This nostalgia binge not just tripping down memory lane
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.
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.
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