The Generation That Went Back in Time

Featured Image by Unsplash on Pixabay

“Wish we could turn back time, back to the good ol’ days, when our momma sang us to sleep but now we’re stressed out.” These lyric to the twenty one pilots song Stressed Out, perfectly captures the mindset of the Millennial Generation. The feeling that they want to escape their stressful adult lives and go back to a time when everything was simpler. No crippling student debt, no world disasters, no shrinking job market, no threat of nuclear war and terrorism, the usual.

The Millennial Generation is a group of young people estimated to be born from the 1980’s to the early 2000’s that are often called the ‘Me Me Me Generation’ by TIME magazine, the ‘Boomerang Generation’, and the ‘Global Generation’.  The Millennials are often the target of ridicule from previous generations because of their ‘laziness’ and dependance on technology. Though growing up in the fast-paced and technology driven world, the Millennials are seeming to be going back in time. Vintage style is slowly creeping back into pop culture, from the album cover of Taylor Swift’s 1989, to popular apps like Instagram having vintage filters and popular hashtags like #throwbackthursday and #flashbackfriday. The past is slowly leaking back into the future.

Where Can You Find it in Everyday Culture?

As you walk around today, you can find small – or even big – examples all around you. You just have to look.

The most common ways of this vintage aesthetic manifesting itself is in fashion. Things like high-waisted pants and skirts, flared pants, button-down skirts, and peasant tops are making reappearances  from the 40’s to the 70’s. Hairstyles are also following suit of the vintage throwback. Mens bouffant and slicked back style is becoming more popular along with victory rolls for women.The big, obnoxious sunglasses from the 60’s have made a comeback around 2010, and the cat-eye sunglasses from the 50’s have also shown up. The nerdy and extremely large glasses havebecome popular, and my parents were shocked and even a little nervous when I chose my own recently. Their own cringe-worthy fashion choices from the 80’s stare back at them through their own stupidly large, wire-framed glasses in the family photo album. But surprisingly, their regrettable choice in fashion is somehow intriguing, even cute, to me.

My Mom and Dad, 1995.
My Mom and Dad, 1995.

Popular photography apps like Instagram allow users to make their photos look like vintage and polaroid pictures, and people can create the illusion of hammering away on a typewriter on their tablet or smartphone with apps like TypeWriter and Hanx Writer.

Vinyl records have become a staple of hipster culture with their sound quality and retro feel. Vinyl recordings have even become downloadable digitally for their vintage sound along with convenience. Even songs from this era are being transformed into old-school styles, like what PostModernJukebox is doing.

Old-school soda fountains have also become popular for their retro look and the feeling of a neighborhood gathering place. Millennials also spend hours searching antique shops for a authentic piece of the past that adds to the vintage aesthetic of their home. They romanticize the past because it brings the illusion of cozy times when people didn’t have to worry about the problems that Millennials are facing today.

The Psychology of Millennial Nostalgia

Millennials grew up in the turn of the century. Most of them spent their childhood and teenage years in the 90’s, when Walkmans and computers were scarce. Upon the turn of the century, the Millennials witnessed the fastest progression of technology ever. The iPhone went from the 2G to the 5S in the span of 6 years, and the Nintendo 64 is now considered ‘vintage’. This dramatic upswing of technology rode on the back of the Recession, and the Millennials are now dizzyingly thrown into their adult hood frightened about the future and yearning for the good ol’ days of their childhood.

A large percentage of Millennials are looking even farther back than their childhood, to decades not their own. When the word computer was a foreign word and people were connected in a deeper way then social media and texting. When the American Dream was actually achievable, when America was respected and a wonderland of opportunity, not a wasteland of student debt.

There is more than the rise of tech, money is also becoming a huge problem. In the wake of the 2008 Recession, Millennials were slammed into with a shrinking job market and crippling student debt as they entered adulthood. This gloomy future causes anxiety among the Millennials, and psychological studies have proven that nostalgia can accompany anxiety of existential threat. Millennials’ anxiety about job and money problems along with their easy accessibility to information gives them a case of ‘early-onset nostalgia’, where there is such and information overload that it has muddled and compressed their sense of time.

The trends of the past are manifesting themselves so often now because of how in-touch the Millennials are with the past, and the discovery of the past is exciting to them. Though there is a deeper and darker reason for the ‘vintage aesthetic’, it shows just how resilient the Millennials are to their ever-changing world and the fun and exciting ways they deal with their anxiety about the future.

The Millennial Generation is a generation of firsts, the first to be born at the turn of the century, the first to experience the wonder of technology at a young age, the first to have worldwide connection at their fingertips, and the first to experience the past in the present.


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