In 2020, the designers of the Swoosh Brand released a new model in the Air Max range that would both honour the history of the legends and be a shoe for a new generation. The Nike Air Max 2090 uses the same DNA that made the Air Max 90 iconic over 30 years ago, whilst showing what the future can bring.

Icons just happen, says DJ Clark Kent in a video by Nike. For a sneaker to become iconic, people have to make it so, he continues. So why are we - and that means everyone under 30 - still dancing to Beatles songs and celebrating shoes from the 90s today? Do the younger generations (millennials, Gen Y and Z) just follow trends instead of blossoming in passion?

Today's youth culture

Jugendkultur
in HERO, photographed by Brandon Wilkins

First of all, Mark Ritson, Marketing Professor at Melbourne Business School and Singapore Management University writes: "What is all this Gen Y, Z, Millennials bullsh*t? Brains don't change in a decade. We're still driven by the same goals as our ancestors." Yet today's youth are shaping their identities in an environment like never before.

Because goals and milestones do change. A study by ZAK Agency shows that the milestones of the under-30s in 2017 are not the same as those of their parents and grandparents.

Although the focus is on Generation Z, we also look at the other two. They were either born in times of crisis, such as the attacks of 11 September 2001 or the financial crisis of 2008, or experience them, like the current pandemic, from a completely different perspective on the world.

"Gen Z only knows a world where things don't make sense or are falling apart, and they look to the rest of us to do something about it. On top of that, they look at it through the lens of technology."

Alain Sylvain, Founder and Managing Director of the Strategy and Design Consultancy Sylvain Labs

Social media

Neuroscience explains that adolescents behave differently than usual in the presence of their peers. They act inappropriately, they are irrational and take more risks. But this presence of others is no longer something you move in and out of. It is always there, because it is constantly commented on, liked, seen, read, shared. We are always being observed and at the same time we are always observing. In the process, hyper-sensitivity to peers collides with the social connectedness of our world.

ZAK Agency

Young people, like probably everyone else at that age, do not agree with the attitudes of the older generations. They resist labels, cross borders, break binary choices. There is no compromise, no alternative. The younger generations will not live by outdated rules while they see a world that is no longer made for them and restricts their self-development.

The security in which our parents lived and the prosperity they earned seems unattainable for the younger generations today. While young people discover, experience and shape their personality and identity via and through social media, they are shown riches that are far removed from any reality. The perfect ideal world, the perfect body, the perfect self-realisation.

ZAK Agency

But to blame only social media would be incomplete. Here, too, there is a shift in thinking towards vulnerability and imperfection. It is important to learn how to deal with the platforms in a reflective way.

Where have all the Rebels gone?

Rebellion in itself is nothing new, of course, nor is change. Most importantly, social media and the connectivity via it can also inspire and even force cultural shifts, even landslides. While the punks had to grow up and find a job at some point, the younger generation is freed from this by technology.

They are a bit rebellious, very socially conscious and perhaps the most savvy generation when it comes to risk, creativity and invention, says Sylvain. In the 50s and 60s, people rebelled against innocence or authority, later Generation X revolted against the establishment, for Millennials it was about shunning the conventional idea of adulthood and the milestones that come with it, like getting married or buying a house at a certain age.

"If Millennials shunned the system to pursue their own personal purpose, Gen Z is hacking the system to achieve collective progress. For them, work is a medium to fulfil their desire to change the world. Work is an extension of that aspiration."

Alain Sylvain

The truth is that younger generations are revolting in different ways than previous ones did. For example, Gen Z activists in Hong Kong used a sophisticated act of rebellion by staging a virtual anti-government protest via the video game Animal Crossing.

The Nike Air Max 2090

Scottie Beam believes that you can take something iconic and make it better, as long as you respect what came first. Is it the same with the Nike Air Max 2090 and its big brother AM90?

To honour the legend, the AM2090 adopts the mudguard, which is seen as a key element of its prototype. The AM90 Casette, which surrounds the Air unit, also remains. Furthermore, the heel logo is similarly implemented in the new model of the Nike Air Max 2090.

The idea behind the design is to develop a shoe for the young generation and thus create an icon with its own identity. Creative and DJ Masta Lee wants his generation to encourage young people to do things their own way.

In July 2020, Nike released a campaign featuring singer Rosalía. She says: "The future is not something you wait for, it's something you do."

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air max 2090
rosalia.vt

Rebellion, Hype, Future

Now the question remains whether this model can be emblematic of the rebellion, of the cultural development of a generation. After one year, it is difficult and almost impossible to say. What is undisputed is that the Nike Air Max 2090 is trendy and many wear it with pleasure.

In a time when everything has already been invented, when everything in the previous forms of art has been rebelled against, when we are constantly pushing against new standards, it is really difficult to create something truly new. By making it ours, what you and I have created because we are unique, we can still succeed. We must and will find new ways, like all before us and like all after us.