Y2K, Indie Sleaze, Old Money, Twee

  • Feeling nostalgic during economic distress, Gen Z found solace in the 90s and early 2000s.
  • They revived four subcultures: Y2K, indie sleaze, old money, and twee.
  • Nostalgia fashion is now shaping consumer behavior, as brands and shoppers cater to Gen Z trends.

Fashion trends may come and go, but their cycles have a lot to say about the economy they emerge in.

Just ask Gen Z, who brought back the ’90s and millennium on TikTok while we the world was in lockdown. We emerged into a post-vaccinated world feeling like we stepped back in time. But that was always the intent for Gen Z, who was nostalgic for an easier era in the middle of global health crisis further marred by a


recession

.

It’s a common response when a troubled economy disrupts our lifestyles, Le Moyne College professor and psychologist Krystine Batcho previously told Insider.

“For many people, particularly young adults or those without a financial safety net, poor economic conditions raise fears of being able to meet financial obligations like rent or student-debt payments,” Batcho said. “Nostalgia is a refuge, as people turn to the feelings of comfort, security, and love they enjoyed in their past.”

That was the case for the digitally native Gen Z, who hadn’t yet experienced the full impact of economic hardship until the pandemic, when they bore the brunt of it. They found solace not in childhood memories but in a time before technology and a soaring cost of living dominated.

It’s created a throwback economy in which nostalgia fashion is driving much of today’s consumer culture – how brands are marketing to the masses; what clothes retailers are deciding to buy, sell, and highlight in their storefronts; and what consumers spend their money on.

Detailed below are the four subcultures from the aughts that Gen Z brought back to life as a reaction to the economy.

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