what even is gen z yellow and should we care about it?
Millennial pink, but make it horrible.
If Gen Z Yellow is going to happen — and the fabulously shady cabal who rule fashion with iron fists and velvet gloves have decided that yes, we are going to make Gen Z Yellow happen — then it will probably need a snappier name. Millennial Pink works. Gen Z Yellow doesn’t roll off the tongue. It is a lame unimaginative sequel. A trend riding the success of another trend. It needs a new name. A name that encapsulates everything that this color stands for, as a statement, a way of life, and as a symbol for how we are living in 2018.
It is not easy though. Wolk Yolk? Next Gen Citrus? Nu Daffodil? Gen-Zedder-Cheddar? Yung Banana? We are scraping the barrel. It is harder than it looks to be a youth marketing whizz, a branded lifestyle boffin, or a fashion forecasting swami. Harder than it seems, to combine the arbitrary media-given name for a group of people born within a certain span of years, and a color plucked at random from the Pantone directory. Yet someone has to do it. And even with the dodgy name it seems like it is happening, it is a thing now: it was spotted walking up and down the spring/summer 18, and fall/winter 18 catwalks. Press releases keep on appearing trumpeting it as the new thing. Sales of yellow are up! up! up!
The problem with making Gen Z Yellow (which we will stick with for now) a thing is that it feels so forced. Millennial Pink just worked. An instantly understandable banner for a generation obsessed with easy visual symbols. Millennial pink is asexual liberation, the easiest possible fuck you to gendered dressing. It is effortless softness, a cozy and non-committal revolutionary act. It is something snuggly and unthreatening. A little daring without any devotion.
Millennial pink was perfect for the halcyon days of early 2016, before Trump and Brexit laced up their jackboots and goose-stepped all over our generation’s virtue signaling woke-language-meme Twitter philosophers. Back then the personal was political: we were happy growing out our armpit hair, #freeingthenipple, and making Instagram stars out of talentless hot alt-beauty tweenagers. Teen Vogue wasn’t even woke yet. And now the political is very political again. We are all going to die in a horrific nuclear holocaust. Conscripted cannon-fodder as World War Three rolls across the bomb ravaged plains of Greater North Korea. Gen Z Yellow is the color for these end-times. Sexual freedom replaced with dangerous agitation, nervous anxiety, apocalyptic beauty. Come, Armageddon! Come!
It is not mellow being yellow. Yellow is analogous with society’s outcasts and outsiders, its unwanted and persecuted, its villains and monsters. A color traditionally association with Judas Iscariot, who in Christian mythology is also considered a bit of a bad dude. In medieval Spain they made non-Christians wear yellow. In Italy they refer to crime stories as giallo, Italian for yellow. Yellow’s had its moments though, in visual art, it was loved by Gauguin, Miro, Van Gogh, who all transformed this historically unloved color into something beautiful.
But it is not the loveliest color. Sickly and pallid and jaundiced. To look wonderful in yellow is not an easy task. Unless you are Beyoncé smashing a car window in with a baseball bat in Lemonade, but Beyoncé would look wonderful smashing a car window in with an baseball bat even if she was dressed in Look 16 of Olivier Lapidus’s first Lanvin collection. Fashion moments not featuring Beyoncé but dedicated to the color yellow, and which are also good, are few and far between. There was Emma Watson in a big yellow dress in Beauty and the Beast, or Emma Stone in La La Land. But both are a bit too garish and mushy. For genuine good yellow stuff, look at Kirsten Dunst in a yellow bikini in a swimming pool, holding a millennial pink rose, in W Mag in 2014, leads the recent pack. Another personal fave is Linda Evangelista in Italian Vogue, in a very big, yellow Valentino coat. It’s never been a big mainstream fashion color, because generally, it will not make you look good. It will make Beyoncé and Kirsten Dunst and Linda Evangelista look good, because they already look amazing. But us schmucks? No.
Yet here we are. Kowtowing to the trend dictators again, buying stuff in yellow because we’re told it is now the color for right now. Which is why they are just as many articles with titles like What even is Gen Z Yellow? as there are with titles like Gen Z Yellow makes me look like Millennial Custard so how do I wear it?
These are all Very Important Questions we need to answer. Right away. Because, god-willing, it will be summer soon, and if you can get away with wearing yellow it will be during the summer. Some random tips for wearing yellow gleaned from the internet: pair it with other colors; get a yellow accessory; don’t wear too much yellow; make the yellow a pattern. And on. And on. Basically no one knows how to wear yellow, or wants to, because all the tips for wearing yellow involve wearing as little yellow as possible. Which is very Gen Z tbh, who are very into looking bad on purpose in a very stylised way. So it is no surprise that Balenciaga — who are the best at doing horrible stuff that actually looks really great — are doing a lot of yellow at the moment; bright squelching yellows all over T-Shirts and sneakerss.
Gen Z Yellow takes two forms; this incendiary Balenciaga-danger-yellow, as well as something softer and cozier. Gen Z Yellow is amorphous, unstable, and variable, just like kids these days. Alongside Balenciaga, Prada pushed Gen Z Yellow as bright and aggressive, a warning, a sign of defense. The fall/winter 18 collection was full of acidic neons, a sporty-rave-feminist dream of clothing as protection as well as visual statement (again very Gen Z).
On the quieter end of the Gen Z Yellow spectrum, Kaia Gerber made her catwalk debut at Calvin Klein in a pair of soft, silk, yellow trousers for spring/summer 18. It was — alongside its cousin, hi-vis orange — all over the Calvin Klein’s fall/winter 18 collection too. In a kind of dust-blown, end-of-the-world vibe. There then were big comfy yellow sweaters at Burberry. Yellow was the color that Nicolas Ghesquière hung his whole fall/winter 18 collection around. Coats, bags, trims, details, shirts, it was all yellow. A very gentle, very grown up, very mature take on the color.
And where the catwalks goes, the masses follow. But this piece was really brought on not by the whims of high fashion dictators, but by a press release from Liberty London, who announced that sales of Gen Z Yellow clothing in store had gone up 908%, which feels like a lot of yellow. A lot of yellow that says a lot about the world right now. We are in love with Gen Z Yellow because the world is a difficult place, because we are no longer obsessed with easy beauty. Because yellow reflects all that. So try it out. Buy something yellow. It’s in. It’s now. You can do it. To sign off, with some wise advice from InStyle: “With determination everyone can wear yellow.”
This article originally appeared on i-D UK.