Nostalgia is now – Part 2
August 15, 2022
This blog consists of a two-part series – The first part explored Gen Zers’ take on nostalgia, as well as its effect on social media consumption and style. This final part looks at how nostalgic themes are permeating fashion, technology and food.
Mining the past for stable fashion comfort
During a tumultuous time influenced by the pandemic and economic instability, familiarity is a staple that younger generations rely on, with throwback beauty routines and rituals coming to the forefront and helping them cope. This sense of nostalgia is seemingly going nowhere in 2022, especially as the impact of the pandemic continues to drive people to seek comfort in unexpected places.
With an increased appetite for the past, consumers are embracing a sense of nostalgia through their use of accessories and thrifted Y2K threads. Early 2000s ‘vintage’ are hot items on Depop, which reports that Y2K fashion is one of the most-searched trends on the platform among Gen Zers.
There are a variety of nostalgic beauty trends that thrived on TikTok in 2021, including tooth gems, temporary tattoos and colourful eyeshadow, with 70% of 13- to 36-year-olds in the US claiming that it is now cool to wear clothing that was once considered ugly.
The fashion industry also showcases how older models are now adopting high-end brands’ designs and become the face of campaigns such as Prada, Bianca Saunders, and Martine. Labels are actively catering to older consumers while appealing to younger audiences’ appetite for nostalgia.
The notion of nostalgia offers a way for brands, not only to connect with older generations, but also to appeal to younger audiences by using emotional ties for cultural iconography identifiable to younger consumers.
Retro products enter the tech space
Ever-present uncertainty means that people are motivated to choose the comfort they can find in familiar and reliable recreational tech – especially given the changing nature of working lives which are now defined by virtual connection. Rugged, vintage-feeling tech holds not only the promise of longer product lifespans, but also the return to a mindset of being present for cherished moments, all served with the sweet smell of nostalgia for the good ol’ days.
Analogue tech also lets people feel in control of content, with vinyl launching back to popularity in the music listening space, as many people indicate their preference for older forms of media.
The nostalgia effect relates to style as well as substance. Although nowadays, a large amount of new tech, such as mobile phones is defined by how similar it looks, in earlier eras options were more distinctly unique– as personified by Paris Hilton’s crystal-studded, pink Motorola Razr. Nokia is appealing to consumers wanting to get their products customised through its revival of its ‘indestructible’ phones.
This is also segmented in different markets, whereby nostalgia is driving Japanese cultural trends across both music and video games, with Eurobeat, a type of energetic music from the 90s picking up in popularity again. Digital-first Gen Zers are looking backwards to Eurobeat with positivity and making it their own online. In Japan, this is identified as leaning into natsukashii – when “something evokes a fond memory from your past.” Although they might have been too young to have experienced the 90s themselves, Japanese Gen Zers are embracing this notion of “false nostalgia” (fauxstalgia) by mixing various elements of different subcultures to create personas that bring together a focus of the future with nods to the past.
Amid retromania, brands that tap into internet culture while it’s still relevant – and in an authentic way that’s not cringe-inducing for young audiences – can boost popularity and position themselves as part of the zeitgeist. Retro devices including typewriters, cassettes, vinyl, and Polaroid cameras are enchanting Gen Zers with nostalgic joy, allowing them to find calm and novelty in these technologies.
Comfort food that speaks to nostalgia
Many people have looked to snacks and food for comfort amid the pandemic, with a real interest in nostalgic treats from childhood. Food seems to be an evocative window through which people experience nostalgia and childhood memories, with 37% of Britons admitting that they had revisited dishes from their youth during the pandemic.
Specifically, fast food chain Wimpy, founded back in the 50s, is tapping into people’s nostalgia through dining. The chain holds a nostalgic and retro charm; people who remember Wimpy from their childhood can step back in time and find a sense of comfort. Along the same lines, McVitie’s Jaffa Cakes utilised the narrative of nostalgia through Jaffa Jonuts.
Evoking nostalgic memories through dining essentially poses as an anchor to remind people of simpler times.
Nostalgia is now
Nostalgia’s nod to the familiar is a source of comfort in a tumultuous present. Having this in mind, brands have an opportunity to harness nostalgia to appeal to those who are looking to reimagine the past through a sense of security, while balancing novelty offerings with intentionality and purpose.
With the pandemic fuelling a desire for nostalgia, it would be easy for brands to ride this wave without offering customers something that’s going to make them stick around, but to appeal to changing consumer sentiments that span generations, brands can pair all things nostalgic with the new and contemporary.
The sense of ‘communal nostalgia’ – wherein people are drawn to certain eras not because they were necessarily part of their personal history but because they promote feelings of social stability – has the potential to strengthen in 2022 amid the uncertainty caused by the ongoing pandemic, the war in Ukraine, and the rising cost of living.
It is important to remember however, that while nostalgia might be an easy way to earn consumers’ favour, leaning on it entirely borders on gimmicky. There is an opportunity for brands to reconsider their approach to nostalgic content by hacking cultural artefacts to keep content feeling new and relevant. There is a plethora of ways that brands can keep their offerings fresh by remixing familiar motifs with contemporary elements. People’s wish for comfort and sentimentality can be tapped into through the right messaging and aesthetic.
Some of the material included in this blog is from Canvas8 (©CANVAS8 2018), a cultural and consumer insights and trends tool, which is one of the platforms that FINN Partners’ Global Intelligence utilises to help brands build audience understanding. Find out more.