Gen Z Characteristics that Influence Student Style

Gen Z students expect college stores to offer inclusive, sustainable and body positive styles.

April 16, 2019

Gen Z Characteristics that influence style


Born after 1996, Generation Z (Gen Z) is the dominant demographic on college campuses. Already distinguishing themselves from their millennial predecessors, this generation brings its own voice and perspective to campus. These students view themselves as empathetic, kind, accepting and compassionate. As a result, they look for organizations, companies and brands that mirror and promote their values.


Gen Z’s influence on fashion



Sustainable fashion


Gen Z cares about the environment and favors sustainable, eco-friendly fashion choices.


The environment is one of the top issues for this generation. They believe that now is the time to act, and they intend to bring the necessary change. This is demonstrated in their attitude about sustainable fashion. Two independent studies reported that Gen Z is willing to pay more for sustainably produced clothing and products.


Gen Z also embraces vintage and second-hand clothing. By recycling or upcycling their wardrobe, they can save money and cut back on waste.

Inclusive fashion


Gen Z is pushing the traditional boundaries of the fashion world. They want inclusive fashions that focus on style rather than gender, shape or size. They want to see inclusive advertising with authentic everyday people from all different backgrounds.


From clothing to shoes, Gen Z doesn’t want the fashion world to dictate how they should dress. Instead, they want the freedom to express themselves in any way they choose, and they believe that others should do the same.


Body positive fashion


Gen Z doesn’t accept the fashion industry’s narrow definition of beauty. They gravitate toward brands that mirror their commitment to body positivity. For example, American Eagle’s inclusive lingerie brand Aerie is thriving with body positive campaigns that celebrate diversity.


This generation doesn’t want a fictionalized version of perfection. These students would rather see advertisements that are authentic to their lives and shop with brands that stand behind the movements that are important to them.


By learning more about Gen Z characteristics and trends, colleges and universities can better understand this current generation of students and develop innovative strategies to help them feel included in campus life. For more Gen Z research, download Barnes & Noble College’s Conversations with Gen Z research report.


Generation Z Student Research

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