September 04, 2004
Important philosophical question

The New Improved Redesigned Style Section of the Houston Chronicle has a feature called Street Fashion which caught my eye on Thursday. Basically, they photograph a couple of women on the street and ask them about their clothes. One of the women this time was a 27-year-old who was wearing a T-shirt that read "Product of the 80s". There's no direct link, but if you go to the Arts and Entertainment page and click on "Street Fashion", then choose the profile for Leslie, you'll see what I mean.

Now I figure Leslie, who was born in 1977, is no more a product of the 80s than I (born in 1966) am a product of the 70s. Sure, I grew up on 70s TV, but for the most part, I didn't really experience the culture of the decade because I was too young. By my reckoning, the decade in which one is in high school and college is a much better fit for "Product Of" status than the decade in which one was in elementary and middle school. That's when I really soaked up things like the politics, the fashion, the music (most of which, I note, I really hated at the time, an irony not lost on me every time I listen to The Point). How can I call myself a product of the 70s when I don't really remember the 70s? It just makes more sense to me that I'm a product of the 80s, which in turn makes Leslie a product of the 90s. Right?

Tiffany disagreed with me on this. She says we're already shaped as a child by the fashions of the prevailing decade which our parents made us wear. I'm the exception, having gone to Catholic school and thus wearing a boring uniform for much of my 70s-era childhood, not the rule. Besides, she said, "There's plenty of the 80s to go around." I had to concede that point.

So I ask you, the reader. Which decade are you a product of? What age were you during that time? What's the biggest factor in determining which decade imprints on you?

Posted by Charles Kuffner on September 04, 2004 to Society and cultcha | TrackBack

Product of the 40's (when I was conceived and have few memories beyond my birth which my mother confirmed after I told her about my understanding).

Product of the 60's when I grew from adolescent to adult and had some rude awakenings--those rules from the 50's no longer applied.

Finally, products of the 90's (rebirth) and getting better when I learned to relax and stopped being so anal retentative.

They all count

Posted by: Martha on September 4, 2004 1:33 PM

I am and always will be an '80s girl. I graduated in '86. It's the decade when I most became aware of my surroundings, and I think that's the big answer. I know where I was when I heard Reagan got shot. (Oddly, I couldn't tell you where I was when I heard about the Challenger.) I had to do a current events report in 11th grade on New Coke. I longed for and got my MTV and watched it for the rest of the decade.

By the early '90s, I realized I wasn't listening to much new music anymore and was just buying stuff I couldn't afford to buy in the '80s. To this day, I continue to listen mostly to '80s music. I pick up new stuff now and then, but it often has a connection to something I listened to in high school, like my most recent iTunes download of the new album by Tim and Neil Finn.

Posted by: Sue on September 4, 2004 3:13 PM

60s. HS grad 1968, college 68-71. I missed the 70s by virtue of Navy service in Japan 72-74 and DOD contract work on Kwajalein 75-78.

Posted by: Linkmeister on September 4, 2004 3:26 PM

I'm with you on this one, Chuck. I think the years before you become a teenager are when you look back at what your parents were wearing and think, "What were they thinking?". Now, like you, I grew up on 70s TV, but I think the time that you're a product time reflects the popular culture of your teenage years, not your childhood years.

I also noted that of the last 20 songs played on the radio station mentioned in your post (I visited the web site at 6:20 PM EDT), only five were what I considered to be tolerable (all 80s songs except for Cheap Trick's "I Want You to Want Me", which is 70s dreck.)

Posted by: William Hughes on September 4, 2004 5:23 PM

Born in '43, so it's definitely the 60's. Elvis, the greaser thing, then the rude shock of college and no longer being the smartest person in class. The Kennedy/college/Beatles/Vietnam era (I was in Germany --got lucky). Only saving grace wass science fiction for cultural perspective.

Posted by: Jim Shirk on September 4, 2004 7:03 PM

I graduated from HS in '74 - I'm a 70s gal - big hair, "pant suits" and really good music. But, I feel influenced by the 60s. I looked up to the people - the hippy/radical/nature lifestyle. And the demonstrations - people passionately speaking out (like now!). The 70s were pretty cool though...

Posted by: stephanie on September 4, 2004 7:56 PM

Was Born in '51 and Graduated HS in '69 Army 71-74.
I like to think I'm the product of the 60s, but The 50s is what shaped me into who I am, and My real growing up was in the 70s.

Posted by: Liberty on September 4, 2004 8:09 PM

Well, I was born in 1965, so pretty much all of my formative years came in the 1970s. Even though I came of age in the 1980s, somehow, the TV-fed culture I absorbed in the '70s pretty much dwarfed my actual experiences in the '80s.

Posted by: Tim on September 4, 2004 9:03 PM

I was born in 1971 and graduated college in 1990. I'm definitely a product of the 80s. I can tell because during the early 90s, I was always bagging on "grunge music" or any other trend that started more or less wholesale in the 90s. In other words, my tastes were set, to a certain extent.

On the other hand, maybe grunge really did suck.

Posted by: BTD Greg on September 4, 2004 9:21 PM

The books I read and the music I heard in the 60's - when I was in high school and college - are still what goes around in my head. But you could make an argument that the 60's could not have happened without the 50's. If I were going to wear a shirt like that I would pick one with the year of my actual birth.

Posted by: bill on September 5, 2004 11:01 AM

80's. MTV debuted when I was a freshman and I'm still angry about being too young to vote for Mondale in '84. However, many of the songs, sights and smells from the 70's can jettison me back there in an instant. Maybe I'm a product of the 60's, a victim of the 70's and an aficionado of the 80's.

Posted by: kerry on September 6, 2004 2:26 PM

I think it dates to when you first moved away from home. Though born in 1965, I left home in 1978, so I think of myself as a product of the late 70's/early 80's. I think you're right, that, having left home in 1984 or 85, you're a product of the 80's.

I was living as a musician in New York by 79, so I'm definitely a part of the late 70's New York party scene. But I was listening to music and talking with people who didn't really arrive until the early 80's (Talking Heads, Blondie, Clash, etc.), so the first few years of the 80's were my real fruition.

Moreover, I still think in those terms for economics and jobs. I've never reset from the Reagan years, thinking anything below 7% unemployment to be not TOO awful overall. And I still think of food budgets on the CPI adjusted basis of $30/week (about $55 today, which seems about right for one person eating healthfully but cooking everything).

Posted by: Ron on September 7, 2004 11:25 AM

Born in 1968, graduated from elementary school in 1980 and high school in '86. Started keeping track of politics with Jimmy Carter because Amy is my age. Became fascinated with Nixon and Watergate in the mid-80s, Watergate being just before I paid attention in realtime. Fondly remember way too much of 1970s TV. Kept abreast of pop music mainly in 1983-4 and '87-8, listened to talk/sports/classical radio outside those years. Know much more about earlier culture than that of my lifetime. Product of? A peculiar amalgam of '70s and '80s. Sometimes wish it were the 1870s and 1880s.

Posted by: Chris Quinones on September 7, 2004 2:57 PM