Atlanta Millennials Bring Progress

Atlanta Millennials Bring Progress

By Jordan Barkin

There seems to be a 1980s revival in America, and it’s not just Donald Trump.

A “Ghostbusters” sequel is in the works 30 years after the original film was released. If the film is anything like this summer’s blockbusters, it will feature haircuts and fashions inspired by the 1980s. The shaggy frat-boy haircut may have more hair product than it did when I was in grade school, but it still reminds me of Polo cologne.

Jordan Barkin
Jordan Barkin

Bicoastal film and marketing executives are clever, but in the South preppy never went away. Sorority girls wear the vintage designer handbags not only because vintage is cool, but also because the bags were given to them by their mothers.

To be clear: These girls do not color-coordinate their outfits to the same extent that their grandmothers did. The bag does not have to match the shoes, and at home pillows do not have to be made of the same fabric as the sofa.

As for today’s boys, they would not know a can of spray starch if it fell on their iPhones. And shoe polish? Uh, yeah.

Miraculously, many Southern teens still have drawls and use regional terms like “crawdad” and “yessur.” Households maintain Southern traditions despite constant exposure to homogenized mainstream media. Better yet, millennials are retailoring traditions to suit their own generation. They embrace diversity and environmental issues earnestly. They venture into parts of downtown Atlanta ( and Charlotte ( that had fallen into disrepair. Behind their politeness is often a genuine respect for strangers who are different.

Recipes passed down through generations are now made with organic ingredients that more closely resemble the home-grown variety. And few things are as free-range as a deer you shot yourself — during the designated season, on designated land.

Gone are the gracious, formal issues of Southern Accents magazine stacked atop lace table skirts. Newly arrived is Garden & Gun magazine, so curiously authentic as to be hipster. Family photos are often taken in a more casual style, with more natural light and fewer neckties. But if you look closely, you can still detect a level of caring perfectionism that is the trademark of a Southern woman.

Volunteerism among the young is on the rise. According to Philanthropy News Digest (, “Millennials are more committed to volunteering than were young Americans a generation ago.” United Way of South Carolina ( concurs: “One in five of those defined as ‘Millennials,’ those of ages 16-31, (21.7 percent) volunteered.”

Millennials are helping to ensure that times in Atlanta change with grace.

A freelance writer and former associate editor at Veranda, Atlanta native Jordan Barkin divides his time between his home in South Alabama and his family’s home in Atlanta.

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