To the rest of the world, we British are tea drinking mods, punks or aliceband-wearers. These are undoubtedly stereotypes but this national identity is in a way a simplified version of our actual culture. Our current national identity is loosely based on the last few decades, each period encapsulating a moment in music, fashion and popular culture which in time becomes a generation’s legacy. Sparking many a party theme, these stereotypes keep most fancy dress shops in business.
We remember the nineteen twenties for flapper girls and jazz; the thirties and forties are tea dresses, victory rolls and Picasso. Perhaps more inspired by Grease than the decade itself, the fifties equal Elvis Presley, A-line skirts and pop art. We Brits are especially proud of the 1960s; remembered for many of the cultural emblems that Britain prides itself on: The Beatles, miniskirts and our 1966 world cup win. In the memories of those who lived through the seventies, the decade is plagued by strikes, cuts and turbulent politics but it is more often than not remembered for maxi skirts, discotheques and David Bowie. The same goes for the eighties; in fact a period rife with unemployment, it is defined by an exciting cocktail of neon jewellery, Wham and crimped hair.
“we will always have a soft spot for Pokémon and an irrational desire to own flashing trainers”
So that brings us to the nineties, the decade of girl power and boy bands, flowery leggings and Crystal Maze. Ending spectacularly in the Millennium, our generation will always have the markers of the nineties drawn indelibly on our memories of childhood (check out page nine for some of our readers’ favourite things about the nineties.) But the last ten years will be the decade that our generation will truly remember as the one we grew up in. Yes, we will always have a soft spot for Pokémon and an irrational desire to own flashing trainers, but we will look back at the noughties as the decade in which we left school, got drunk for the first time and had our first kiss. The noughties have guided us from the gawky and difficult preteen years through to our exciting and boundary-breaking late teens, leaving us at the beginning of our twenties and in the marker stone of adulthood that is university. Admittedly the noughties seem less exciting than the decades that preceded them, but we’ve actually come a long way from the Spice Girl-idolising, hair mascara-ing nineties. At the moment, the noughties seem to be negatively defined by 9/11, the war on terror and the credit crunch, but I think our last decade is perhaps a little underrated.
“an exciting cocktail of neon jewellery, Wham and crimped hair”
For starters, film-wise, we’ve got the noughties to thank for Avatar, Slumdog Millionaire, The Lord of the Rings… and of course the Harry Potter franchise. Musically, the last decade has graced us with the likes of Coldplay, Britney Spears and a LOT of indie music. Admittedly noughties fashion is a little less inspiring; the decade is responsible for the popularity of boho chic and skinny jeans as well as UGG boots and, unfortunately, Crocs.
On a more positive note, the noughties have given us Facebook, Twitter, You Tube, and Wikipedia – let’s be honest, we’d be lost without them! The last ten years signalled the beginning of the TV talent contest. Starting in 2002 with the first series of Pop Idol, we are now a nation who cannot get enough of X Factor, Britain’s Got Talent, Strictly Come Dancing, The Apprentice, Come Dine With Me, to name a few… And let’s not forget that in the year 2000 Britain was treated to the very first Big Brother; though ending along with the decade, this series has undoubtedly left us a nation addicted to reality TV.
Whilst most of us were probably mobile phone-less at the beginning of the noughties, those that were lucky enough to have one were proudly sporting a Nokia 5110. Nowadays mobile phones are unrecognisable; touch screens, camera phones, video calls, Angry Birds… all products of the noughties. As are iPods, iTunes, spotify, and last fm. In fact, at the turn of the century, people (shock horror) still listened to tapes.
So, we have a lot to thank the noughties for. Noughties’ culture has made us into the adults that we are today. And some time way in the future, even though now it may seem unlikely, we will reminisce about the noughties in the same way that our mothers go weak at the sound of George Michael’s dulcet tones and still secretly want to wear shoulder pads. Perhaps, God forbid, some of us will even have a noughties themed party for our Fortieth birthdays.
At these parties in the future, we’ll wear gypsy skirts, listen to Justin Timberlake and drink WKD whilst reminiscing about the decade that we all grew up in. I’m sort of looking forward to it – well, looking forward to it in the only way that a 21 year old can actually look forward to being 40.▪
Published in the Summer 2011 issue of Razz My Berries Magazine. Page 13-14.