According to a Pew Research study, there is a generational gap in American patriotism. Millennials are not as patriotic as older generations: only 32% believe America is the greatest county in the world, compared to Gen X (48%) and Boomers (50%). But out in the wild, Millennials are putting on a starkly different game face, and instead are redefining American patriotism.
During Lollapalooza in Chicago, the Millennial take on patriotism was a sight to be seen. Any which way my head turned, there was either a young female in red white and blue tie-dyed cut-off shorts, a group of guys in American flag brotanks, or someone rocking patriotically-striped bell-bottom pants with a matching vest. Had I overlooked some American holiday? Were Chicagoans still celebrating the U.S. winning the Gold Cup soccer tournament the weekend before? Nope. It turns out the American Flag has become one the latest ‘hot’ fashion accessories, a craze that began to emerge in 2012.
The timing makes sense considering a few major events where people needed to wear their patriotism: the Summer 2012 London Olympics and the American Presidential election. However, there was another unexpected force driving people to deck themselves out in the stars and stripes: Americana Music.
Americana Music, a hybrid mix of roots (think country, bluegrass and folk) and acoustic styles is growing in popularity, and Americana bands and artists such as Mumford & Sons, The Lumineers, and Eric Church are given coveted spots at Lollapalooza. In fact, the number of people rocking out at live Americana shows has increased by 40% in the last two years. And watching Millennial guys in their American flag-patterned tank tops sprint to the Lake Shore stage to watch Eric Church croon or the crowd chanting “U-S-A” before 80s rock band New Order took the stage are just further proof points.
Like any passionate NFL fan who sports their team's jersey on game day or brands their car with a San Diego Chargers lightning bolt, Millennials are wearing America as a badge to show their membership in Team USA. It’s not just the music or patriotic fashion Millennials are flocking towards, but the camaraderie built around something common to all Americans. They are reaching for new ways to connect with others, and wearing symbols of the flag of the country we live in, chanting “U-S-A”, and swaying together to Americana music just provide an outlet for our US (not We) generation to come together.