Popular culture stagnation since mid-1990s?

So after reading a bunch of threads over the past few years about music, TV, etc… it seems to me that there’s some kind of cultural stagnation going on that wasn’t the case in the 20th century.

Cultural trends used to be defined in terms of decades - “the Roaring 20s”, the Fifties through the Nineties, and so on. They weren’t 100% lined up with the calendar dates, but were close enough.

Except once you got past about 1995 or so, it seems to me that system has more or less broken down. There’s lots of late 90s stuff that still seems relevant or at least not all that foreign, in a way that say, me looking back at 1960 when I was a teenager in 1985 did. It doesn’t seem like movies, music, fashion, etc… is much changed from that mid-90s time. I’m constantly surprised at how NOT different stuff like sitcoms are or movies. Or how older music seems to still be somewhat popular on a lot of stations- it’s not considered “oldies” like music from the sixties was when I was a teenager.

Even everyday fashion doesn’t seem much changed; there are no real equivalents of parachute pants or 1970s bell bottoms, or 1960s skinny ties and crew cuts that I can lay my fingers on for the late 1990s, 2000s or 2010s.

Is this just a product of me getting older and having more perspective on it? Were my parents in 1985 looking at 1960 as forty-somethings much the same way I’m looking at 1995? Or is something going on with this perception?

Kurt Andersen made the same argument ten years ago:

Don’t we have this discussion like every 4 months or so?

My common response regarding this is the fashion aspect. Go watch Friends for a second. The men’s clothes are hilariously baggy compared to the style today which is far more fitted.

Music is pretty different as well. Electronic influences have permeated like every genre (maybe not metal?) and your top of the charts today are not going to sound very much like the 90s, unless they are doing a deliberate call back to them (as The Weeknd seems to do with Michael Jackson).

What I find amusing about that is the first picture… who dressed like that in 2012? The whole long sleeve flannel shirt open over a white t-shirt look just hasn’t been that common since the 1990s. Not to mention the 1992 look is way more fitted than fashion was back then. 2012 man should also have a fuller beard.

I think it’s just part of getting older – you’re not really in tune with the latest fashion and music trends. For me, I’m still surprised with how commonplace tattoos are and all the piercings.

When I was a teenager back in the 80’s, we had lots of 60’s stuff still playing – Star Trek, Get Smart, I Dream of Jeannie, Bewitched. Rock stations were still playing tons of 60s and 70s stuff, and continue to do so.

I think the real break was from the 50s to the 60s – that’s when jeans became much more commonplace and remain so today, today’s music has more in common with 60s and 70s music than any of it had with 30s, 40s, and 50s music, and so on.

So, if there is stagnation, it’s from the 1960s, but I don’t think there really is.

Depends on where you are. Not that uncommon around here. Personally, I wouldn’t be caught dead in such an outfit. Grey t-shirt for me!

As to the OP, I do sometimes wonder how much originality is left to be discovered. There was a day when a traveling group could put on the same vaudeville act and pass it down for generations, and it would be new to every audience who saw it. Then we got recording devices, everyone saw the act, and asked what else they had to offer.

We only have a had a comparatively few decades of this phenomenon of mass distribution of content, and we have certainly already started to recycle ideas, music, and stories, often with only minor modifications to try to freshen them up.

I also wonder how much decentralization of media has to do with it. Rather than New York creating the fashion trend that percolated down to the rest of the country, now the rest of the country also is portrayed in media, showing off and normalizing what used to be out of date fashion.

Perhaps it’s the death of the generation gap. Kids today don’t seem as motivated to rebel against every preference of the parent’s. I go to a lot of concerts featuring bands from the 1960s to the 1990s and I’m always surprised how many people my age are accompanied by their teenage children.

That may be… the timing does coincide with the mass distribution of content and the internet becoming a force in such things.

I’m not saying nothing has changed, but rather that it’s been a much slower pace than it used to be, and that I couldn’t tell you what separates the 2000s from the 2010s or the 1990s, but I could identify what separated the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, 1980s and 1990s from each other, even if I can’t exactly articulate it.

I’d think the decentralization of media would work in the reverse though- we’d see more and faster waves; with the internet there’s no reason someone in Lusk, WY can’t be wearing trendy clothing at the same time as someone in NYC, LA, or any other big city. They can see it and order it right away.

Woodstock, 1969. One of the acts is Sha-Na-Na, who do a 1950’s throwback act – and the cultural disconnect was so stark it was as if aliens had beamed to Earth. They sang “At The Hop”, first recorded by Danny & The Juniors in 1957, twelve years prior.

If somebody took the stage at Coachella and did a cover of a song from 2009 (and dressed as if it was 2009), would anybody notice?

I’ve posted in threads like this before, in support of the idea that pop culture has stagnated since the late 90s. Replies to my previous posts suggested that it’s just that I’ve gotten old so I don’t notice the changes. I disagree.

This. The same could be done for the other decades leading up to the 1990s. Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Arlo Guthrie, and Joan Baez would have been just as out of place in the MTV world of the early 1980s as they would have been in the early 1950s.

On the other hand, the 2009 top 40 includes artists like Lady Gaga, Kanye West, Taylor Swift, Beyonce, Drake, Britney Spears, T.I, Justin Timberlake, and Black Eyed Peas. All those artists are still relevant today, not just performing for a bunch of middle aged people trying to re-live their glory days. Some of them were around as far back as the late 1990s.

I suspect this is probably a big part of the issue as well.

Let’s say that somebody comes to you and conclusively demonstrates time travel, by whatever means would be convincing to you. After doing so, this person sends you to a different year – but you are not told what year, just that it is somewhere +/- within 50 years of the present.

The first person you see is dressed like this. What year is it? Or even what decade?

Re: above photo

If you were to ask me I’d say anywhere from the early 1990s to the present.

Anywhere from 1995 through today. Given the current state of the world, I’d hesitate to prognosticate for the next 50 years. But that’s for a different thread.

Personally I believe the easy access to essentially all media of the last century is a major factor in the homogenization of culture.
That, and the fragmentation of entertainment channels has made any significant change limited to a smaller proportion of the public.

They are? Of that list it seems Taylor Swift (who has reinvented her sound at least twice since 2009), Kanye, and Beyonce are the only ones who have highly anticipated albums. Drake released his first album in 2010 (thought he may have a single earlier). Gaga and JT are known for movie work more these days. Brittany is relevant for the drama in her conservatorship. T.I.'s last few albums did crappy. Black Eyed Peas haven’t been relevant for a while… Even before Fergie left.

What about a man wearing a white shirt and jeans? Could be 50s onward, right? Or a man in a suit and hat… could be 20s-60s.

But is that what we think about when we think decade fashions?

And flannel long sleeve open over a white t-shirt with jeans is associated with the 90s but (at least in most of the country) it didn’t leave that decade as a fashion.

does anyone think this woman is from 1940? 1950? 1960? 1970? 1980? for me it gets a little blurry 1990, 2000, 2010, 2020.

beards and man buns seem like a fad. goth and emo seem more mainstream

That reminds me of points about commercial pop music described as three-minute, three-chord works, or something like that.

There are also whole worlds of fashion or identity that didn’t even exist in 2000.

I may not be able to pinpoint someone’s jeans to a decade, but I can put their cell phone and other personal electronics to within a few years. I strongly identify very short bursts of time with the meme, streaming show, or mobile game that was suddenly trendy and then, as quickly, gone. Sneakers have very strong trends that are very obvious to those who care (I don’t, but I know that among boys that do, it’s a big deal).

There’s also trends in “fast fashion” among the young that old fucks don’t notice. We are the ones still dressing like we did 20 years ago, and thinking it’s still cool. Kids have their own looks, and those do cycle. A lot of it is stuff you don’t notice if you don’t care. College shirts and NASA shirts are way more popular than they used to be. Jogger pants with the leg cuffs, and other athletic pants.

I mean, jeans–JEANS–are in steep decline. Boys wear sweatpants of various types. Girls wear leggings. Old people wear jeans. Not entirely, of course, but it’s still a big shift. 20 years ago, no one wore anything BUT jeans.

And then there are tattoos. For people 20-40 right now, tattoos, often elaborate tattoos, are more common than not, and in places you can’t hide even if you wanted. And they aren’t fading things done in misspent youth: often they are pretty new. Twenty years ago, a grown-ass adult with a full sleeve was rare. Now it doesn’t look weird at all.