Remember a few years back when every teen, tween, and college student seemed to be covered head to toe in brands? Ed Hardy hats and tees, massive Abercrombie logos, and Juicy Couture’s signature gold lettering? We’re not seeing that so much anymore.
Sure, there are still Millennials who are fans of those brands — I’m looking at you, cast of “Jersey Shore” — but in general, Millennials aren’t broadcasting the brands they wear like they used to. During the recession, conspicuous brands went the way of conspicuous consumption. Students realized it was out of line to flaunt expensive brands when other students were struggling to make ends meet. Wasting money on trendy, flashy items wasn’t cool, particularly when they’d only spend a season or two in one’s closet (heirloom pieces like Louis Vuitton bags are a bit of a different story). Well-made basics, toned-down and even a little plain, became the trend in fashion.
Now that the economy is gradually rebounding and consumers are shopping again, they’re sticking with more traditional and less showy brands. “Generic brands” like Uniqlo and Joe Fresh are thriving precisely because they make basic clothing that holds up and because they keep their names off their products. A Uniqlo shirtdress looks a lot like a Madewell shirtdress minus a few details, and it costs a fraction of the price. Teens can still experiment with current cuts and styles, but can do so without breaking their budgets for the sake of a logo. That doesn’t mean young fashion has become boring. Layering basics in interesting ways or pairing relatively plain outfits with funky nail polish, an unexpected color of shoe, or a clever scarf allows them to add a touch of personality.
While fashion experimentation is part of growing up, Millennials aged 14-24 — both girls and guys — prefer to keep it simple. In fact, they most commonly refer to their sense of style as simple, basic, and classic. More than two-thirds of students say most of the clothes in their closets are pretty basic and over three-quarters say they don’t need to spend a lot to look their best.
This trend toward simplicity isn’t relevant only to clothing brands. A glance at websites like Pinterest or Cool Hunter, apps like Do It Tomorrow and Simple Grocery List, and furniture stores like Ikea show that Millennials want to pare down other aspects of the lives, too. After years of technology building and pushing their lives to a fever pitch, they’re looking for the calm in the storm, and brands that help them do that will win their favor.