It was a humid summer’s afternoon in Bendigo’s CBD. The fountain on my left was as dry as a bone and will continue to be so until Bendigo’s inhabitants cease requiring hydration to stay alive. My size 11 hooves, encased in a battered old pair of dark blue Rivers sneakers, began to cross the street with the authorisation of the traffic light. My right hand was curled around my latest purchase, two volumes of the Chandler collection (1979 edition) by Raymond Chandler, the father of detective fiction. On the other side, a man was walking parallel to my path, going in the opposite direction. He wore a t-shirt with jeans with skater shoes, long wavy hair flipped at the back, and a battered old skateboard tucked under his left arm. He would not have looked out of place on a street in the 1970s. We subconsciously took different paths so as to avoid knocking each other’s possessions out of our hands. Much later, the creative side of my brain was spurred on by the visual differences between the two of us: separated by no more than five years in age, going in opposite directions, and most likely having different mindsets on how to spend an afternoon. In a long-winded way, I arrived at the point of this article: what are the differences and similarities between yesterday’s teenagers of 1977 and the new millennials of 2017?
A 1977 teenager wore a t-shirt, jeans, disco wear (flared pants and wide-collared, loud shirts and tie-dye t-shirts). Platform shoes were worn by both men and women, a continuation of men wearing heels since ancient Egypt. Long hair was fashionable for both men and women. Teen fashion was greatly influenced by the anti-war movement.
Millennials in 2016 wear printed t-shirts, skinny jeans, Ugg boots, yoga pants, skater shoes, baseball caps. Undercut hairstyles are fashionable for both men and women, with many celebrities wearing the cut. Fashion is mostly influenced by media and popular culture.
Star Wars was released May 25th, 1977, and would prove to become the biggest blockbuster movie up to that point. The biggest movie of 2016 was Captain America: Civil War, showing how much comic books have moved into the mainstream.
The biggest album of 1977 was Saturday Night Fever which, depending on which account you believe, either pushed disco music into the mainstream or resuscitated it for another two years of popularity. Vinyl records were the mainstream, with cassettes and 8-tracks holding a smaller proportion of the market. Walkmans were also popular as a mobile music listening device.
In 2016, Adele’s third studio album 25 was the biggest record of 2016 when combining sales and streams. Physical media has been in decline for decades, but streaming services such as Spotify and Soundcloud have taken off. The majority of music is consumed through smartphones.
In 1977, a teenager’s entertainment was usually peer interaction and physical activity. Parks, rivers, football ovals, and local milk bars were all local sources for socialising and fun.
In 2016, more than 60 per cent of kids between 11 and 14 owned a mobile phone in the United States. I challenge everyone who reads this article to find someone who doesn’t have some kind of handheld device. Home activities have become the norm over outside activities due to fears regarding potential injury, and the convenience of home entertainment devices
After reviewing my information, I have come up with my final thoughts on the subject of today’s millennials and yesterday’s teenagers. The reality is, in many ways everyday life has not changed much in forty years. As far as I can see, the biggest changes are the proliferation of smartphone devices and the rise of the information age, fostered by the internet. Not all these changes have been for the better. Many researchers believe that smartphones and other digital devices have contributed to the decrease in attention spans among millennials. I see evidence of this all the time in lecture halls, where students get their phones out immediately after sitting down. I have also seen students with their laptops out spending almost the entire lecture on Facebook or another social media site, never mind the fact they are spending at least five hundred dollars’ worth of HECS debt a day just to be at university. But I digress. Everyone is on their own personal journey, and commentators like myself have been berating the younger generations for centuries. Consider this quote,
“The children now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority, they show disrespect to their elders…. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and are tyrants over their teachers.”
This was allegedly written by Socrates, the ancient Greek philosopher, who died in 399 B.C.. So, it can be drawn from this that the youth of humanity have barely changed, even if the world around them has.
by Damian Brown*
*Fedpress’s Raoul Duke