Millennials tend to feel nostalgia for eras they lived in and remember, says Linda Ong, the CEO and founder of Cultique, a company that studies cultural insights and trends. Think about all those Disney-themed palettes or “What Nickelodeon character are you?” Buzzfeed quizzes that dominated the internet in the mid- to late-2010s. Gen Z, of course, is different. “We call what they feel neo-nostalgia,” Ong explains. “It’s a nostalgia for a past generation, an era they weren’t around for. It’s a form of escapism, and that’s very attractive right now as we navigate a time where we don’t know what the future will look like.”
Mina Le, a 25-year-old New Yorker who frequently posts about vintage beauty from her TikTok @gremlita, says she’s drawn to ’20s and ’30s “on an aesthetic level.” “I naturally have a pretty big face with big eyes and pouty lips, and I feel called to that era, if that makes sense,” Le adds. “I love vintage fashion and started getting into vintage beauty when I realized that hair and makeup is everything in recreating an era’s look. I can wear a 1920s shift dress on its own and it’s an all-right vintage vibe for the day, but when I add the finger waves, I definitely feel ‘plucked’ from the era, which is a very cool experience.”
According to recent data Pinterest pulled for Allure, there’s some proof that most people aren’t going the full Spirit Halloween route or painting a total pastiche on their faces. In fact, searches for “1920s haircuts for long hair” — not the length you normally think of when conjuring images of Josephine Baker and other flapper icons — are up on the site more than four times in 2022 compared to last year. (Search terms for eyelash extensions, smoky eyes for hooded eyes, and vampy, dark lipstick have also seen a spike in popularity.)
Of course, The Great Gatsby — and its numerous film adaptations — is pop culture’s most visible and obvious example of 1920s glamour. Representatives for Pinterest shared that searches for “1920s Gatsby makeup” have increased five times since 2021. The F. Scott Fitzgerald novel also happens to be a sometimes painfully male-dominated, white, and heteronormative depiction of the era. Does a full flapper look pay homage to a past that wasn’t very pretty?