A recent survey conducted by custom screen printing & embroidery company Yazzoo Personalised Clothing discovered that over half of young people value group identity as highly as individual identity.
It has been argued that group identity has always played a role in determining the value placed on individual choices. Historically, identity was prefabricated depending on the group a person belonged to. These groups, guilds and castes created cohesive identities that carried with them sets of values and conditions for living. Today, identity is more fluid. Identity is no longer assigned at birth — it is constantly shifting as people move between careers, locations and personal choices.
But what impact, if any, does this have on the perception of and value placed on group versus personal identity today?
Yazzoo’s online survey asked over 1,500 participants “Is group identity more important than individual identity?” Interestingly, participants responded differently depending on their age group:
51% of young people value group identity as highly as individual identity
In contrast, only 38% of older people over the age of 40 felt that group identity was equally important.
With age groups responding to the question differently, this leads to a further question: does age affect attitudes to identity construction?
Other surveys suggest that young people are the most fluid when it comes to individual identity, as well as being more resistant to groupings. 50% of millennials claim not to belong to a political party, while over one-third don’t associate with any organised religion. More than any other generation, millennials are taking advantage of their freedom, with these people more likely to move somewhere other than their hometown and the trend of job hopping becoming increasingly prevalent.
With research suggesting that younger people are more resistant to groupings, why then does this new survey find that group identity and individual identity are valued equally?
The answer may lie in the role of the internet in society. The younger generation is the only generation to have been born with constant access to social media and the internet. We have never been more connected and simultaneously disconnected. As face-to-face contact is replaced with virtual connections, young people increasingly seek tangible ways of creating a sense of collective identity.
Finding a “tribe” is a key pursuit for many young people seeking a sense of belonging — a communal identity that, not unlike societal structures of old, determines individual choices.
Group Identity and Branding
This survey echoes the idea that group identity is often asserted through “branding”. Through this, members of a group show solidarity by committing to a brand.
Robert Joyce, founder of Yazzoo Personalised Clothing and who commissioned the survey, explains “We’ve seen a 200% increase in leavers’ orders over the past three years and the trend is growing as we see more and more people seeking wearable mementos of a shared history and experience.”
This growing trend extends beyond the traditional leavers’ hoodiefavoured by school leavers and is making its way into university societies, extra-curricular camps and primary schools. Robert continues “Leavers’ hoodies are a great way for members to state their role in a shared experience — to say ‘we were here’. They mark the end of an era, the end of a group, but with member’s names on the back and the school logo on the front, the group lives on.”