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In middle school, I started thrifting not only due to finances but as an emotional outlet—cut to now, I’m scouring Zillow in my free time to look at apartments I simply cannot afford. I guess you could call it…growth? 

I grew up privileged that my parents were always able to cover my essentials (food, clothing, housing, etc), but a distinct shift in my mentality surrounding housing & finances occurred in my 10-year-old brain after my family’s house foreclosed: it was a jarring confrontation with an increasing reality that many Gen Zers (at least 75% of them) have simply grown up with – in the words of Kim Kardashian, “Nobody wants to work these days.” 

Just kidding.

Contrary to Kim’s tone-deaf take, it turns out individuals can be working as hard as they are able and family finances will still not be endless; that money will, in fact, make life a helluva lot easier; & the people telling you that money cannot make you happy seem suspiciously unwilling to get rid of their own. But I digress…

Fast forward 14 years, including working through my own reckless-spending phase to overcompensate for how tightly my parents held their finances post-2008, and I’ve now moved into my second Brooklyn apartment since relocating from sunny LA. I’ve lived in a variety of settings, from dorm rooms with sweet & horrendous roommates to moving back in with my parents (mid-pandemic), to living with friends (successfully & unsuccessfully), as well as more co-habitation with nice people who remained just roommates. It’s also worth noting that having a roommate as a Gen Zer is not going away any time soon, due to steep rent increases nationwide. Combine that with a plethora of jobs & living in two of the more expensive areas in the world; suffice it to say that I have cultivated a better idea of what my dream living situation looks like, but also understand the obstacles of achieving that in today’s world as a twenty-four-year-old Gen Zer who studied theatre in college. 

Here are a few tidbits I’ve gathered on how I create a home for myself.

The first – and I cannot stress this enough – @stooping. I quickly learned that when it came to investing in a space I love, all hope was not lost for me – mainly because my new apartment is almost exclusively furnished by what’s been left out on NYC streets, free for the taking. The luxury is in mentally repurposing the scratches on my authentic mid-century desk to be part of the grain design. You will never, I repeat, never catch me buying furniture brand-new in this city, because I am already on the M train on my way to snatch your $150 West Elm ottoman that you bought 12 months ago, for free. 

The second tidbit is more heartwarming & embarrassingly cliche, but I stand by harmless cliches as pillars of truth in our nation: I have started investing in my space being beautiful not just for visitors, but for myself. Along with 52% of my peers, I find myself staying at home more than ever since the pandemic. Of the many things COVID taught me: if I’m going to be stuck indoors in my own space again, I want it to be a space that I love. And, even though pandemic measures continue to loosen where I live, working from home is the norm now – I really see a difference working from a space that I have taken the time to fill with colors and knick-knacks that mean something to me. I’ve positioned my desk simply so I can watch the clouds go by as I work. It also means taking 15 minutes, every day, to keep it clean, just for me! Little pieces of investment all add up over time to color your space a more pleasant, cozy, and inviting space to enjoy life. 

Finally, the past two years have solidified that home is as much a physical space as it is an ever-evolving magnifier to the experience and belonging of those around me. World events, like the Ukrainian Crisis, highlight my ignorance and privilege – that I can ponder from the comfort of my un-bombed room how a community can be ripped from me in a flash, and the places I hold dear so easily taken for granted. The privilege of having a home should emphasize in my personal scope the overwhelming reality of so many unhoused individuals in my very own city

While my parents’ dream was to buy a home, mine looks a lot more like simply enjoying my life for however long I have it and putting back good into the world, in any avenue or path I take. I think part of being a Gen Zer is the keen knowledge of wanting to soak up your life for what it is while also recognizing the desperate need for inclusion and tangible engagement from every individual; to make our world a space that can feel like home for all, rather than some.

As society attempts to progress in the wake of a pandemic, fashion is looking back. From upcycling runway pieces to the 2022 Met Gala theme historically reflecting on “the Gilded Age”, these days, nostalgia is anything but outdated. 

The grip of Y2K aesthetic specifically in Gen Z wardrobes is a strong and steady one that seems to only be gaining steam as summer promises an abundance of chunky sandals, low-rise pants and Olivia Rodrigo-approved tank tops. It’s arguable that, with an age range of 10 to 25 years old, the pandemic hit Gen Z at the most impactful and formative life stages of any generation at the time. I was 21 when the world shut down – I watched as all my friends’ college graduations became a distant dream and post-grad life an even more confusing experience. It’s only natural that our wardrobes would start to reflect such a jarring shift. Fashion recycling itself is nothing new – but Gen Z resurrecting Y2K indicates in a striking way my generation’s ability to contribute revitalizing perspectives to often outdated narratives. 

In the past year I have seen firsthand how societal narratives are the bread and butter of trends. If you were on the same side of TikTok as me back in 2020, you learned that the uptick in zombie and fantasy movies post-2020 is the subconscious outgrowth of filmmakers and audiences processing the past two years of dystopian trauma. Similarly, Y2K fashion exhibits the characteristics of a generation that has lost a lot and in many ways has nothing left to lose. I have always had an unironic passion for fashion – but probably my favorite thing about Gen Z & Y2K fashion joining forces is how Gen Z manages to address harmful, traumatic stereotypes that perpetuated fashion long before Y2K. But if I’m gonna tell you how Gen Z is saving fashion from itself, it’s important that we talk about Y2K fashion at its core – and why it represents in a significant way where Gen Z is at today. 

Y2K fashion embodies sexual liberation – harkening back to the 1920’s – where clothing silhouettes were created in direct opposition of the societal norms expected of women at the time. In the 1920s, corset-defying flapper silhouettes exploded; in the 2000s, the minimalistic, 50s-esque silhouettes of the 90s were replaced with colorful, loud pop-star it-girl looks of Destiny’s Child or Christina Aguilera. It’s also worth noting the historic erasure of Y2K trailblazing from Black artists like Aaliyah or groups like Destiny’s Child, & the credit that often goes to Britney Spears or Paris Hilton for looks that they did not originate. Y2K fashion is about extremes and juxtapositions of feminine with masculine tropes – the popularization of an edgier brand like Ed Hardy monopolizing skin-tight tank tops and low-rise flare jeans is a perfect example. 

Unfortunately, nonconsensual hypersexualistion & body shaming was rampant in this era (not that it wasn’t in eras before or after, but it stands in history that whenever a female-identifying individual is comfortable showing their skin – men have found a way to make it about themselves.), especially in film. While the 2000s was the golden age of some of our favorite rom coms (think Maid in Manhattan, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, Brown Sugar), it was also an archival goldmine of body-shaming, racist, fatphobic, and misogynistic ideals that specifically undermined and invalidated sexual liberation and social progress of women at the time. It was the culmination of all the years that Hollywood has subjugated women and erased non-white people from their stories, and is responsible for much of the trauma and toxicity that Gen Z is working to unlearn today. 

Fast forward to present day – if the Y2K era was so traumatic, why is Gen Z embracing its clothing in hoards? The answer is simple – nostalgia is healing. Y2K marries nostalgia with self-expression, two things in high priority for Gen Z. In fact, Gen Z’s investment in emotional literacy is often described to their discredit, as if processing your feelings isn’t one of the best things you can do for your mind and body. But many psychologists would argue that allowing your emotions is a great trait to possess – with lifelong health benefits. Given the last few years, it may very well be a critical factor to personal success in the years to come as Gen Zers work through COVID trauma. And if there’s one thing that Gen Z is going to do, it’s express themselves. It’s giving, “wearing your heart on your sleeve”—literally.

COVID changed everything – including our wardrobes. It reminded us that life is too short to not wear what we want. When I talk to my friends about our hopes for life post-COVID, so often it is just to enjoy ourselves now – to make the most of the time we have. Y2K aesthetically embodies that shift in culture, “something akin to sartorial redemption through the lense of women’s empowerment,” according to the Zoe Report. It’s a return to our childhoods – reliving some of our best and comfiest memories – think Juicy Couture sweatsuits. It’s a reclaiming of our bodies – what we didn’t have the confidence to wear in childhood or were shamed out of wearing. It’s living in the moment – who can forget the eccentric Y2K night and party looks. When it comes to nostalgic trends, no one is doing it like Gen Z. And if we are talking trend predictions…can you guess the cultural reset that Gen Z has already begun resurrecting to make its bloody return? It’s only Twilight!

Gen Z has taken the best aspects of Y2K fashion and puts in the work to leave outdated gender binaries and objectification in the past. Gen Z understands that Y2K fashion can be for all bodies, not just a select few. Gen Z embraces nostalgia as a place of comfort and safety in a return to childhood and self-expression. In 2022, Y2K fashion has given us the chance to be the main character in our very own rom com—but this time, we’re learning to love ourselves.

Week of May 16th

We’re sharing the biggest trends in Gen Z’s world this week. Want these trends sent directly to your inbox? Sign up for The Screenshot, our weekly Gen Z insights newsletter.

⬆  This filter is making us SAD!

If you haven’t been pranked with this filter then you’re doing the internet wrong. This ultra-realistic Snap filter turns smiles upside down into a frown, and we literally can’t believe how real they look!

⬆   Famous Trans Gen Zer speaks

Zaya Wade, the 14-year-old daughter of basketball legend Dwayne Wade, spoke up about her coming out as trans alongside the struggles she faced being the daughter of a Black athletic legend in a male-centric sport. She talked about her identity being imposed on by others saying “as a trans person, once I came out, there was a lot of hateful comments about how I should grow my hair out long or fit into a certain version of femininity, even though that’s not true at all. That kind of advice is just trying to break you, but don’t let it.” She truly has more wisdom than many twice her age, read more here.

⬆   Product clearing Y2K regrets

With thin brows really popular at the moment with the Y2K cultural resurgence, many are trimming down their eyebrows with lasting effects. Rogaine is the product all the rage across TikTok for its ability to help eyebrow regrowth and people just can’t get enough of it. We’re not being paid by Rogaine’s makers, I promise!

⬇   Crypto takes BIG hit!

With talk about the dawn of Web3 speeding up, you haven’t stopped hearing the words crypto, metaverse and NFT for sustained periods of time in the last few months – we’re not even going to stop now. This week, the much-touted foundation of Web3 aka Crypto took a massive hit as more than $200bn was wiped from the markets, and even the most stable coin level-pegged with the dollar – terrra – took a massive hit. Here’s a Q&A guide to what’s next.

⬇   Gen Z done with this couple

We’re feeling like Machine Gun Kelly and Megan Fox really should ask for consent before sharing details about their relationship. After telling us that they keep vials of each others’ blood, this week they shared that Fox cut holes in the crotch of her pants so they have ease of access for s*x. Yes, I know… I’m sorry you needed to hear that. We’re over it.

⬇   Joe Rogan knocked off #1…

Rogan has been pushed off the #1 spot on the Spotify charts by the Batman podcast. It goes to show that the King of podcasts really isn’t unmovable as it was claimed during the ongoing controversy earlier this year. Give the people something different and exciting to listen to, and so they will!

JUV Consulting is a Gen Z collective that works with companies to create purpose-driven and authentic marketing campaigns that engage young audiences. Contact us at info@juvconsulting.com if you would like to learn how to reach Gen Z, or sign up for our weekly newsletter, The Screenshot, to get Gen Z insights straight to your inbox.