After years of pop culture and reality TV focusing on the beautiful and privileged (think “America’s Next Top Model” and “Keeping Up With The Kardashians”), the trend as lately shifted to a more rustic flavor (think “Buck Wild” and “Swamp People”). And today’s teens can’t get enough of the redneck trend, from fashion to music to TV.
So what brought on the shift from aspiring to the elite to reveling in down-home, country style? The economic downturn most certainly had an effect. Prior to the financial crisis, our TV screens were filled with the likes of “My Super Sweet 16,” but in the aftermath, shows such as “Extreme Couponing” and “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo” have become the typical fare and “Duck Dynasty” is breaking ratings records. Americans in general have felt a bit guilty about conspicuous consumption, and even though teens don’t hold the purse strings, they recognize how they affect the family budget and have made an effort to curb spending. Families are getting back to traditional, all-American values, and many young people got involved in the Occupy movement. Nothing feels less like the 1% than redneck culture, which values getting by with less and finding ways to have fun on a budget.
While the people featured on redneck reality shows are enjoying low-budget family fun and shopping at Walmart, that doesn’t mean that the trend won’t have an impact on high fashion. From pricey plaid shirts at ASOS to the jackets, hats, and denim from A.P.C x Carhartt popularized by young celebrities, dressing like a redneck doesn’t mean shopping at your local hunting supply store.
The redneck spirit is also about using what you have to make what you need, which taps into the maker/fixer culture that’s prevalent among today’s youth. The show “Rocket City Rednecks” is a perfect example, featuring engineers and scientists who also happen to be hillbillies. The result is seemingly regular guys making moonshine-powered rockets and the inspiration to believe that you can do whatever you set your mind to.
Redneck and country cultures have filtered into every major aspect of teens’ lives, including music. Blake Shelton is helping keep country music relevant and prominent on “The Voice.” Taylor Swift (who admittedly may not sound so country these days) opened the Grammys this year, and folk rockers Mumford and Sons (whom one journalist describes as “posh farmers with banjos”) took home the award for Album of the Year. It wasn’t so long ago that music charts topped by bands with banjo players and steel guitars would have been unthinkable. But those performers’ down-to-earth, “real” style is the perfect antidote for the manufactured, slick veneer of pop music that teens grew up with.
In a time when bullying is still prevalent and teens feel pressured to be the prettiest, smartest, coolest kid in town, the redneck spirit is refreshing. It’s not about being better than someone else, but about being who you are and not worrying about being judged by peers in the process, and what teen wouldn’t want to be a part of that?