The Defining Culture of the Naughties? | January 8, 2008
So another year has gone and we’ve only got a couple left till the end of the “naughties” and the start of a new decade. Ever since the second world war, each decade has been typified by it’s own unique culture, usually a combination of the music and fashion of the day. These cultural movements start small and localised, but the popular ones thrive and get transported round the world via movies, radio, magazines and TV. Prior to the war, cultural movements did exist. They just were more localised and look longer to propagate due to the lack of mass media.
Sat chatting with a few friends on New Years Eve, we started pondering what cultural movements defined the “naughties”. In the 60s you had the Mods and Rockers, the 70s saw the rise of Disco, while the late 80s saw birth of Rave culture. The 90s, while not typified by any particular fashion style, saw the whole era of BritPop. However try as we might, we struggled to think of this decades defining culture. Sure there were subcultures like “emo” or “chav”, although the latter is more slur than pop culture.
Simon Wilison postulated that the “naughties” were defined by Internet culture, and while the idea was attractive, it didn’t hold up to scrutiny. After all, their isn’t really a single Internet culture, but multifarious ones. And then Simon said something that really struck a chord. He suggested that the “naughties” were the decade of the “long-tail”. That essentially the democratisation of mass media had led to one big melting-pot of individual cultures rather than a few tightly defined one.
Rather than people dividing themselves into groups defined by the music they listen to or the cloths they wear, the people of the “naughties” define themselves on a much more atomic level, by a particular artist or item of clothing. Looking from a great height, popular culture seems very homogenised. However if you look at people under a microscope, everybody is minutely different to everybody else in such a way as to damped emergent patterns.
So what does this mean? Does this mean that the “naughties” are the end of popular culture movements as everybody truly becomes and individual? Does it mean that when our children look back on these days they won’t be rifling through our wardrobes looking for that “naughties” look, because they’ll still pretty much look the same?
I’ve always harboured the fantasy that in 40 years time all the OAPs will be wearing the same scruffy t-shirts and baggy pants their children and grandchildren will be wearing, travelling around of skateboards and buying the same music. Surely if this happens the yoof will be forced to rebel and go even further back in time. Who knows, maybe when we’re all retired the kids of tomorrow will be wearing ridiculously big ruffs and listening to Elizabethan revival music? God I hope not!
Posted at January 8, 2008 5:00 PM