It is 2018. Love Island is gripping the nation. The streets are ringing with football songs, and for a brief time it seems like “it” might actually come home. We are in the midst of a 3-month heatwave – the parks and beaches are packed with people enjoying summer.

Four years later, it’s easy to romanticise this summer – just as it’s easy to airbrush out the division that football often brings, and selectively discard memories of dead grass and climate-change trepidation that accompanied the summer heatwave. Even Love Island leaves a bitter taste – we know now that Caroline Flack would take her own life, and that hers wouldn’t be the only suicide associated with the relaity show.

“I definitely feel more eager to go this year given what’s happened over the last couple years. I am looking forward to summer 2022, so I’m just hoping that the COVID cases will drop before I come to travel.”


TikTok hashtags and views









Source: TikTok, February 2022

And yet, nostalgia is intoxicating and irresistible. We can’t help but look back at pre-Covid through rose-tinted glasses – or in Gen Z’s case, 90’s brown-tinted sunglasses – and we can’t help but want that summer 2018 to return.

More so than any other generation, Gen Zs rely on the past to fuel their futures. Their immediate history is mapped against events that changed the world – from 9/11 to the financial crisis to COVID-19. So it’s not surprising that they saturate their present with a collage of historical moments from before they were born.

Nostalgia and fashion

Gen Z nostalgia has gone much deeper than being a trend – it’s a way of life. Y2K fashion has come to represent a more innocent, pre-internet time for these digital natives. Gen Zs’ collective interest hasn’t just resurrected clothing items – it’s brought entire brands back to life, pushing pieces long condemned to history into fast fashion collections, and finally onto runways. If we needed proof that Gen Z has the power to hijack the trend cycle, the Y2K revival is it – and given that over half of Gen Zs have bought something from TikTok, it’s clear that the financials are there to back it up.

As we entered 2022, TikTok turned its attention to other fashion trends from recent history – including Twee, which now has 84.1m views on TikTok, and the slightly more niche Indie Sleaze, which has 11.9m views.

Overwhelmingly, Gen Zs will quite literally wear their nostalgia this summer. 92% say that they buy clothes ahead of the summer months, making summer clothes the most popular spending vertical for this young demographic. Nostalgia will run through their outfits like a golden thread – after all, they spent lockdown reviving a whole back catalogue of vintage trends to pick from.

Nostalgia and nightlife

But there’s a more urgent, more recent nostalgia that will shape Gen Z’s summer in 2022. They are not just nostalgic for childhood – but for their first adult milestones that were torn away by Covid. This generation – so often characterised as sensible and sober – are finally ready to embrace nightlife. From March 2020 to March 2021, UK students’ interest in going “out-out” jumped from 46% to 58%. Now, in 2022, this has plateaued at around 56%. We’ll delve further into this in section three – Generation Adventure.

Nostalgia: the fuel of the summer

2022 will see Gen Z students reliving all of the moments that they’ve been looking back on – from sporting events and nightlife to holidays and adventures. Brands can recognise their role in fuelling this nostalgia – whether by your product ranges or your marketing, or a mix of both. Whether it’s in the clothing trends – Y2K updated with Twee and Indie Sleaze – or the activities, Summer 2022 will be fuelled by nostalgia.

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