New century Britons will go from tribe to tribe in search of lifestyles

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The Independent Online
TODAY A puritanical workaholic, tomorrow a "post punk outlaw" living life on the edge. "Pick and mix" lifestyles, where people opt in or out of a wide range of distinct social groups, are set to be all the rage in the next millennium, according to a report.

The punks of the Seventies, yuppies of the Eighties and new lads of the Nineties are being replaced with a whole new group of social "tribes" for the 21st century.

Although tribal groups have been associated with youth culture, along the lines of the Teddy boys of the Fifties and the Spice Girls of the Nineties, the new social groupings will not depend on how old you are.

There are Barbie Babes and Ken Clones, who spend vast quantities of money on physical perfection and designer clothes, or Post Punk Outlaws, who disregard the rules and have a wild time on the fringes of society. Others want to return to the values of the Sixties as New Hippies or Global Villagers, committed to equality, free-living, and looking after the environment.

Alex McKie, author of the report, which was commissioned by Barclays Bank, said: "Life is becoming less predictable. People may become parents at 12 or 60 years old. Adolescence is the key time in the search for identity but can stretch into middle age.

"More and more middle-aged men are buying themselves the motorbikes they could not afford in their youth. The traditional stages through which one expected to pass will be less relevant."

The traditional view of tribes was as group one was born into, highly structured, hierarchical and with clear rules and restrictions.

But since the Second World War, tribes have become associated with a rise in youth culture, and have been seen as something one went through before settling down to family and security.

But the tribes of the 21st century will include everyone in society and will be based on people's level of prosperity and security, according to the study by Research Business International, which was based on interviews with 1,300 people between the ages of 16 and 54.

Young people were found to judge each other by how busy their social schedule was and they did not exclusively belong to one tribe.

The report found that social success required a "supermarket" lifestyle, where people belonged to a wide range of tribes each with its own identity, meaning they went out on different nights with contrasting groups of friends.

"Whereas tribes over the past 40 years have tended to be groups of people who dressed alike, danced alike and thought alike, be it the mods, punk rockers or Teddy boys - now people want flexibility to be lots of different people all at the same time," said Ms McKie.

"Now there is a need to find a balance between men and women, so that men are not forced to return to the tribes of the past for solace."

The research also suggested that unless young men born since 1979, known as Generation Y, took action to promote themselves by forming their own "men's liberation" movement, and also redefined their roles at home and at work, they may find themselves becoming second-class citizens.

The report said it was women rather than men who will succeed in the workplace, as jobs will require a flexible working approach and strong communication.

"Trying to live a supermarket lifestyle will put big financial pressures on individuals who don't have great jobs," said John King, marketing director for Barclays Life and Pensions.

In the event of an economic downturn men could find themselves in the "outclass" tribe, surviving only by dealing on the black market and existing on the fringes of society.

Our Choices In The Pick 'n' Mix World

New Hippies

People who will return to the values and the lifestyle of the Sixties. Environmentally conscious and keen to see wealth more evenly distributed, they will be committed to inner peace and spiritual awareness. They will attend weekend courses for accelerated learning of personal growth and development.

Post-Punk Outlaws

Feared and envied for their disregard of social convention, they will include many sub-tribes. Former eco-warriors, anarchists, heavy metal fans and ex-City dealers (whose behaviour is seen as anti-social) will belong. Society will punish them by revoking their digital identities.

Barbie Babes and Ken Clones

They will spend vast sums of money on plastic surgeons, personal trainers and clothes and accessories. Looking good at any cost is seen as vital to maintaining their highly visible lifestyles and their jobs. So much of their income will be spent on their appearance that despite their apparent affluence, they will be forced to live at home.


For them, hard work will be the secret of a happy life.

Their central belief is that nothing should be easy and that working hard will bring them just rewards in this world and the next. They have dogged determination and dislike anything that is too soft or self-indulgent. Drawn from all political parties, the Neo-Calvinists will promote the end of party political structures.

Global Villagers

Although brought up in the Nineties on a diet of movies, minor celebrities and different causes, they will try to combine consumerism with their dreams of a better world. They will try to encourage ethical behaviour and will be committed to global sustainability.

Nomadic Networkers

People who work for themselves. The rewards are potentially high, but life is unpredictable. They work all over the world, carrying their office with them: they can link up with the rest of the team via the Internet and other technology. They live in the weightless world of information and always have their passport in their bag.

Illustrations by Ham