One thing I've noticed after working in Center City for 36 years – aside from the fact that the young people seem to be getting far more numerous and far younger than ever before – is that so few people dress for work. No one's going to congratulate me for that insight and, by writing such a sentence, I know I've relegated myself to old-fogeydom, but so be it. I also understand that in the high-tech heyday 10 years ago, the techie kids wore sweats and jeans to distinguish themselves from the suits. But something else is going on now.
The guys wearing the jeans are not 22 or 23; they're more like 40 to 45, even 50. And occasionally, there's somebody who looks well into his 60s – and I'm not talking about those sensitive middle-aged men with ponytails. Those guys may be pushing 65.
The only sensible answer I got about this societal trend came in the April 3 issue of New York magazine. Now, New York prides itself on being ahead of the curve on such things, but most of the time, it seems to make the trends up. But their analysis of this new emphasis on youth, in an article titled "Up With Grups" by Adam Sternbergh, seemed dead-on to me.
First, let's get that word "grups" cleared up. The editors provided a definition: "Also known as yupster (yuppie + hipster), yindie (yuppie + indie), and alterna-yuppie. Our preferred term, grup, is taken from an episode of 'Star Trek' (keep reading) in which Captain Kirk et al. land on a planet of children who rule the world, with no adults in sight. The kids call Kirk and the crew 'grups,' which they eventually figure out is a contraction of 'grown-ups.' It turns out that all the grown-ups had died from a virus that greatly slows the aging process and kills anybody who grows up."
Another way to describe this new creature (who, according to the article, is not solely male, though "he" is the pronoun used, and the bulk of the artwork accompanying the piece depicts males) was provided in the subhead to the piece: "He owns 11 pairs of sneakers, hasn't worn anything but jeans in a year, and won't shut up about the latest 'Death Cab for Cutie' CD. But he is no kid. He is among the ascendant breed of grown-up who has redefined adulthood as we once knew it and killed off the generation gap."
According to the article, a lot of what is going on with grups is wanting to raise cool kids, and then staying as cool as the kids they've just raised. That means you all enjoy the same music and never have a bit of discord. (That's the killing off of the generation-gap business.)
Being a grup also has to do with not taking your job as seriously as our own fathers did. As a pullquote says: "For a grup, professional success is measured not by how many employees you have but how much freedom you have to walk, or boogie-board, away." As the author notes, being a grup generally means not simply holding on to youth but about "rejecting a hand-me-down model of adulthood that asks, or even necessitates, that you let go of everything you ever felt passionate about."
Speak for yourself, pal!