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Q+A with Digi: Has alcohol lost its cool?

Digi x Vice on drinking’s declining cred in pubs and pop culture


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Research shows that Gen Z are moving away from alcohol consumption and pop culture has shifted from glamourising heavy drinking. We spoke to Vice about young people’s nuanced and niche reasons for drinking (or not) – and the alternatives they turn to:

Vice: What have you noticed in the past decade when it comes to drinking culture and how attitudes have shifted among young people especially?

Digi: While the internet was quick to brand Gen Z as the new sober generation, there are nuances to how and why young generations choose to drink and not drink. Younger generations witnessed and lived through the rise (and fall) of wellness in the past decade, shaping a contradictory relationship with alcohol. On one hand, their nuanced understanding of health underpins a desire to avoid both the physical and mental risks of drinking (see also: #hangxiety), but on the other hand, their most formative, permitted-to-party, coming-of-age years were erased by a global pandemic – and some of them just want to let loose!

Vice: Do you think it's fair to say that binge drinking is no longer as “cool” as it was in the 2000s and 2010s? Why might that be?

Digi: It’s absolutely fair to say that binge drinking is no longer “cool”. In fact, alcohol has gone from “cool” to “complicated” today for younger generations. First, the soaring rate of inflation is bumping up prices of alcohol, club entrance fees, transport – making Gen Z pay the price for partying both in their health and their wallets. Second, being brought up by the internet, young people are highly vigilant of the risks of their drunken behaviour being filmed and permanently embedded on social media. Lastly, the dangers of drinking culture sadly continues to be defined by issues of spiking and sexual harassment. As fresh entrants to the party scene, young people, especially women, would rather avoid binge drinking to stay alert and safe.

Vice: What do you think young people now prefer doing (as opposed to binge drinking, like young millennials might have done)?

Digi: While binge drinking is no longer cool, that is not to say that the feeling of hedonism isn’t sought after. The death of the ‘clean girl’ aesthetic to make way for 'night-luxe' lifestyles can tell us that much – that desire for fun, glamour, adventure and indulgence prevails. The increase of illegal raves during lockdown, most of them hosted and attended by the youth, as well as Gen Z’s renewed interest in rave culture also illustrate this sentiment. Young people will still go to parties, raves and gigs because they want that experience of letting go and losing themselves (especially in a stressful, chaotic world), it’s just that they want to do it on their own terms – moderated and intentional. In other words, drinking is no longer a binary of staying sober versus binging. “Vices”, such as alcohol, drugs, partying and smoking, are not as black and white in the world of Gen Z – rather elements that could fit into their wider lifestyles alongside the “virtues” of fitness, nutrition, and so on. 

Vice: Do you think alcohol will ever come back in style? Why/why not?

Digi: Even though the idea of binge drinking has gone out of style, elements of drinking culture have managed to stay on Gen Z’s radar. As a nostalgic generation, Gen Z are exploring the indie sleaze era through fashion aesthetics, but have largely done away with the “sleaze” of heavy drinking that defined that very era. Similarly, the revival of rave culture and aesthetics are defined by visual expressions such as psychedelic colours and ‘90s silhouettes, without putting alcohol at the forefront. The steady growth of the ’night-luxe' aesthetic as mentioned earlier also involves alcohol motifs, but in a much more intentional way: sophisticated nights out with champagne and classy cocktails. Looking ahead, I can envision alcohol coming back in style by piggybacking on a new, thematic reference around lifestyle, fashion, history – truly reflecting Gen Z’s penchant for niche and newness. 

Read the full article by Daisy Jones here

✨ Contributing Fairies

  • Rachel Lee, Insights and Cultural Analyst

✨ Digi Reading Recs

  • Drinking Less and Living More: Alcohol-Free Brands Supporting Sober Curious Gen Zers (Voxburner, 2022)
  • Turns Out Gen Z Has One Surprising Drinking Habit (InsideHook, 2022
  • Insights into the Gen Z Drinker: Alcohol Consumption, Drinking Habits & Trends (Numerator, 2022)
  • Wellness is out and partying is in as Gen Z takes on a 'night luxe' aesthetic (Insider, 2022)

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