Monday, May 02, 2005

Gen Y, Politics, and Fashion

I'm not Gen Y myself, but close enough that I can get a sense of how the population bulge might be moving. So I read Armando's post at Kos on the politics on Gen Y with interest and skepticism. He cites a survey (second hand) that indicates that Gen Y leans secular, liberal, and Democratic, but notes that there's little evidence that Gen Y will continue to do so when it ages.

I'd first like to register my caveat: those Gen Y kids who've decided that secular, liberal, or Democratic ideas are not for them can find meaning in college Republican groups, Campus-Watch, or the cultish Campus Coalition for Christ. Since the default option on campus is vaguely liberalish, many flock to wierd extremes out of protest.

But the default option, as the statistics Armando notes, are indeed more liberal. And I'd like to offer a sartorial defense for hoping that the trend will stick.

Over the last three years, I've noticed that college students on my particular Ivy League campus are trending towards a preppier style. Fewer outright punks, goths, hippies. Sure, some are working the vaguely 1980s, Japanese teeny-bopper look of "oh, god, whatever, I've given up on society, and fuck you and your expectations," but more likely they're working some deconstructed preppy look: blazers with t-shirts, sloppy ties, or even a totally clean look with a wild haircut. An early sixties kind of look: just formal enough to gain your trust, just enough clues to others attuned to keep some subtle street cred.

The sartorial message is that they'll work within the establishment to change it. And, frankly, I have more faith that such moderate signals bode better for long-term change than would a campus filled with self-identified (and often self-involved) phreaks. Fashion on college campuses is indicating a new seriousness of purpose. And the messages encoded in fashion trends can represent an extraordinary aggregation of opinion and fantasy.


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