There’s a strange moment of stasis around the middle of a decade. What once gave it new character is part of the furniture. What will endure, what will die the death of disco?
Take, for example, utility styling, the wilderness motif, crafted things, Eric’s Gill Sans font, brogues and bearded youth, the faded hues of Instagram.
While detractors might call it a warm womb of heritage nostalgia, there’s been more at work here. Life via screens grew to an ever brighter, whiter noise of option and opinion, and perhaps more than anything we needed an antidote, a compass that leads us back to the essentials of existence. There’s been a quiet affirmation of the offline world, where time and application breeds skill, imagination and creativity, and technology is still our servant.
In the next few years the digital world will be pushed into every inch of our lives, from the surface of our clothes to the pores of our skin, our souls second-guessed from online data and assigned a banal pigeonhole. We won’t walk down the street without the demand to interact with some digital street art or a shop display.
Yet in ten years’ time we might laugh at the accepted wisdom which told us our mundane day-to-day activities would be managed by a glorified teasmade, probably operated by Google or Amazon.
Unless we’ve already been cloned in the style of Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror: White Christmas, where our consciousness is downloaded and trapped in an egg-shaped device to programme our day.
What defines a decade? Aesthetic values can only become tired and clichéd, to lie fallow until another generation sees them shorn of association, timeless in appeal. But what of deeper values, the stuff of life – are these also subject to fashion?
Social media has fostered community action; more voices value our ‘ordinary’ built and landscape heritage; the provenance of food and drink matters and the ethics of consumer choices are in the mainstream if not expansive. Is it also safe to say it’s the decade in which we affirmed our relation to the landscape and place as part of the natural world, rather than some irrational disease afflicting it?
All these things coincided with the rise of the hipster, a profile which became the tabloid-lazy term of choice for anything counter-cultural, rather than a byword for superficial styling. Yet there are values within it, shared by many.
The hipster in the 2020s will have the cultural currency of the hippy in the 1980s. Will the antlers on the head fall away like the flowers in the hair?
Without the urge to profile and define, which can belittle and destroy, we might take the substance with us and let the styling run its course.