Millennial culture is deeply uncool. But one thing could save it: a rebrand.

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Millennial culture is deeply uncool. But one thing could save it: a rebrand.
Calling ourselves Gen Y instead of millennials is neutral, unencumbered by a decade's worth of negative stereotyping.Nadia Bormotova/Getty Images
  • Millennials have been facing an existential crisis now that we are no longer the most en-vogue generation.
  • It's all very triggering, as we've faced eye rolls from all directions our entire adult lives.
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For millennials, it's been a brutal and steady fall from a decade-long grip to hold onto relevance.

Unlike other generations who were able to naturally drift away from coolness as they aged out of their youth, millennials have had their cool cards mercilessly snatched away over the last few years. Those in their mid-20s to early-40s emerged from the pandemic realizing they no longer set the trends in fashion, media, and other taste-making paradigms: There was a new kid in town — or 72 million of them, to be exact.

The real nail in the coffin came on March 29, 2021, when we were (by way of the New York Times, of all places) introduced to "cheugy," a term that means "basic" or "boring" and became associated with millennial women. It was over for us. This was no longer about skinny jeans, emoji use, or any of the other superficial markers of coolness that had been artificially inflated to push the narrative of a so-called intergenerational culture war. This was about the very essence of millennialhood being passé.

To be called cheugy was — and to use a term that unites the two most online generations — triggering. Throughout the early 2010s, millennials faced an onslaught of derision from older generations who painted an unflattering caricature of our demographic: flighty employees who can be wooed away from any job with the promise of bean bags and ping-pong tables, profligate spenders whose avocado habit was to blame for lack of home ownership, selfie-obsessed to such a degree that a $20 billion industry sprung from it.

@povbrookewyatt things I think are #cheugy #fyp #fy #HotwireHotelGoals #TakisTransformation #contentcreator #cheugyfashion #outdated ♬ Elevator Music - Bohoman

We spent the last decade trying to shake this reputation. Millennials were, in fact, buying homes (the lucky ones were, at least); they were having kids; founding successful companies; and beginning to outnumber previous generations. By 2020, just as we settled in, we faced another round of scathing attacks from our younger siblings. Gen Zers told us we were not as progressive as we thought; they turned our morals and founding principles of our psyche into memes; and — seemingly out of nowhere — they took over the role of being the buzzy generation.

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With that, I've noticed a troubling resignation among millennials at our exposed-brick coffee shops and monstera-filled coworking spaces. Friends my age, many still bespectacled and Lego-haired (albeit with hints of aging appearing at the temples) are too tired to keep fighting with boomers and too traumatized by the resurgence of Y2K fashion to keep up with Gen Z.

@maholaughsalot Why Gen Z has so many cool stuff #millenial #millenialsoftiktok #genzheart #mepracticing #genzvsmillenial ♬ Zou Bisou Bisou - Gillian Hills

This troubles me. It is not the fighting spirit I expect to see from the generation that girlbossed its way to the top of corporate ladders, and taught itself to code to change the background color on our MySpace profiles. We are, after all, a group of fresh-faced, uncynical but questioning, norm-breaking, boundary-rethinking group who graduated into a recession in 2012 and still managed to pioneer industries that were not yet fully formed.

So what would a millennial do to combat our frittering relevance?

And then it hit me: a rebrand.

It's the ultimate millennial solution — we've already ostensibly rebranded everything from baths ("self-care") and pets ("fur babies") to veganism ("plant-based") and even golf. Millennials are the generation of branding. We think about branding so much that most of us have instinctively branded and rebranded our very being.

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The word "millennial" to refer to our generation was coined in 1991, when the oldest millennial was just 10 years old, according to NPR. We never claimed this word, which the Wall Street Journal identified as a "snotty term" that functions as "snide shorthand" to denote disdain for the behaviors and attitudes of young people.

It's time to retire "millennial" and rebrand our demographic with the term it deserves: Generation Y.

Calling ourselves Gen Y is neutral, unencumbered by a decade of negative stereotyping. It's also harder to pit generations against each other when they sound similar. But, most importantly, it positions us exactly where we belong on the generational spectrum: in between our friends, generations X and Z. It's where we belong because millennials are not the snowflakes we've been conditioned into thinking we are. We're just like everyone else, who, once upon a time were young, and are now a bit less young.

While each generation may have its unique outlook on life, shaped by social developments and tech innovations, most of what identifies the buzzy generation of any given moment is its youth — and that's something we've all experienced.

Gen X was once where we were, and Gen Z will face it, I predict, much faster than previous generations as the cycle of trends continues to accelerate.

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So with that, identifying no longer as a "millennial" but as a Gen Yer, I stand on the shoulders of Gen X and gladly relinquish the mantel of relevance and coolness to Gen Z. I bid adieu with one single piece of wisdom: Let them call you whatever they want; just don't ever ever let them call you "zoomers."

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