Being Modern: Tweens

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The Independent Online

on this day in 1955 the actor James Dean was involved in a fatal head-on car crash. Not that the 24-year-old’s tragic death would slow the phenomenon he had done as much as anyone to create – the cult of the teenager would persist for a fair few decades to come.

Then, at the tail end of the 1990s, the marketing people finally caught on to the fact that, in reality, getting out of it and each other were all teenagers were really interested in. So they sought a new demographic and gleefully launched themselves and their products at teenagers’ pesky younger siblings. The word they used to describe these eight-to-12-year-olds? Tweens.

Not yet teenagers, but desperate to put away childish things and be taken seriously in their own right, young girls in particular immediately responded in the only way they had at their disposal: the pester power they had perfected while nagging their parents for Bratz dolls in their pre-tween years.

Suddenly, instead of pretending to be older than they were (prior to the tween phenomenon, these youngsters couldn’t wait to become teenagers), tweens were being encouraged to revel in their youth and innocence, with “Too old for toys, too young for boys” their mantra.

Canny clothing companies were quick to, um, cotton on – with Jack Wills, Hollister and Abercrombie & Fitch all battling to get their logos seen on those all-important cosy hoodies. But it is the entertainment industry that has really seen the benefit of the baby-pink pound.

In 2006, the Disney Channel showed the first instalment of the High School Musical trilogy, a relentlessly wholesome entertainment that has now been seen by 225 million people around the world. Miley Cyrus, the Jonas Brothers, Justin Bieber... these are just some of the artistes whose work we can all now admire thanks to their having been championed by a tween following. And what of the original tween twins, Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen? These days they have a couture fashion label as well as various other business interests. Well, they are ancient now – at 26 years old.