The Look of 2009

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Sometimes decades start early; sometimes they start late.

The 1960s started with JFK’s assassination–until then, they were a lot like the 50s except with a young president whose economic policies were to the right of his Republican predecessor’s.

The 1970s culturally started with Woodstock in 1969. As Hunter S. Thompson pointed out in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Woodstock was not a celebration but a funeral. It marked the end of the hopeful part of whatever the 60s were and the beginning of the malaise of the 1970s. His example was dead on–the hippies switched from the mind expanding hallucinogens to the daze-inducing depressants like heroin, Quaaludes, and tulio.

The 80s? The US Olympic hockey team upset the Soviets in the Lake Placid Olympics, freeing Americans to, once again, wear the American flag and sing patriotic hymns. Frank Gifford tells a story of walking into a restaurant just as the game (carried locally on closed circuit) was ending. This was a posh, upscale restaurant and many of the clients were in Lake Placid on business, not to cheer on the US teams. When the buzzer sounded to end the game, the diners rose spontaneously and sang the Star-Spangled Banner, full-voiced, tears streaming down their cheeks.

The 1990s began when President George H. W. Bush threw up on the Japanese Prime Minister during dinner.

**The Double-Os started on 9/11/2001. **

The teens began just after Labor Day 2008 when Lehman Brothers collapsed and the government seized Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac–the proximate cause of the bubble and its corresponding pop.

The Teens Will Be a Time of Simplicity

While many of us still worry about our financial health in the coming years, we’d be lying if we didn’t admit to a certain sense of freedom. We’re free to stop pursuing more of everything and bigger of the rest.

Those of us in humbler homes won’t feel apologetic when we visit friends in McMansions. We won’t feel like bad parents because our kids' clothes come from Old Navy instead of Abercrombie. We won’t gauge our happiness by the number of HD channels we receive.

Simplifying Business

Companies that try to inflate their top lines will fail. Gross revenue will be far less important than profits after debt, which could become an important ratio in for the next decade.

But getting healthy bottom line under a decreasing top line will force many changes in many companies. The enterprise data center will be a thing of the past in companies that survive. I recently examined a company and found that switching to Gmail for email, calendars, IM, and tasks would save over $1,000 a year per employee, or 97 percent. Using Google for word processing, presentations, and spreadsheets could save another $500 a year. For a company of 1,000 employees, that’s $1.5 million a year. This company has 3,000 employees and could add $4.5 million it its bottom line–if it takes my advice.

Hierarchies will collapse under their own weight. The top line gross revenue sustains 6-layer management structures. Without inflated revenues, big chunks of bureaucracy and management layers will necessarily die. Smart companies will prune early in 2009; stupid companies will hack away in a panic mode around May. If you’re a middle manager, look up or down for your next job–the middle is going away.


Look at the hands. The era of 19 rings on 10 fingers is about to end. Simplicity requires reduction to the essentials. Coco Chanel’s advice will hold sway: “When accessorizing, always take off the last thing you put on.”

Hem lines will lengthen, and colors will darken. Brown suits and sport coats and dress shoes will rival black in popularity. Hairstyles will be shorter and more conservative.

Furnishing and Decorating

Minimalism dominates the coming 10 years. Ikea furniture, platform beds with no headboard or a very simple one. Floor space and wall space will become valued again. Decorations will stand out simply because they become more scarce. Value and quality replace price and quantity.

“The more the better,” gives way to “the better the better.”


Meaning, not sarcasm, rules. With smaller entertainment budgets, Americans will demand moving experiences and high quality in their entertainment choices. There will be fewer movies released, but better ones. There will be fewer television shows and networks.

Entertainment will become more active and less passive. Movies, concerts, TV are all passive forms of entertainment. But 30 years ago, entertainment usually meant doing things with friends and family. Look for that old definition to return. People will entertain instead of being entertained.

Living Pace

All of these trends culminate in a drastic change to the speed of life. We will move more slowly in the coming decade. We’ll save for that luxury or that vacation rather than borrowing for them. We’ll get things in time. All in good time.

This deceleration seems liberating, too. Instead of the race to be the first, we’ll plan to be the best. We’ll share experiences rather than dominate conversations. We’ll show up instead of showing off. Family rooms and corner bars will become the new chat rooms. Multitasking will sound like a pathology.

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