak says:

      11:57am | 28/08/12

      Markus
      In the 80s I had a shoulder-length mullet. No more will ever be said on that matter.

      fairsfair
      Yes, we cherry-pick the poast because our brains like to hide or ignore pain. My brain has not hidden or ignored the painful revelation that will no longer be spoken about.
      Howzat would have been good as a documentary. I know this is contradictory, but watching a dramatisation really lessens the interest, for me, because I know that some of it is fiction or contrived to fit the plotline. I don’t like that.

      Bitten
      Definitely agree about the hair, sunnies and handbag for women.
      For men it will either be the emo hair or shaved head (which I sport now), with jeans and fitted t-shirt. You are dead right about the men’s shoes. Men will either be super-skinny or very buffed. Compare typical hot guy from the 80s (eg Michael Hutchence or George Michael) to today and there is a lot of difference.

    • M says:

      12:18pm | 28/08/12

      What about those thin cotton shirts for men that seem to have the V terminating somewhere between the nipples? You know, the ones who never have the buttons done up on them?

    • Nathan Explosion says:

      08:23am | 28/08/12

      I spent the early 90’s in a tee shirt and a flannie over it.

    • Mas says:

      12:27pm | 28/08/12

      I wear that now and I was born in 92, but only on weekends. And to be fair, I live in the snowies where manual work is in need of a flanno or two.

    • iansand says:

      08:34am | 28/08/12

      It is almost certainly the Baby Boomers’ fault.  In their eternal quest to deny time they appropriate the kids’ fashions.

    • monkeymind says:

      12:52pm | 28/08/12

      I think you will find anyone in their fourties (age mentioned in the article) will be gen X not BB.

    • Butterfly says:

      01:12pm | 28/08/12

      iansand, I’m a boomer and I still dress similar to what I did 25 years ago, (allowing for my age, no minis etc) not my fault fashion goes round in circles.
      I’m comfortable in my skin and clothes.

    • iansand says:

      01:23pm | 28/08/12

      It is still the Baby Boomers’ fault.  It just is.  They are responsible for everything.

    • chuck says:

      09:14am | 28/08/12

      Just another example of appalling Ch 10 tasteless tat, worse even than thongs (foot type) and Ugg boots (before the US takeover).

    • Nathan Explosion says:

      09:59am | 28/08/12

      Seriously, uggs are meant to be worn inside the house, out to the letter box or taking the rubbish out, and sometimes to the local shops on rare instances.

    • M says:

      10:36am | 28/08/12

      Uggs should never go beyond the kerb. Ever.

    • Nathan Explosion says:

      01:31pm | 28/08/12

      @M

      I admit to going to Coles a few times in the Uggs, but to be honest, I was just too lazy to put on my shoes and tie them up.

    • M says:

      01:55pm | 28/08/12

      Have you no shame?

    • Nathan Explosion says:

      03:22pm | 28/08/12

      @M

      Not really, no.

    • Slothy says:

      03:22pm | 28/08/12

      Screw that, what’s the point of living in boganville if I can’t appropriate the local fashions? I will never understand the need to change out of trackpants and uggs to go to woolies. Looking presentable takes time and effort - I’m not going to waste that on a milk run.

      I mean, all my friends live in fancypantsparade, so it’s not like I’m going to run into anyone I know.

    • Shane From Melbourne says:

      10:08am | 28/08/12

      Back in my days, when we had to walk twenty miles to school and considered boiled turnips a luxury, fashion didn’t exist. Neither did puberty….

    • Scotchfinger says:

      10:58am | 28/08/12

      probably due to poor nutrition. Then, girls didn’t hit puberty until they were about 25 (and none were allowed out in a public bar, unlike today’s wanton slatterns). You must have seen Melbourne-town come a long way, Good Sir. Still got your tin of dry ships biscuits (ol’ ‘tooth-breakers’)? ‘Tis a pity the public floggings were abolished, when you hear about the goings-on in the town centre, young upstarts causing trouble and none with the spine to give them a good hiding. A nation of little girls, that’s what we’ve become… *grips blunderbuss for reassurance*

    • Shane From Melbourne says:

      11:45am | 28/08/12

      @Scotchfinger- Ah, public floggings, the perfect family day outing. Now you’ve got me all misty eyed…...

    • Louie the (back home in Townsville) Fly says:

      12:48pm | 28/08/12

      Shane and Scotchy,
      Thank you for those wonderful reminiscences.
      Shane what did you wear to school (barefoot obviously) - that would have been fashion, of sorts.

    • Shane From Melbourne says:

      01:57pm | 28/08/12

      @Louie- burlap bags. The farmer down the road had a few spare….

    • Louie the Fly says:

      02:56pm | 28/08/12

      Shane - well there you go then - they are back in fashion, you can buy cushions made of (what looks to me like) burlap bags.  Tres Chic, you were so fashion forward!  You can also buy very fashionable dog beds made from Burlap Bags - mmm thinking of getting one for Puff the Magic Golden Retriever.

    • I remember when ... says:

      04:12pm | 28/08/12

      @ Louie

      true story - first school holidays I came home from boarding school I got blisters on the bottom of my feet because I had to where shoes at school adn my feet had gone soft.

      Won’t say my age smile

    • Joan of Botany. says:

      10:09am | 28/08/12

      The downloading of meatloaf recipes has more to do with the ever-increasing cost of living rather than nostalgia. People are finding ways to ecomomise without seriously reducing their standard of living too much.
      Pity though that that meatloaf has to be cooked in that electricity guzzling oven though!

    • Matt says:

      10:15am | 28/08/12

      Really?? I don’t see many parents these days walking around with half shaved heads, stretch earrings, or shorts pulled up past their ass cheeks?

    • M says:

      11:28am | 28/08/12

      Go visit Mt Druid sometime.

    • Mas says:

      12:37pm | 28/08/12

      Where is this mystical mount Druid? I am sure it is bathed in mystery and only scholars can attend.

    • Scotchfinger says:

      12:54pm | 28/08/12

      bathed in crappy hip-hop music, and only Gangsta-Lites need attend.

    • JoniM says:

      04:30pm | 28/08/12

      “Where is this mystical mount Druid? “

      Obviously the home of great bands like Wishbone Ash ( The King Will Come, Throw Down the Sword, Warrior, etc ) and Judas Priest, and Black Sabbath, etc

    • Yak says:

      10:40am | 28/08/12

      The noughties brought us the memorable sight of teenage girls wearing crop-tops with a roll of fat hanging over their jeans. Usually seen at the local supermarket with their obese mothers in lycra shorts and T-shirt. Lovely.

      And I’ve ceased asking my boys to “pull your bloody pants up”, I’ve found it as useful as asking them to pick-up the wet towel on their bedroom floor.

    • MuffinTop says:

      12:31pm | 28/08/12

      The noughties brought us the sight of tattoos dancing on muffin tops as the little darlings waddled down to the shops.

    • Cam says:

      05:03pm | 28/08/12

      And physios must be making a fortune from all the cricked necks from flicking one’s ‘Beiber’ out of ones eyes ....

    • CJ says:

      10:55am | 28/08/12

      This article is rubbish. There is a HUGE difference between the way dads and their sons dress today and it is immediately recognisable at a glance: today’s male offspring wear their pants three quarters of the way down their arses, with their little undi-wundies on display for everyone to see.
      Botty rebels rule!

    • Scotchfinger says:

      11:24am | 28/08/12

      unfortunately, many of the boys today fail to wear underwear; at least, according to my horrified eyes. Is this part of the phenomenon of gender-neutering (‘hey dude, nice ass’ ‘cheers, bro’)? Is the body (along with sexuality) the final frontier that has been ‘levelled’ and rendered as completely functional? This would explain the lack of identification with a society-wide ‘culture’. So many qwestions!

    • George says:

      11:41am | 28/08/12

      I remember in the late 90s and early noughties there were a lot of bogan morons acting like they were born in the hood and a lot of moron ethnics acting the same way. Dressing like wiggers/homies and walking around with a poxy machievellian attitude. This would have been when everyone started hating gen y and rightfully so, however they seem to have become humans now, maybe.

      So I’m enjoying these relatively bland times.

      What did people who were older at the time think of grunge? Did you find it annoying? At least they could play an instrument and they wrote their own songs, unlike the so called artists these days who just press a button on a computer or haven’t seemed to have learned much past the A and E chords.

    • Mel says:

      11:57am | 28/08/12

      maybe its because Gen X and increasingly Gen Y are so desperate to remain children they try to hard to look like their kids??

    • M says:

      12:26pm | 28/08/12

      I think its the boomers copying us, actually.

      Trying to relive their youth through us, perhaps?

    • Mala says:

      12:21pm | 28/08/12

      Mel is right. Many of my married 38 year old friends are refusing to let go of their teenage years. Heck one of them, a father of three and into his 40s goes and skates at his local ramp with other teenagers while his wife is felt at home to mind the kinds. Also middle age mothers who are living through their daughters. It’s why we have gen yers who are lost atm.

      Also it seems appropriation is so entrenched and and an acceptable part of life for nearly all gen yers, meaning the days of the individual and unique thought process is over.

    • Scotchfinger says:

      12:49pm | 28/08/12

      he goes out skating while his wife… holy crap…you are friends with this adultescent?? He sounds like a real ‘choice’ husband, bet his wife thanks her lucky stars… at least real men go out to the pub when they leave wifey with the screaming kids…to use an over-used phrase, I just sicked up in my mouth a little bit.

    • George says:

      02:26pm | 28/08/12

      What’s wrong with going skateboarding? It is a sport you know. Better than being a fat beer drinker.

    • Scotchfinger says:

      02:48pm | 28/08/12

      a sport, yes.
      for adults…hmmm…I guess in the same way BMX biking is a sport for adults.

    • Ally says:

      12:45pm | 28/08/12

      Ah, doc martens. I remember being 13 or 14 and madly saving up the $160 it cost for a pair of 8 hole docs. I desperately wanted cherry ones, but they were completely sold out in my size, so I ended up with burgundy ones in a softer worn in leather than didn’t take months to wear in or completely trash your feet.

    • Yoreel says:

      12:57pm | 28/08/12

      In the work truck on the way to site the other day . Our old tradesmen was going on about the cost of living and reminiscing how smokes cost $1, bread 25c and a paddle pop was only 10c,
      To which the young apprentice piped up and said “yeah well girls these days shave their p,$$/ . You can have your 10c paddle pop”
      Game set match young man.

    • M says:

      01:19pm | 28/08/12

      bravo that kid.

    • T says:

      01:19pm | 28/08/12

      Hahaha

      Hilarious!

    • hermano says:

      01:40pm | 28/08/12

      Oh man, this is best comment on the punch EVER.

    • Yoreel says:

      05:24pm | 28/08/12

      I was going to pass this on to the lad but you know these young lads of today. Would just go to his head…
      But yes it was pure gold . Has to stop the truck for laughing so hard.

    • mLr says:

      01:51pm | 28/08/12

      The reason for the “sentimentalism” is because current times are just so damn restrictive, regulated and pressured! The Gen X’ers out there aren’t trying to recapture their youth, they are trying to bloody well hang onto it or they will lose their last shred of sanity! Our days were so much more free, easy and fun without doubt.
      Oh and Yoreel, hate to tell you this mate but the girls these days are NOT exactly original in shaving their “p,$$/ ” as MANY blokes like me from the 80’s era will tell you! Again nothing original to show in recent times yet…

    • T says:

      02:31pm | 28/08/12

      “Again nothing original to show in recent times yet… “

      Every teenager has a phone, laptop, IPad, MP3 Player, Flat screen TV.

      Fashion has a whole range of looks for each season now thanks to gobal communication via the internet and world media. The fashion turnover is massive now since communication to Europe, Asia and the Amercias is instant.

      I would say Gen Y’s have a look all of their own… There wasn’t a mobile phone and/or Ipad to match your outfit in the 70’s now was there?

      “Oh and Yoreel, hate to tell you this mate but the girls these days are NOT exactly original in shaving their “p,$$/ ” as MANY blokes like me from the 80’s era will tell you”

      Oh and mLr, hate to tell you but there was never laser hair removal back in the 80’s… Shaving was so 2005 wink

    • Zopo says:

      03:28pm | 28/08/12

      If generations keep on rebelling the girls & guys will be pretty much be walking around in their undies. We are not far off now.

    • Wonder says:

      06:03pm | 28/08/12

      What surprises me about the current teenagers is the level of typically feminine traits the boys exhibit. They are happy to wear women’s jeans (apparently you can’t get skinny enough ones in the men’s department?!?), have elaborately styled hair and some regularly wear makeup. Then there are the piercings and jewellery…ugh…

      In the same area, 20 years ago, if you’d done any of this (and not been a goth) you would have been pummelled within an inch of your life. I can remember sitting in a class where a guy was given sh!t for the whole time for having come to hair with his long hair (think Hanson) brushed for once. I think his mum had gotten fed up and attacked him with the hairbrush that morning.

      Guys didn’t care what they wore, the same Billabong shirt for 5 years straight did just fine. They certainly didn’t spend hours on their appearance.

      I wonder what has brought about the change.

 

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