Old fashioned underwear back in style
Published: 00:06 BST, 7 May 2017 | Updated: 00:06 BST, 7 May 2017
In an age of OMGs and LOLs, it seems that good old-fashioned manners may be making a comeback. As dating and socialising have become ever more virtual, and thus distanced from basic human niceties, there are signs that millennials are hankering for crumbs of the gentler world in which their predecessors came of age.
Good old-fashioned manners are making a comeback amongst millennials, according to Charlotte Pearson Methven
In some cases this means re-adopting traditions that, at first glance, may seem outdated. A recent survey by wedding-planning website The Knot revealed that, today, a staggering 77 per cent of grooms-to-be ask permission from their future bride’s family before proposing, a figure that is on the increase.
But this is not a step back into the Dark Ages: the tradition applies just as much to same-sex marriages, and the new norm is to ask both father and mother for their blessing, explains William Hanson, author of The Bluffer’s Guide to Etiquette.
‘This has nothing to do with seeing a woman as property; it’s not patriarchal, it’s a mark of respect for the family and a sign of commitment.
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‘What with the post-Brexit wave of intolerance and Trump offending everyone with his Twitter rants, I think people are realising that respect for others – which is really all that good manners are – is necessary,’ he continues.
‘Young people are starting to see the value of etiquette. Some like to write this off as an old-fashioned concept, but etiquette will always be relevant, because it’s about human interaction.’
Hanson thinks we owe more than a bit of thanks for this to one person in particular: the Duchess of Cambridge.
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‘Before she came along, girls wanted to be like Katie Price. Now, they want to be like Kate. To have role models like her and William, and Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, who are polite and don’t say and do awful things, is great for young people to see. Kate is a normal, middle-class girl who worked hard, did well, played by the rules of society…and now she’s going to be the queen.’
This is in sharp contrast to the drunken antics of actresses such as Lindsay Lohan and twerking Miley Cyrus. Plus, one need only look to the popularity of ‘modesty dressing’ championed by designers such as Victoria Beckham – think midi-skirts and high-necked tops – to see where young women are finding their fashion inspiration.
Going up: meaningful 'experiences', such as mindfulness courses
The new decorum taking hold isn’t confined to the realm of courtship, but it can be seen in the declining popularity of dating apps. ‘Tinder fatigue’ is a term often bandied about these days, as people turn from virtual dating towards more traditional means of meeting a partner, such as supper parties.
Catching the mood, the dating app Hinge rebranded itself last year to highlight its more ‘personal’ (ie, non-hook-up-centric) approach, and now asks users questions such as, ‘What are your favourite simple pleasures?’ to make appropriate matches.
And when it comes to ending relationships, ‘power parting’ (breaking it off with clear, respectful communication) and ‘conscious uncoupling’ are now prized as more decorous ways to exit than ‘ghosting’ or a toxic divorce.
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What’s more, a recent survey revealed that 66 per cent of 18 to 34-year-olds believe it is ‘never acceptable’ to cheat on a partner, as compared to just 46 per cent of the older generation. It’s clear that people are aspiring to kindness, respect and ‘good’ behaviour.
This is also evidenced in the way that we, as a society, treat the young and the old. I was left speechless when a prominent female cast member of Made in Chelsea offered my toddler daughter her seat on the London Underground. I also witnessed a young woman give her seat to a man who had an infant strapped to his front – an old rule given a modern twist.
Going down: Katie Price and boozing
‘A lot has been said about the millennials and how they are “snowflakes” [obsessed with ‘safe spaces’ and prone to taking offence] who act like spoiled brats in the face of any difference of opinion. But in our experience, rudeness is a genuine stressor for young people. It is important to them to have manners and feel they are a good person who can walk tall in the world,’ says Michaela McCarthy, a psychotherapist and director of The Awareness Centre in London.
Going down: millennials would sooner pick cross stitching over clubbing
‘It upsets them to see rudeness, such as queue-jumping, and it is important to their sense of self that they do not behave like this.’
One upside to the ubiquity of smartphones – with their unavoidable time display – is that punctuality is improving, according to Hanson.
‘Once, when you were invited somewhere, it was customary to be a quarter of an hour late, but nowadays people have a greater appreciation for how busy our lives are and tend to arrive bang on time – and leave on time, too.’
THE PILLARS OF POLITE SOCIETY
The couple The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. They never put a foot wrong and always smile and fulfil their duties.
They also get points for having met as fellow students at university, not drunk in a nightclub.
The film La La Land. No raunchy sex or sordid characters, just lashings of optimism and demure twirling.
Who else noticed the lukewarm reaction among millennials to the recent Bridget Jones film? Bridget is not an icon in these newly decorous times.
The labels Modesty dressing trumps flesh-baring these days: see the classic designs of Erdem, Victoria Beckham and Emilia Wickstead.
Minis and low-cut tops are out. Wide-leg trousers, midi-dresses and pencil skirts are in.
The icons Clever actresses such as Emma Watson and Emma Stone. They take on weighty roles, rarely – if ever – have their personal lives in the press, and don’t talk about their relationships, which have a fairly low turnover rate.
They never dress inappropriately and they speak up for women’s issues. You would describe them as talented and pretty before calling them sexy.
The TV shows Period dramas from The Crown to Victoria reflect a harking back to more demure times.
The excellence of streamed television today has contributed hugely to the preference for decorous evenings in over nights out partying.
The music Pop music is out. Millennials would far rather listen to mind-enhancing podcasts.
This may be part of a slow-growing reaction against the casualness of virtual invitations that no one can be bothered to respond to. ‘None of my friends does Facebook invites any more,’ one graphic designer in her early 30s tells me.
‘I’ve noticed there are fewer big parties; instead, people are favouring intimate dinners in their homes, to which guests are invited by phone.’
And perhaps there are early signs of a reaction against our selfie-obsessed culture.
One 20-something blogger and activist has noticed a shift away from this, especially while socialising: ‘The done thing now is to put your phone away and to engage with the people you are with. If you do need to check it, you apologise then put it away again as soon as possible.’
McCarthy adds: ‘Young people mind if their friends’ attention is elsewhere and aim to follow a simple rule: you be nice to me and I’ll be nice to you.’
The same 20-something tells me: ‘Another change is that it’s no longer considered acceptable not to say hello to those who you see in passing on a regular basis.
'I am now on first-name terms with everyone who works in my local grocer in East London. A happy side-effect of this is that there is a greater sense of community.’
Today’s young are partying less, too, and not just because they can’t afford to.
A survey by Heineken revealed that 75 per cent of millennials now drink in moderation on a night out (many citing ‘self-awareness’ and ‘being in control’ as reasons).
‘I prefer cross stitching to clubbing,’ a 21-year-old columnist wrote recently. And where once ‘ladettes’ aped the behaviour of beery men (typified by the likes of DJs Zoë Ball and Sara Cox and so prolific that they spawned the noughties reality TV show Ladette to Lady), today women celebrate their femininity and typically behave in a way that is more refined and demands respect.
Going down: the drunken antics of actresses such as Lindsay Lohan and Miley Cyrus
‘My friends and I would rather spend money on meaningful “experiences”,’ another millennial tells me. ‘A mindfulness course or mini-break to the Lake District trumps an evening in a club.’
And spending on such experiences is at a peak, according to the Office for National Statistics, so it’s hedonism, not leisure, that’s in decline. When they do drink, health-conscious millennials favour quality over quantity: their tipple of choice, a responsibly brewed artisan beer, the cost justified by drinking less.
Even hen parties have taken a demure turn: one recent bride held a simple afternoon tea on a barge for her send-off from single life.
From left: Emilia Wickstead and Erdem S/S 17 shows and Emma Watson
And wedding rules have adapted, too: Pippa Middleton made headlines with her ‘no ring, no bring’ policy for her upcoming nuptials, effectively banning her fiancé’s brother Spencer Matthews from inviting his new squeeze, model Vogue Williams.
In doing so she made clear that unless a relationship is serious enough to ‘put a ring on it’ it needn’t be accorded the honour of an invitation to such a special event.
Thank-you note writing is another polite convention experiencing a revival. The New York Times ran an article on ‘the found art’ of putting pen to paper. ‘It is so important, in a digital world, to have the dignity to sit down and write something,’ says one high-profile publicist.
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and period drama Victoria are the new favourites
‘It not only strengthens the bonds between people, it also strikes an emotional chord.’ Something even the most carefully selected emojis can’t do.
The thank-you note rules have also been upgraded. Hanson remarks: ‘Once, the etiquette was to write to the hostess after a dinner party. Nowadays it is correct to write to the host and hostess, as it is just as likely to have been him who did the cooking.’
So are we experiencing a revolution? ‘I’m not sure I’d say that,’ says Hanson.
‘But something is happening slowly.’ And it may just be that all of those ‘boring’ lessons about minding our manners that our mothers tried to drill into us as children were pretty vital after all.