Generations of Fashion - Terms of Interest to the Fashion Industry

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Definitions, Baby Boomers, Generation X, and Generation Y

The following terms, "Baby Boomers," "Generation X," and "Generation Y" are often used by marketers to describe certain age groups or generations. In learning what lifestyle issues such as political, social, or technological influences were dominant during each group's lifetime, marketers can better understand how to cater to them.

Baby Boomers

According to Wikipedia, "Baby Boomer" is a term used to describe a person who was born during the demographic Post-World War II Baby Boom (1946-1964), and also to describe a person who is part of the Baby Boom Generation (there are controversial birth years, starting as early as 1942, ending as early as 1953, and ending as late as 1964). Originally, everyone born during the 1946-1964 boom in births was considered part of the Baby Boom Generation, but over time, many experts have come to believe that two separate cultural generations were born during this period.

Seventy-six million American children were born between 1946 and 1964, representing cohorts that would be significant on account of its size alone. These several cohorts share characteristics (such as higher education) than previous generations and assumptions of lifelong prosperity and entitlement developed during their childhood in the 1950s. Many experts have noted that the cultural touchstones for those born during the first part of the birth boom are very different than for those born during the second part.

Baby Boomer cohort #1 (born from 1946 to 1954)

Memorable events include the assassinations of JFK, Robert Kennedy, and Martin Luther King, Jr., political unrest, and the walk on the moon. Other events include Vietnam War, anti-war protests, social experimentation, and sexual freedom, as well as the civil rights movement, environmental movement, and women's movement. This group also experimented with various intoxicating recreational substances. Key characteristics are experimental, individualism, free spirited, and social cause oriented.

Baby Boomer cohort #2 (born from 1955 to 1964, commonly called Generation Jones)

Memorable events include Watergate, Nixon resigning, the Cold War, the oil embrago, raging inflation, and gas shortages. Key characteristics include being less optimistic, distrust of government, and general cynicism.

According to, Generation X is a group that was born in the United States after 1965. The term "Generation X" is based on a novel of the same name by Doug Coupland. This group was originally referred to as the "baby bust" generation because of the small number of births following the baby boom.

Wikipedia defines Generation X as the generation born between the approximate years of 1965 to 1981, the late 1950s and 1960s, or 1968 to 1979, depending on a variety of sources. While some sources start Generation X earlier, 1965 remains the dominant and most widely-used first birth year for Generation X. The term has been used in marketing, demography, and the social sciences, though it is most often used in popular culture.

Generation X thinking has significant overtones of cynicism against things held dear to the previous generations, mainly the Baby Boomers. The perception of Generation X during the late 1980s was summarized in a featured article in Time magazine.

"They possess only a hazy sense of their own identity, but a monumental preoccupation with all the problems the preceding generation will leave for them to fix . . .This is the twenty-something generation, those 48 million young Americans ages 18 through 29 who fall between the famous Baby Boomers and the boomlet of children the Baby Boomers are producing. Since today's young adults were born during a period when the U.S. birthrate decreased to half the level of its postwar peak, in the wake of the great baby boom, they are sometimes called the Baby Busters. By whatever name, so far they are an unsung generation, hardly recognized as a social force or even noticed much at all...By and large, the 18-to-29 group scornfully rejects the habits and values of the Baby Boomers, viewing that group as self-centered, fickle, and impractical. While the Baby Boomers had a placid childhood in the 1950s, which helped inspire them to start their revolution, today's twenty-something generation grew up in a time of drugs, divorce, and economic strain. . .They feel influenced and changed by the social problems they see as their inheritance: racial strife, homelessness, AIDS, fractured families, and federal deficits."

Generation Y

According to Wikipedia, Generation Y, which is sometimes referred to as "Millenialls" or the "Net Generation" was born between 1982 and 2000 or 1977 and 1994, depending on the source. They grew up in the 1990s and 2000s. Members of this generation are facing higher costs for higher education than previous generations. They are exceptionally tech-savvy and are especially tuned to their own value in the job market, have limited loyalty to any particular employer, and insist on working in a stimulating job environment. They tend to be more tolerant of other cultures to the point that racism is considered almost the worst possible flaw a person can have to many Gen Yers.

By Regina Cooper

December 1, 2008


It is important for the fashion industry to understand each generation so that the industry can design fashion accordingly.  Each generation has different experience, emotions and sense of style.

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