16 ways being 16 has changed
“Your generation had those really thin over-plucked eyebrows, now it’s cool to to just shave your eyebrows off.”
16-year-olds now are totally on top of their bullshit. While millennials all went through ‘ugly phases’, scraping wonky eyebrows into shape with Bic razors and smearing lips with Barry M concealer, Generation Z are contouring their faces into Kardashian avatars. When I was in secondary school, guys exclusively wore neon-piped Topman T-shirts with three buttons down the middle, and girls wore Jack Wills gilets with mangled fake Uggs. Insofar as I can tell, current teenagers are wearing bumbags around their shoulders that cost more than a month’s rent with sold out, limited edition, capsule collection trainers.
The most enterprising members of my generation flogged fizzy sweets out of their Nike holdalls. In 2018, teenagers are selling hugely marked-up hoodies to adults who don’t have the time to stand outside the Supreme store in the run-up to the next drop.
Basically, teenagers are much cooler now. It seems. I feel 107, even though I’m only 23. So to find out whether this was actually true, I spoke to a few 16-year-olds.
Ava, a supporter of the Labour Party from London, on young people’s relationship with drugs
"I only ever see my richer and more privileged friends doing drugs. I think in those circles it’s far more acceptable and normal. However, if I hung out with my less wealthy, more working class friends, they find the idea of drugs at our age stupid, and I agree. Some of my friends who take Xanax and smoke a lot of weed have changed so much, they are so boring now I almost can’t stand being with them. It’s as though the drugs have sucked the life out of them. I think this is becoming a more common opinion, I keep seeing teenagers sat in the part chatting without any alcohol or anything."
George, a great white shark fan, from Lincoln, on what it’s like being queer at school
"At school I was not really treated any differently for being trans. Most people just stopped caring. I mean, there were people who just didn’t get it, asking me invasive and inappropriate questions without realising they were being offensive. There were people who gave me weird looks all the time and used the wrong name or pronouns behind my back. Some people even complained about how awkward it was to go to school with a transgender student because they never knew what to say. But then there were girls who determinedly used the right name before I even had to ask. There was the guy who tried to teach me to "bro hug" and act like a lad. There were the teachers who stuck up for me and explained things so I wouldn't have to."
Ellie, a footballer from Manchester on whether sex education is still crap
"In one of our GCSE mocks my friend found something really grim. Our desks for exams were really old, so they had 30 years worth of dicks carved in. She found a message written by this kid years ago -- it was so gross, full of explicit stuff he wanted to do with women. He had signed his name and his surname was the same as our English teacher’s, who apparently used to go to our school. It was kind of funny, but still a bit disturbing. Also, boys still get grossed out by periods. My drama teacher actually thought we could control it like pee. It was so weird. I dread to think what it used to be like for you."
Tommy, a Stephen King horror book fan from Wellington, New Zealand on makeup
"Your generation had those really thin over-plucked eyebrows, now loads of us just shave our eyebrows off, then there’s more space for colourful eyeshadow. It’s still an ‘ugly phase’, just one that’s on purpose. Although, I did go through a really lame period of putting liquid eyeliner on with nothing else, which I wouldn’t call grim, just boring. Nothing like you guys and those massive side fringes."
Sid, a skateboarder from London on music
"Music is so accessible now, it’s all over the internet so you don’t have to save up for ages for an album. There are so many artists blurring genres and sounds, I really like Brockhampton who mash-up loads of different elements into their music, industrial hip-hop, psychedelia and rock. I think that my generation of teens will have a much broader taste in music because we have access to so many different types of sound. I also like how social media allows artists to attract fans through their personality, they feel like your friends and you can relate to them. This has made music so much more interesting to me, songs mean more when you understand the person that it’s coming from."
Meg, an Instagram influencer and Aries brand enthusiast from London on fashion
"My parents got most of their clothing inspiration from Top of the Pops, whereas I have the whole of Instagram to look for ideas. That’s why I think young people have such a varied sense of style now. When my Mum was growing up she had to make a lot of her own clothes because she wasn’t able to buy the stuff she really wanted in shops. My grandma taught me how to sew. I think back then people had a DIY mentality, which, if you look at all the handmade clothes on DePop, I think we are bringing back this crafty, creative mindset.
I think young people now are more interested in brands, which is annoying because they are more expensive, but then we buy less things and it’s really satisfying when you manage to save up for something you really want. I also buy less cheap products than I used to because I understand more about some of these big company’s unethical systems."
Raheem, a Depop shop owner from Kent on how young people are so much more enterprising
"Most young people have a side-hustle now. We’ve all seen that going to university doesn’t mean you’re actually going to get a job and we have learnt to be a lot more thrifty. Loads of my mates scive college to queue up for Supreme drops, they wear the clothes for a while so they can enjoy them and then resell them with huge markups. You can make thousands doing it, sometimes I wonder why I even bother going to school."
Sara, a photographer from Southampton on the environment
"I think young people are definitely worried about the future of the planet. All my friends recycle, eat vegan food and try not to use plastic. I don’t want to grow up in a dying, murky brown planet."
Marnie, an aspiring artist from Liverpool on social media
"People are always complaining about social media, but loads of my friends have become really amazing documentary photographers through Instagram, others have become really good at gallery curation by making the colours of their feeds work together, like everything is pinkish or blue tinted, or they are essentially writing really witty comic one liners on Twitter. Yeah Facebook is dull, but I don’t know anyone even on there anymore, except my Mum."
Samira, an expert cake baker from Norwich on spending time on your own
"My generation spend way less time watching TV. If we want to watch something it will be really good and we will proper binge it, we don’t just stew on the sofa watching Homes Under the Hammer or whatever."
Zoe, a hiker from Brighton on growing up
"We are never going to afford a house, I think that’s why my generation thinks more about what countries we wanna go to than what colour to paint our living room. It’s more fun way to live life, I would way rather climb some huge volcano with all my friends than save up for a dishwasher."
Nadia, a Rihanna stan on whether teenagers are becoming more political
"Most of my friend’s are interested in politics. Society is so unequal, you can see it with all the homeless people on the streets and the big shiny flat buildings. We are pissed off. It’s frustrating when you see other people being brainwashed by what their parents think. Some parents haven’t adapted to the social changes like us, who have grown up in a completely different society. I think we should have classes on politics in school and not just always focus on exams."
Camilla, an aspiring A&E nurse from Rochdale on relationships
"People seem to go out with their friends a lot and me and my friends swap boyfriends all the time, it isn’t that serious. I wouldn’t want to be one of those couples who just walk around glued together holding hands. Some of my friends have started having sex, people are always saying “wait for someone you really like”, which tbh could be forever and I don’t want to wait forever. I don’t remember the first time I bought a pizza and that was a momentous occasion, will I really care about losing my virginity? All the pressure for it to be amazing is the only thing traumatising me right now."
Nathan, a documentary film fan from Brighton on socialising
"I get £5 a week pocket money from my parents. I could get a job but I’m so lazy. My friend does a paper round and I just can’t imagine getting up that early. You can still have fun when you’re skint though (because obviously I don’t have to worry about rent or food), me and my friends sometimes break into the cinema, by telling staff we are just using the toilet and then slipping into a screening. If you get caught just be really, really polite and confused."
Ruchira, a gospel singer from Newcastle on mental health
"So many of my friends have anxiety and depression. It’s confusing. Were people always mentally ill but it was just never spoken about, or is the world just terrifying now and that’s why we are all suffering so much? Everyone is always saying “let’s open up the conversation” but I feel like it’s not that taboo to say you get anxious anymore, it’s just really hard to get actual help. I am incredibly lucky my parents can afford to pay for therapy, but if they weren’t I would probably be on the NHS waiting list for years. I always wonder what will happen when I have to get a job, if I say “it feels like my throat is closing up, I’m so anxious I can’t breathe”, will they still pay me to work for them?"
Jamie, an obsessive Fortnight fan from Dublin on video games
"Every time young people like anything or form their own culture, it feels like adults just want to rip it apart. Remember the massive freak-out that teenagers were ‘addicted’ to Pokémon Go? Now the Daily Mail’s saying we’re losing our minds over Fortnight. They don’t understand. I am really socially awkward and gaming helps me make friends. It’s fun escaping to a different world, just because that world is in a screen doesn’t make it evil. I’m glad 16-year-olds get that even if adults don’t."
This article originally appeared on i-D UK.