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Gen Z Trends: Past, Present & Future

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Gen Z is a vital demographic to capture since they are rapidly overtaking aging Millennials as the most impactful market segment.

While Millennials are known for helping to develop and implement technology that has helped shape the current business landscape, Gen Z has grown up with native access to this technology.

Gen Z is coming of age and is making waves across industries and in every sector of the economy.

The impact of Gen Z simply cannot be ignored by any business hoping to grow over the next decade.

Most Popular Gen Z Trends (Overview)

We’ve included an overview of our top picks below. For detailed information on each pick, scroll down.

Trends Gen Z Brought Back

  1. Wired Headphones
  2. Yoga Pants
  3. Flip Phones
  4. Uggs
  5. Emojis
  6. Camcorders

Gen Z Trends Millennials Are Embracing

  1. Prioritizing Mental Health
  2. Body Positivity
  3. Informal Email Sign Offs

Key Gen Z Trends for 2023

  1. 2000s Nostalgia
  2. Distrust of Government and Organizations
  3. Diversity and Social Justice
  4. Buying Power
  5. Mental Health Challenges
  6. Young and Restless
  7. Gender Fluidity
  8. Power of Reviews

Gen Z Retail Trends

  1. Prefer In-Person Retail
  2. Products Over Experiences
  3. Impulse Buys

Gen Z Trends Shaping Brand Engagement

  1. Personalized, Direct Contact
  2. Following Brands on Social Media
  3. Creator Content is Key
  4. Brands Need to Focus on Diversity and Social Justice

What is Gen Z Known For?

Gen Z is probably best known for digging through the most popular trends of the Millennial & Gen X crowd and bringing them back into the spotlight.

They are frequently associated with reviving nostalgic trends, fashion, and even technology and making them trendy again. 

Generation Z is also known for being one of the most ethnically and racially diverse generations so far.

“Zoomers,” as they are frequently referred to, are also very socially aligned with their predecessors, the Millennials.

They also have the drive to be one of the most intelligent and well-educated generations so far, with their highly digital childhoods contributing to their advancement.

What is Gen Z Most Interested In?

Gen Z is notably interested in creating meaningful change in the society surrounding them.

This has led to about 60% of Gen Z being driven to find employment in positions that have a positive social impact, which is nearly double that of Millennials.

This drive for social change has given them a tremendous sense of community and the importance of mutual aid and support. 

Rather than be a victim of circumstance like their predecessors who came of age during The Great Recession, Gen Z aims to create solutions to their problems.

These solutions often lead to large social media campaigns that challenge the various systems that create these obstacles.

Examples of this would be Gen Z being highly vocal about the climate danger and forcing large industries to either help or become irrelevant.

What Are the Gen Z Aesthetics?

Gen Z aesthetics are anything that is formed into a cohesive “look” that the generation members turn trendy.

There are several examples that have become incredibly popular over the past year or so. 

Cottagecore is a unique romanticized view of rural, often European, cottage-dwelling aspects.

This includes many aspects of sustainable living, homesteading, or otherwise living off the land.

It emphasizes living in harmony with nature and wildlife and finding a balance between the nostalgia and even isolation of country living with aspects of the modern.

Another popular Gen Z aesthetic is called “dark academia,” and it is a very niche aesthetic centered around late 19th-century academia.

It often highlights upper-class preparatory school fashion, and earth tones and features European as well as American scholastic elements from the period.

One of the most common themes is that of being pretentious.

One of the most popular aesthetics of Gen Z, and one that arguably has the greatest exposure to mainstream media, is called Y2K.

Elder Gen Z members were born shortly before the massive push to fix the Y2K bug, and the aesthetic incorporates numerous elements from the late 90s and early 2000s.

Y2K Gen Z adherents have significant influence from turn-of-the-millennium fashion, tech, and music.

Gen Z has made vintage and retro fashion and tech trendy.

Some of the elements they have revitalized that were thought to be lost to the millennium change are below.

If you’re from a previous generation, dig some of these gems out of your storage locker, and you could gain some serious street-cred.

1. Wired Headphones

Seen as a much trendier alternative to the uber-popular AirPods, wired headphones and corded headsets are one of the biggest Gen Z trends that have hit the tech scene.

They have become a style and aesthetic fashion icon for Gen Z women and don’t appear to be going anywhere.

2. Yoga Pants

The leading pant choice of the millennium changeover is coming back thanks to Gen Z.

They fell by the wayside just before the twenty-teens, but Gen Z influencers are bringing them back with a vengeance.

They’ve been given a cooler Gen Z name to fit the aesthetic, notably “flared leggings.”

Rest assured, they are yoga pants, and Gen Z trends show that you can wear them with nearly anything.

3. Flip Phones

While it’s unlikely that you’ll see too many old-school flip phones like the Razr getting reactivated, the aesthetic is what’s essential to the Zoomers.

They’ve got iPhone cases that flip open to resemble flip phones, and even major smartphone manufacturers are making high-tech foldable OLED screens that flip open into larger smartphones.

4. Uggs

One of the most popular Gen Z trends is bringing back Uggs, unironically.

They are seen on many of the primary Gen Z influencers, like Chamberlain, Kendall Jenner, and the youngest Kardashians. 

5. Emojis

While Millennials used and abused emoticons and their successors and emojis, Gen Z embraces them wholeheartedly.

Not only are they being revitalized, but Gen Z also is the driving force behind repurposing and redefining what each emoji means.

In some cases, these tech-savvy digital-nostalgics are even using them as a complete replacement for text.

6. Camcorders

Just like the flip phones and corded headphones of yesteryear, many Gen Z influencers have been seen using old-school camcorders.

While they can be analog or digital, they give a nostalgic 90s feel to the media that Zoomers are constantly consuming, adding significantly to their aesthetic.

Gen Z Trends Millennials Are Embracing

Gen Z trends are becoming so powerful that even Millennials take notes and copy the trendsetting younger generation. Here are some of the most powerful.

1. Prioritizing Mental Health

Mental health has always had a stigma in America, but it shows that Gen Z is working overtime to change that.

Even Millennials are now seeking help for the conditions and disorders they once fought viciously to prove worthy of legitimization. 

2. Body Positivity

Even though Gen Z is highly centered around aesthetics, they are also dramatically changing the previous norms of body acceptance.

Now Millennial celebrities and influencers are being the front-runners in destroying paradigms of body-shaming and helping to create a society where empowerment comes big and small. 

3. Informal Email Sign Offs

Gone are the days of “sincerely” or “respectfully” closing out an email, and here to stay are sign-offs that impart a far more lighthearted approach to formal communication.

Even when used in business settings, Millennials take a cue from their successors and close out their emails with humor.

Key Gen Z Trends for 2022

Gen Z trends don’t just extend to fashion and digital communication; they have far-reaching implications. While a big part of Gen Z is nostalgia for the last millennium, some trends were pioneered by older generations.

From the distrust of government and authority often seen in X’ers and Millennials to the concept of buying power that Boomers made into a cottage industry, here are eight key trends you’ll notice in 2022.

  1. 2000s Nostalgia
  2. Distrust of Government and Organizations
  3. Diversity and Social Justice
  4. Buying Power
  5. Mental Health Challenges
  6. Young and Restless
  7. Gender Fluidity
  8. Power of Reviews

Gen Z Retail Trends

We’ve mentioned that Gen Z will impact commerce in ways that not many could have anticipated.

Not only will they be pushing companies to get their physical shopping experience tuned up, but they’re shifting towards products and away from the experiences enjoyed by previous generations.

They are also less afraid to submit to their impulses when it comes to shopping.

Prefer In-Person Retail

Even though much of their browsing will happen digitally, members of Gen Z will still prefer to shop in a brick-and-mortar establishment physically.

This may surprise many who assumed their technological upbringing would keep them solidly in the digital space.

Products Over Experiences

Millennials enjoy experiences, while Gen Z prefers physical “stuff.” Since a large portion of Gen Z’ers is still <20, they are often found to opt for physical goods over experiences. 

Impulse Buys

Gen Z has little credit history behind them, but they often spend cash impulsively.

This can be leveraged by retailers and other businesses catering to Zoomers.

Gen Z Trends Shaping Brand Engagement

Gen Z trends have a digital foundation, but they often come to fruition in meatspace.

They are also holding companies to a higher standard regarding the products and content they consume.

Additionally, they want this to be more inclusive and represent social justice and cultural advancement.

Personalized, Direct Contact

If your brand cannot evoke a personal, often emotional bond with Gen Z, it will usually be irrelevant to them. 

Following Brands on Social Media

Interacting with their favorite brands on social media is where Gen Z looks to find the personalized, direct contact they crave.

Creator Content is Key

Gen Z consumes a lot of media and content; if your content doesn’t speak to them, they aren’t likely to spend any money with your brand.

Brands Need to Focus on Diversity and Social Justice

Gen Z is the most diverse generation to date, and brands that don’t cater to that diversity aren’t seen as compatible with Gen Z trends.

Frequently Asked Questions

vector illustration showing social media engagement

What are the weaknesses of Gen Z?

There are two primary weaknesses of Gen Z.

They are arguably the most cynical and jaded generation.

Additionally, since they are digital natives, they often rely heavily on technological solutions to their problems. 

Where does Gen Z hang out?

Gen Z generally hangs out in the digital space.

They often collaborate and communicate on social platforms, streaming services, and social media groups aligned to their interests.

Why does Gen Z say aesthetic?

Aesthetic is often used to signal that a Gen Z’er closely identifies with something.

Seeing a picture of a cottage in the woods with a garden and a few goats can be “aesthetic” for someone with whom the image resonates on a personal level. 

Wrapping Up

It has become crystal clear that the current Gen Z trends will be incredibly transformative for businesses across all sectors.

Companies that made the mistake of underestimating the evolution of the digital frontier with Millennials, and survived, would be wise to pay attention to Gen Z trends.

Ignoring these trends and their impact on industry and commerce will be their undoing.

Gen Z isn’t just the most diverse and accepting generation, but they’re the largest.

What do you think about this generationally-based revolution?

Be sure to comment with your thoughts and questions.

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