[quote]“The past is not dead. In fact, it's not even past.”[/quote]
News sources are packed with stories about the Baby Boomer/Millennial divide in the workplace. Many Boomers have flung accusations at the emerging generation of Millennials, some that are far from true. Recently, Stephen Colbert (a Baby Boomer) addressed some of the accusations in a commencement speech to college graduates. In reference to Millennials being dubbed the “Me, Me, Me Generation” by Time magazine, Colbert retorts “your generation [millennials] needs everything to be about you and that’s very upsetting to us Baby Boomers because self-absorption is kind of our thing. We’re the original ‘Me Generation.’”
Other accusations are also painfully reflective of the Boomers’ own youth culture. According to one Millennial writer, the so-called Millennial “hook-up” culture isn’t exclusive to this generation. Upon researching statistics on sexual activity during youth for each generation, the author concludes that “to say that Millennials were having more sex than Boomers, would be quite wrong.” In fact, Boomers may be better suited to own the “hook-up” culture trend, given that the Sexual Revolution coincided with the dawn of Boomer youth culture.
But is the divide as wide and contentious as it appears in the media? Millennials, interestingly also dubbed Echo-Boomers, are familiar with the culture of their parents’ generation. They can sing the Who’s “My Generation” with the best of them (sometimes so enthusiastically that it begs the question, “You know that song is not ‘bout your generation, right?”)
From the very arrival of Millennial youth culture in the 90s, the Boomer-Millennial romance was made evident in visual culture. As the first Millennials reached high school, a 70s revival hit clothing stores across the country. No one was caught dead in the previously popular grungy wide-leg jeans, as they all swapped them for new flare jeans -- an “echo” of the youth culture of their parents.
Besides flared jeans (which by now have faded back out of style), throwback styles have continued to emerge over the last few decades. Millennials can’t seem to get enough of Boomer-era 1960s and 70s styles, from vintage clothing and hairdos to home decor. One recent trend is vintage owls, and other animal and nature totems, which can be seen on t-shirts, jewelry, and even as tattoos. The love of all vintage hardly stops there. Some Millennials collect original vinyl records of 1960s-70s music. Clothing stores like ModCloth, and Urban Outfitters have vintage styles that cater toward 20 and 30-somethings. And with the popular rise of Instagram, even a snapshot of your lunch can get a vintage makeover with filters called Lo-Fi and Inkwell. Needless to say, Millennials seem to have an endless taste for vintage.
A consumer trend that blurs the cultural lines between these generations even more has to do with body beautification. While Boomers are beautifying their bodies by making up 48% of botox procedures in the US, one in four Millennial bods are beautified by the needle (and ink) with tattoos. The same article points out that tattoos, traditionally a symbol of rebelliousness against authority, including parents, are sported by young people living conventional, largely non-rebellious lives. So while Millennials are recycling a lot of Boomer youth culture, what that visual culture is communicating can be completely different.
With all this intergenerational love, it appears Millennials have followed in Boomer footsteps in many ways, except for one: rebelling against their parents. Instead, perhaps Boomers have given Millennials the gift of freedom to express themselves in the same way they did when they were young.
Here are some cross-generational tips that cater to both Boomer and Millennial sensibilities:
Celebrate: Love retro-inspired parties? Check out the Mad Men Party plan designed by Baby Boomer royalty Martha Stewart.
Read: Check out socio-cultural books like Tom Brokaw’s BOOM! Talkin’ About the Sixties, about the tumultuous coming-of-age of Boomers, or read more about the Millennial generation with the book Millennial Momentum: How a New Generation is Remaking America by Winograd and Hais.