Generational Trends in Fashion

February 2, 2022

Fashion is almost as clear of an indicator of generation as a popular song. Ask anyone about daisy chain headbands, low-rise jeans or tie-dye, and they will tell you, “that was the boomers.” Every generation leaves its mark through fashion with  iconic looks that, no matter how often they are revisited and reborn,will always belong to that generation.

The silent generation left us with poodle skirts, button-up shirts and penny loafers. The traditionalists were well dressed if not impractically dressed. The baby boomers brought about a fashion revolution and, by the end of the ‘60s, brought more color and more skin. The bikini became acceptable beach attire, thanks to the boomers. So, thank a boomer the next time you go to the beach.

The bikini became acceptable beach attire thanks to the boomers.

That brings us to Gen X and the millennials. These two generations comprise the majority of our parents, teachers and coaches. Although they might not be ready to admit that they are done influencing fashion trends, there are some distinct fashion hallmarks that we can attribute to these two generations.

Gen X’s fashion was heavily influenced by the music that defined their generation.  According to Heather Fixler, a proud Gen Xer, “It didn’t matter if you lived in Ann Arbor, Mich. or Thousand Oaks, Calif., if you were in high school in the 90s you owned a pair of Doc Martens and at least three flannels, preferably from a thrift store, all thanks to the Seattle Grunge movement. The clothes weren’t flattering, but at least we were warm and comfortable.” Gen X’s iconic fashion could be summarized as efficiently as its music can be, “grunge.”

If you were in high school in the 90s you owned a pair of doc martens and at least three flannels.

The millennial fashion statement is more difficult to pin down, perhaps because this generation is still busy influencing our attire. While they may not be done making their final mark on the fashion industry, there are still fashion staples we can credit to the millennials with that will go down as a part of their generational history. Some of those fashion treasures include athleisure, yoga pants (as actual pants) for any and every occasion, athletic shoes for every occasion, and gender-neutral fashion.  Many thanks are owed to this generation for the comfort and sensibility they have brought to everyday fashion.

That leaves us with Gen Z. Fashion through the ages has reflected each generation’s growth, their struggle and their grit. The fashion representing each generation shows each group’s unique personality and spirit in a way that only art can. What will Gen Z’s historic fashion statement be? What will be the art that represents our growth, our struggle, our grit and perseverance?  That iconic image that is conjured when someone says, “Gen Z fashion?”

What will gen z’s historic fashion statement be?


This piece was originally published in Inkwell’s Fashion Issue.

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