A couple of times zones to the east, in Chicago, a group of 20-something hipsters gathers in the basement of one of their parents' homes for a live music showcase. But this is not an LP-scratching, pants-hanging-down-below-the-butts type of bash. The featured band is a natty techno-swing ensemble called Gemini Club, and the guests are stepping to it in attire that seems culled directly from the set of "Mad Men." For good measure, they've lured a sponsor and, fittingly, it's a local brewer called Old Style.
Meantime, up in Minnesota, a team of young hockey players eschews the gleam of the local rink in order to participate in the U.S. Pond Hockey Championship. It's a massive tournament that evokes a time when would-be Orrs and Gretzkys honed their craft and braved the elements on the frozen waters where the sport originated. Old-time hockey -- as brought to the masses by a recent documentary and the highly successful New Year's Day NHL Winter Classic -- has the makings of a full-fledged movement, one that is pulling Gen Y back to a simpler time.
Indeed, it seems as though the retro trend is spinning all around us. From throwback fashion to vintage soul dance parties to psychedelic posters, today's young people are looking to the past in order to find the path to their futures. I mean, once a popular blog hits the mainstream with the name "My Mom the Style Icon," on which trendsetters look to old family photos for style inspiration, you know there's something pretty deep going on.
There is, and it's more than a fashion or fad. Perhaps Gen Y started peeking into their rear-view mirrors in the wake of 9/11, when the simple ideal of a protected society crumbled along with the Twin Towers. But the Great Recession sealed it. Within the space of a decade, a generation of kids patterned to think they could "do anything" came face to face with the stark notion that their futures were no longer in their own hands, even if their hearts and minds were in the right place. They've learned that there are no eighth-place "winners" in the real world of 2010.
Maybe they're onto something. As one respondent put it when asked by the Intelligence Group's Cassandra Report what TV show he'd most like to "live" in, "I think I would want to live in 'That 70s Show' because I enjoy the idea of living simply and not really ever doing anything but hanging out ... yet being completely OK with it."
Living simply. Hanging out. Being completely OK. Now there's a recipe for aspirational bliss that marketers can surely rally around.