Youth Culture in Generations

An overlook on past youth cultures from each decade from the 1960s and on; how the values and culture of Generation Z came to be like they are today. 

Youth culture is diverse with influences from a lot of places. A Typeform survey in New York recently showed that that 87% of people respond with “technology” when asked what the difference between generations is. However, youth culture, which is reflected in style and pop culture, has major differences in different generations.

In the 1940s to the 70s in big cities the streets were split between two groups of juveniles: greasers and socials. A 1980 MFI survey asked people from the baby boomer generation whether they a part of one these groups during their teenage years, and 73% said yes. Greasers were given their name because of their hair gel and were part of the poor class. They wore leather jackets and rocked to music like Elvis. Former Soc, Fred Mathis remembers: “[Greasers] were the kids who were known for small theft, smoking cigarettes, and drinking where anyone could see them. Those kids were seen as the bad influence on society, and although we [socials] did the same they did, they were more publicly known for it.” Socs (socials) were the rich kids on the westside who acted the same way but police turned their backs. Mathis confirmed “some of my friends were arrogant towards people different from us. Growing up on the westside of Chicago, people just expected us to be better kids.”

Another pop culture influence was in the 1980s rock and roll began to influence society because of Music Television. MTV was the primary music channel, and it was unique in the 80s because it did something unprecedented: play music videos nonstop 24 hours a day. Music was not the only change; the youth demand for TV increased. Popular shows and movies of the time, such as Raiders of the Lost Ark, Cheers, and Breakfast Club were always on TV, and quickly imbedded themselves in the hearts of the youth at the time. Kids began to think of themselves like characters in the movies when they were doing normal youth activities, such as skipping school (Ferris Bueller’s Day Off) or a birthday party (Sixteen Candles). Ferris Bueller’s Day Off made 60 million dollars in ticket sales from teenagers alone.

The 90s was basically the backlash of the 80s, and kids continued to idolize the idea that rebels were popular. In my interview with him, Robert Baures, a man who experienced his adolescence in the 90s, says: “Although I don’t think I always tried to rebel…I always kinda enjoyed the thrill of doing something I wasn’t supposed to.” At this time, kids also began wearing things to give off the impression they didn’t care: “I wore baggy jeans, worn out t-shirt and Doc-Martins pretty much every day” says Baures.

Youth culture today has adopted values of the past, such as rebelling, not caring, or constantly referencing movies. However, generation z (people born in the late 1990s to early 2000s) is a bit different than latter generations because of modern influences. This generation play on their phones more, but still retain much of youth culture which came before.

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