Student Journalists School WW on What’s Hot and What’s Not

Time to put on your Neymar jersey and guzzle a Rebel energy drink.

Trends (McKenzie Young-Roy)

For a teenager, there are probably few things as irritating as trying to explain TikTok to a 30-something who still has a Facebook account.

Nevertheless, two groups of student journalists—one from Cleveland High School, one from Metropolitan Learning Center—gamely answered my questions as I quizzed them about trends. Questions were divided into six categories: coffee shops, fashion, film and TV, music, restaurants and social media.

In many instances, the answers were surprising, and the interviewees didn’t always agree. Still, we were able to sum up what we learned in six lessons.

1. Starbucks is done. So is coffee.

When it comes to coffee shops, the students we polled have wildly different tastes. All of them, however, seemed to agree on one thing: Starbucks is out. “[Starbucks] is really expensive compared to Dutch,” says Molly, 16. “A sandwich and a drink is like 10 bucks.”

Dutch, of course, is Dutch Bros, where the hip drink isn’t coffee but the Rebel, which Evie, 16, describes as “like a Red Bull slushie with flavoring in it.” In fact, the topic of energy drinks in general solicited more enthusiasm than coffee. “Coffee’s out and Monsters are in,” Hotch, 16, says bluntly.

While plenty of students perked up as they discussed Dutch Bros, others groaned at the very mention of it, favoring quirkier options, like Milwaukie’s Great American Video & Espresso (where Nico, 17, recommends the mint hot chocolate).

2. Baggy is better. For now.

Students were more unified on the subject of fashion, with several mentioning the current preference for loose-fitting clothing, including soccer jerseys.

“I’ve noticed jerseys are really in, but done in a very specific way, and paired with something you wouldn’t normally pair a jersey with,” Evie says. “Like with a skirt. Because of the World Cup, everyone fell in love with Neymar. Mainly girls have been wearing them.”

Hotch, meanwhile, noted the popularity of “baggy clothing and then tighter clothing on top—like a really baggy long-sleeved T-shirt [tucked into] some sort of bra. Which sounds like it would look tacky, but a lot of people can pull it off and it looks cool, actually.”

That said, Sarah, 17, warns that the baggy look is already starting to fade from Cleveland hallways: “Really, really baggy jeans were in, but now they’re kind of going out.”

3. Movies and TV shows are dead. Or are they?

Conventional wisdom suggests Gen Z prefers interactive media like video games to film and television. For some students, the stereotype rings true. “I don’t like movies for some reason,” Nico says. “If I ever go to the theater, it stresses me out. I like video games mainly.”

Other answers painted a more complicated picture. Nash, 18, says he enjoys the strategic challenges of the Hitman game series, but also likes the films of arthouse auteur James Gray (Ad Astra, Armageddon Time).

As for television, not one student mentioned the show of the moment, HBO’s The Last of Us. But there was love for older series, including Breaking Bad, Shameless and BoJack Horseman, the animated Netflix saga about an embittered humanoid horse (voiced by Will Arnett).

“I feel like a lot of that content is relatable to a lot of kids of this generation,” Zayn, 15, says. “And it’s comforting to see [trauma and parent issues] portrayed in a comedic way and a messed-up way. It’s a stupid show that’s good at the same time.”

4. Music means catharsis.

In a post-pandemic world, it’s not surprising that teens are embracing the doomy theatrics of heavy metal. “It’s good rage music,” says Tee, 16, citing Slipknot, Metallica and Korn.

Nico voiced a similar preference for maximalist music. “I like electronic music,” he says. “Not really like lyric songs, though. I just like loud noises—dubstep and stuff. I mainly like it because when I listen to it, I imagine action scenes or something in my head.”

Others voiced less apocalyptic tastes, mentioning artists like Morgan Wallen, Drake, Lana Del Rey, and especially Taylor Swift, who earned admiration for her versatility. “She’s done a lot of genres,” Sarah says. “She started in country, now she’s in pop, she’s done indie. There’s a wide audience.”

5. You’re never too old to be on a budget.

Inflation loomed over our conversations about restaurants, as students fretted about the rising costs of food. Price and convenience dominated answers, with chains like Chipotle, Subway and Laughing Planet singled out as favorites.

Still, a few surprise picks came up, including Hawaiian restaurant Ate-Oh-Ate in the Buckman neighborhood, and Northwest Portland’s Coffee Time, where Nico, the hot chocolate connoisseur, enjoys spending the long Wednesday lunch hour with a grilled cheese and a cup of cocoa.

Overall, though, restaurants were best summed up by one particularly forthright Cleveland student: “Anything not expensive.”

6. TikTok goes the Gen Z clock.

Yes, Gen Zers love TikTok as much as you’ve heard. Particularly popular on the app are “day in my life” videos (one with a private chef in the Hamptons got a shout-out) and “get ready with me” segments. “It’s not like a tutorial,” Evie explained. “They just talk while they do their makeup.”

Still, students expressed antipathy toward social media (three at Metropolitan Learning Center said they weren’t on any platforms). And the supposed rise of the Metaverse hasn’t impressed teens, including an MLC student who says, “Everything except Facebook.”

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