The verdict is in: Gen Zs can’t get enough of 90s and 2000s nostalgia. And millennials are, quite frankly, confused.
I mean, we can concede that Britney Spears is iconic. But flared jeans? Soggy ankles. Velour tracksuits? So 2007. Butterfly clips? Cringe.
Escapism as a comfort blanket
Experts say it stems from a need to escape from reality – and Gen Z’s current reality is not exactly what dreams are made of.
Firstly, Gen Zs have been hit disproportionately hard by the pandemic.
Not only have they suffered through the same lockdowns and restrictions as the rest of us, but the pandemic has upended their schooling – forcing them to study from home for the first time in a century – and made them miss many milestones they’ve been looking forward to for much of their Gen Z lives.
Formals, sporting carnivals, year 12 graduations, retreats, schoolies, first university classes, gap years… all as cancelled as skinny jeans.
Then there’s a dire-looking workforce they’re entering that’s disturbingly reminiscent of the one millennials graduated into off the back of the 2008 financial crisis.
Oh, and the fact that the planet is heading towards a climate catastrophe.
Social storytelling platform Wattpad found escapism was so prevalent amongst Gen Zs that nine in ten they surveyed admitted they were searching for content that provided a sense of escapism, such as Instagram accounts like @2000sanxiety and iconic tv shows like Gossip Girl (despite many Gen Zs having been in diapers when the show aired its first episode in 2007).
“Who could blame them?” Wattpad’s head of global brand partnerships Chris Stefanyk said.
“Diving headfirst into the depths of an alternate world can be an exciting way to not only escape one’s own but to source valuable inspiration.”
So how can brands navigate Gen Zs nostalgia?
Antonia Lowe, strategist at Tailify, said the key was embracing the tension.
“Merge old and new. Market to Gen Z using a mixture of comfort and inspiration,” Lowe said.
“Your content should hook them with what they know, and give them a reason to believe by showcasing what they want to be.”