Gen Z and Millennials: Is the Difference Purely in our Jeans?

“Smashed avocados on toast and a side part, please!”

(Image: PIXABAY)

Millennials are often attributed with avocado brunches, coining the term ‘girlboss’, and refusing to give up skinny jeans. But are Gen Z icons such as Olivia Roderigo and Billie Eilish really so far distinct from their S Club 7 loving peers? 

While the boundaries between generations are often blurred (or even arbitary), we cannot ignore that the existence of an unspoken set of unique behaviours and pop culture references that generations apart. Many of us occupy that weird in-between space, young enough to have grown up with early technology, but old enough to be embarrassed about having a TikTok account. The term “Zillennial” (or “Zoomer”, if you want to be facetious) is used to describe this tenuous cusp, creating solidarity in an otherwise left out group.  

An article for the BBC defined “millennials” as people who were born between 1980 and 1995. Even within this category, people have determinedly created a further subdivision – ‘older/geriatric millennials’ (the oldest of which are now 40!) and ‘younger millennials’ (who are apparently responsible for killing every major industry, from cable TV and golf to marriage). Gen Z is generally characterised as those born later than 1997- or 2000, depending on who you ask! This ambiguity has left ample room for heavy debate. I refuse to believe that iPad toddlers are in the same generation as those of us who plastered our walls with High School Musical posters and cried when Finn died in Glee. 

The divide between Millennials and Gen Z is mostly an internet only phenomenon – though try telling my older sisters that skinny jeans aren’t cool anymore and you’ll find yourself disagreeing! Around a year ago, #GenZvMillenial blew up on TikTok, a platform dominated by Gen Z, who began (not so) playfully mocking their older counterparts for liking Harry Potter and unironically using the cry-laughing emoji. Affronted millennials retaliated by making diss tracks (yes) in an effort to hold on to their status as the cool kids on the internet. The so-called “culture war”, which feels more like a spirited sibling rivalry at this point, highlights differences in music, lifestyle, and fashion.

However, is it even necessary to categorise people in this manner? These labels often reduce an entire generation of people across the world to (largely Eurocentric) trends and stereotypes, many of which were shaped by political, economic, and cultural developments at the time. They cast each demographic as distinct caricatures, ultimately distracting from issues that really matter. Millennials and Gen Z aren’t that different at the end of the day. For one, both generations probably could not live without the internet. Both generations would much rather text, citing phone calls as rude and anxiety-inducing. And both generations are united against a common adversary – the Boomers. 

On a serious note, there always have and probably always will be generation gaps and cultural clashes between different age groups as time goes on and the world keeps changing. I’m already side-eying kids who were born in 2007 (is that even a real year?) and are actively using TikTok and Instagram. But as long as you’re not being a terrible person, does it really matter if you use the word “adulting”? Besides, a lot of these trends cycle in and out, so it makes no sense to get worked up over them in the first place. Case in point, the recent Y2K resurgence, in which Gen Z are bringing back noughties fashion and lifestyle. UGG boots, handmade jewellery, and low rise jeans are in – much to the dismay of Millenials who did it the first time around!

In a world where labels are becoming less and less important, do we need to keep coming up with titles to set ourselves apart from other generations? In a time when all aspects of life are becoming more fluid, from gender identity to sexual preference – putting ourselves in boxes is becoming less appealing. As a society, we are becoming more open to things simply ‘being’ as opposed to needing categorising.

Basically, just do what makes you happy, and if you’re still confused about which generation you belong to, take a Buzzfeed quiz like the rest of us!