Data by Age Groups from North American Youth Culture Study 2009

When it comes to global youth culture and fashion, one of the primary differences today, especially in a difficult economy, is that trends are coming from the bottom-up, from the streets, from each other and oneself, more so than dictated from the fashion houses and designers or traditional top-down philosophy. Young people tend to pick up their ideas for fashion via online sites, social networks, from each other and from utilitarian means -what’s available to them and what’s affordable, creating styles often out of necessity which can end up being far more interesting than styles from older demographics. This is why grassroots marketing approaches, especially through new media, tend to work best when trying to reach North American youth culture.

In addition, the youth market in America is very much into associating their fashion sensibilities with their lifestyle. Knowing what lifestyle aspects are of current importance makes understanding the marketplace even more important. These key influences are the main forces influencing fashion trends in this marketplace because through association comes identity and aspirations -whether they are actually true or fulfilled or not.

Accessories in many cases are becoming the fashion icon among youth culture as trends change at faster paces in which accessories can be used to change the entire theme of an outfit. The importance of accessories also accounts for why some stores rank so high as their favorite shopping destinations. This is also true of footwear, especially sneakers and the growing importance of sneaker culture with youth markets as a major fashion statement. Many times, young people name their favorite sneaker brand as their favorite “brand” overall because it represents their style and who they are. There’s also significant crossover with young people naming stores as favorite brands based on the crossover and association with that store with their style.

Many fashion trends in youth culture also come from utilitarian means -usually what’s available to them, inspired by their surroundings, and what’s affordable. What’s interesting is that this is now how many people of many ages are also learning to shop because of the recession. The effects of this include increasing shopping patterns from online destinations, the growing importance of shopping thrift or vintage and mixing up different eras into an altogether new style, and being very DIY in one’s fashion statements. These things combined contribute to a collage-effect which is far more creative and expressive than older generation’s styles which are usually more put together based on a specific theme, brand, or work-related reasons. Overall, such raw energy and newness is what’s exciting about fashion in youth culture and tend to get picked up by designers. The youth market is the new muse. Trends in youth culture develop lightening fast, are often curious and ironic, but always highly motivated by self-expression. By understanding the most influential lifestyle aspects of what’s important to the marketplace today, you can get an understanding of where trends are headed in youth culture markets in the future. Now, some of these key influences include music, retro eras, eco-friendly designs, and DIY and crafting (see also Music section of Label Networks’ North American Youth Culture Study).

Specifically, knowing where the youth marketplace is finding out about new fashion and brands and styles can be incredibly insightful. In our North American Youth Culture Study 2009, in our Fashion section, one question we asked was “Where do you find out about new fashion brands and styles mostly?

There have been some significant changes in where young people 13-25-years-old in North America find out about new fashion brands and styles. In the past few years, Friends have dominated, but Internet has been increasing, as it has again, now in our North American Youth Culture Study 2009, ranking #1 as the key source at 23.4%. This surpasses Friends which drops to 3rd overall at 19.7% after Magazines at 19.9%. To compare historically, Internet has increased from 21% from last year and Friends have dropped from 33.7% from last year. Stores continue to drop as a primary source at 13.6%, along with TV at 2.9%, which is close to the very bottom now. Another category to note is On the Street which is high at 16.9%.

By gender, there have been some interesting changes since the Spring Study 2008 and Fall Study 2008, now with females ranking Magazines as #1 at 28.2%, whereas males rank Friends #1 at 24%. But the reason Internet is highest overall is because both genders rank Internet relatively high with 23% of females and 23.3% of males. On the Street is also high across the board, but higher among males at 20.3% compared with 14% of females. Another new shift by gender is that now males rank Stores higher at 14.3% compared with 13% of females, which is the first time that females have ranked stores lower than males.

By age groups, there are many very interesting correlations. Internet is high across the board and at relatively similar percentages which indicate that obviously, ecommerce and internet strategies need to be incorporated into every fashion’s marketing and advertising campaigns and sales as this generation is clearly a new media generation. Magazines are highest among 15-20-year-olds both at 20.4%, whereas Friends tend to increase in percentages the younger the age group. On the Streets is just the opposite -increasing the older the demographic. Stores is highest now among 13-14-year-olds at 15.7%, followed by 18-20-year-olds at 14.5%, but it’s dropped the most among 15-17-year-olds. This is significant and should be noted for boutiques and mass retailers, indicating that concepts such as going to the mall to discover new fashion brands and styles is no longer the most popular format, but rather discovering these things online, in Magazines, from Friends, and On the Streets, then malls and stores.

For Premium subscribers, comparing the results to this question with our European Youth Culture Study is quite fascinating and telling about how young people discover fashion differently in North America vs. Europe, which is more on par with Japan and China.