When you think of the fifties, what comes to mind? Poodle skirts? Bobby socks? How about the seventies? Leisure suits? Puka shell necklaces? It seems like some decades have a remarkable or notable look or feel about them. For sure the last “Roaring 20’s” did; I hope this one won’t be a repeat. However, the decade before the last one (from 2000 to 2010) doesn’t have an identity unique to that period that I can see. Which could easily be my own perception, as we were in peak child-rearing years when survival was more important than noticing any fashion nuance. If you recall what typified that decade, let me know.
This most recent decade, the one that we just celebrated in closing, has several notable characteristics that I can absolutely put my finger on. With regards to fashion, I have noticed that pleats have been disappearing from pants and they have also become ‘skinnier.” Socks have become the new tie as a way for men to express their fashion forwardness. Lapels have narrowed again and likewise ties have gotten skinnier, reminiscent of the suits of the late fifties and sixties. Using the Tonight Show as an example, Jimmy Fallon’s suits would have equally been appropriate on Jack Paar’s body.
Outside of fashion, I have noticed that we have become less tolerant of other people’s views than in previous decades. I remember years ago having very civil discourse with people with whom I disagree, and no feelings were hurt. We could remain respectful in our differences. I found my world was expanded (not contracted) listening to the views of people who saw the world differently than I. Likewise, in politics Tip O’Neil and Ronald Reagan could be as partisan as any two politicians and at the end of the day enjoy an adult beverage together discussing the things they shared in common; their common love of politics and Ireland. I am nostalgic of those times.
More than anything, I see this most recent decade as one in which we receded into our own internal worlds with the help and encouragement of technology. At the beginning of the decade, we would bump into each other at the video store, or talk with one another on the phone or even in person. In 2010 one in five Americans had a smartphone. Ten short years later, that number has blossomed to over seven out of ten. This is historically one of the fastest penetrations of any modern technology in US history.
Our lives have become infinitely more sophisticated and improved by this handy device than any other in memory. What you do day to day and how you interact with that device in your hand (you may even by reading this on there right now) was science fiction at the beginning of Y2K. Think about how simple it has become to send video greetings to friends on the other side of the planet, book your next vacation from flights to a place to stay, check on what your kids and grand kids are doing from the comfort of your easy chair, or to play an unending number of card games with or without a partner. These advances have been impressive and prominent in the passing decade.
Not all that glitters is gold. With this new found piece of technology, we have become more inward facing and isolated. We have bigger and faster thumbs than ever and are in the process of developing a bit of a hunch. Walk down the street, through the airport, even the waiting room of your Dr.’s office and you will see heads bowed (as if in prayer), thumbs tapping away and people not interacting with one another. This is probably great for the optical industry, chiropractic care and the emergency room business, otherwise I am not convinced that all these advances are as positive as they seem at first blush. If you think that I may be a curmudgeon… I know, and I wrote about it in a previous blog.
So, if the last decade is the decade of big thumbs, I am curious as to what this next will bring. Regardless of what it may bring, I am glad we will be learning about it and experiencing it together.