If you don’t want to reveal your age in our office I suggest that you steer clear of any conversation involving cars, televisions, home phones or cameras. Anyone under 30 will probably have none of the above and, what’s more important, not lust after any of them either.
We are of course talking about a particular demographic here – lots of team Monocle have come to London from other cities so they try to stay centrally if possible to make the most of the experience (so bike wins over car), they have often lived in numerous apartments (who’d want a landline?), and they are young (why stay at home and watch TV?).
But the Monocle mindset is being replicated all over the western world, especially the urban one. Last week the Federal Highway Administration in the US reported that the number of 14 to 34 year olds without a driver’s licence rose to 26 per cent from 21 per cent a decade earlier. Meanwhile the use of cycling, public transport and two feet among 16 to 34 year olds rose.
Sure, some of this may be down to blunt economics: if you think the chances of losing your job are high, you’re unlikely to take out a loan for a car. But there are many other small yet significant shifts taking place here – and all ones that must have everyone from car manufacturers to camera makers quaking.
First there’s the urban shift. The rush to suburbia is over; people want to live in the hearts of their cities – and not just during their student years. They will sacrifice space for location and so the ultimate city luxury becomes not owning a car but being able to walk to work. It is not an embarrassment but a boast to say that you have no car. Plus, where would you park it?
Next there’s that new old bogey: social media. Photographs on a camera serve no purpose to most people under 30. A picture is something to be instantly shared, forwarded. I have just bought a baby Leica that I nurse in my coat pocket but if I am on the road with any colleague who is under 30 they will be camera-free and content with the odd BlackBerry shot.
Then there’s the flight from quality. People used to say that the demise of Concorde was one of the only examples of technology going backwards but today this is the norm. Sure a few (ie old) people want hi-def giant TVs but anyone under 30 in my office will only have watched their favourite show on a laptop – unless they happened to be staying with their grandparents (or round my house).
And then there’s the nagging feeling that there’s an expanding group of people who are, or have been forced to be, less materialistic. Pushed out of the housing market, more likely to move cities for work, getting hitched later and later – all these things have combined to make an anti-consumer time-bomb. It’s created a group of people – often earning good money – who are unwilling or less willing to be defined by what’s in their homes and garages.
So if you do want to impress a date in the future with your youthfulness, I recommend you make it clear your apartment is tiny but central, you can’t give them a lift home in your car because you don’t have one but tell them to bring their laptop round sometime and you can watch a movie together. They’ll think you are 27 tops. Believe me it works better than Botox.