Crowd Shortcuts – a quick chat about something that’s caught our attention. This week, how men’s bracelets have become the ultimate social signifier…

What’s all this then? Charmed, beaded, woven… the humble bracelet has become the latest menswear trend catapulted into the limelight. From A-listers to activists, stacks of bracelets strung around wrists have become a new, subtle social signifier for men with something to say.

A few beads can’t really say that much, can they? Turns out they can, actually. For men of a certain status, wearing a well chosen bracelet is a way of campaigning without overtly campaigning. 

I don’t buy it. Surely nobody that important is wearing one? Two words: King Charles.

The King Of England? Wearing a bracelet? Yep. The first portrait since the start of his reign was released ahead of this month’s coronation. The painting depicts the King in his signature look – pinstripe suit, pocket square, smize – all pretty normal. But a closer look reveals a black braided bracelet with a gold trim and red beads, positioned just below the King’s watch. This bracelet was presented to him by Domingo Peas, the leader of the Ecuadorian Amazon’s Achuar community, during a meeting to discuss the implementation of global biodiversity plans. The artist included the bracelet to symbolise the King’s commitment to climate change and sustainability.

So this isn’t just men wearing old festival wristbands? No, this is much more intentional. Unlike festival wristbands that are usually forgotten and left on for the entire summer, the bro-celet is a carefully considered accessory – often with a heavy subtext. For Charles, the inclusion is a subtle nod to his positioning as an environmentalist King. 

Clever! These are very carefully planned. Men are purchasing them from designer boutiques and incorporating them into their daily wardrobes. Work, gym, pub; the bro-celet is a constant companion, favoured by both bankers in boardrooms and tech bros in Silicon Valley who wear them as a savvy power move, often paired down with an Apple watch.

And what about those A-listers you mentioned? Bro-celets have appeared on the wrists of some big names, like David Beckham, Harry Styles, Timothée Chalamet and Brad Pitt. It’s a subtle way to show some rebellion, and can easily be hidden under a sleeve when needed. Plus, many of these bracelets have a charitable connection, which is a nice bonus for those who want to avoid getting too political about capitalism and what not.

I was planning on wearing a tuxedo today, can I still ‘bro-celet’? Go for it! While some may assume a casual bracelet wouldn’t go with a formal suit, like the one worn by King Charles, the mix of high and low is all part of the charm.

TL;DR: Want to tell the world how much you care about [insert charitable cause], but are too busy getting ahead? Throw on a bro-celet and let your accessory of choice do the talking for you. 

Our relationship with food doesn’t only reflect our culture, it also helps to define it. In our latest issue of City Limits we invite you to enjoy our appetizers and insightful mains on city food…

City Limits Volume Nine – download it here.

We’ve seen so much in our City Limits series – Crowd DNA’s ongoing exploration of the urban experience – since it began in 2018. Over five years, it is our opportunity to bring together thoughtful reporting of what is happening now in cities and forecast how it could look next in compelling sectors like city living, youth culture, and mobility, to city-centric solutions and the night economy

We’re now back with our ninth issue and to ask what’s happening in the food and drink business in cities around the world after a challenging few years. It explores how what we eat and drink impacts on a city’s culture, ways that urban plays its part in a product’s story, and how food is such a pleasurable taste of change as it happens in our ever-evolving cities. 

We go to restaurants in Tokyo where Kaiseki fine dining means fun and frivolity, find out why Singapore’s hawker food culture is being harmed by nostalgia, enjoy slow moving cuisine in London, and taste when food gives community to the diaspora in cities around the world – and ultimately, to us all.

The full 17 page magazine includes:

_A semiotic analysis of how city sights and sounds are used by three food brands – even when made elsewhere

_Spotlight on what we drink reveals about a city culture

_How things are getting better (or at least not worse) with problems facing our food environments

_Five emerging trends in urban food 

_Interviews with local business people, with learnings for grassroots engagement in towns

City Limits Volume Nine – download it here.

The Un-dependents Launch

Mums, dads, children, parents: we hear about them often – but what about the consciously child-free? Our new report celebrates those who have chosen to never have kids. Let us introduce the Un-dependents…

We are living in a time when more people are making the choice to not have children and the circumstances around this decision touches upon the unique stressors of today. A 2022 Ipsos poll found the top reasons why people across 30 different countries opted to not have a child: financial concerns (21%), career prospects (15%) and concerns due to the Covid pandemic (11%).

Meanwhile, brands aren’t talking to the consciously child-free, or connecting with their culture. They aren’t being discussed enough. In our new The Un-dependents report, we celebrate the unique opportunities of living as an adult without children.

From Chapter two: Meet the Un-dependents
From Chapter two: Meet the Un-dependents

The full report features: 

– The context that the Un-dependents are living in now, and the perspective-shifting events of the pandemic, recession and climate crisis. 

– Interviews with men and women in the US, UK and Europe about the realities of choosing to not have kids.

– How to think differently about the Un-dependents values and motivations; followed by some examples of strategies to speak to them. 

The Un-dependents: A report celebrating consciously child-free lives
The Un-dependents: A report celebrating consciously child-free lives

This report was special for us every time our interviewees shared their joy and reminded us of all the different ways to live a happy, fulfilled life. We hope you enjoy The Un-dependents as much as we did.

Download the full Un-dependents report here.

Crowd Shortcuts – a quick chat about something that’s caught our attention. This week, we're asking when did being ‘basic’ become something to shout about?

What’s all this then? Being ‘basic’ is shedding its shameful connotations and turning into something to be celebrated. In other words: lame is the name of 2023’s game

Catchy! But isn’t being ‘basic’ an insult? Well, it simply means enjoying things that are mainstream. It’s shorthand for an individual’s inability to tap into nicher, unconventional and eclectic themes that are considered more interesting. What we’re seeing now is people owning their ‘basic’ preferences. Enjoying cringy, mainstream things is their thing, and they’re not afraid to shout about it.  

That’s nice. Why do you think that is? After so much of the 2020s being about the development of niche aesthetics and an urgency to stand out, people are more or less ready to fit in. The pressure to be unique is giving way to the joy of collective appreciation. 

Phew, sounds like a lot less effort. Where can I see this in action? If you’ve been on any social platforms recently, you’ll have seen the ticket craze surrounding Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour. Videos of hysterical fans went viral as they displayed intense reactions to getting (or not getting) absurdly expensive concert tickets to a very popular, very mainstream artist. Their public outpourings had zero shame. 

Those Swifties! Where else is ‘basicness’ shining through? Pinterest’s 2023 trend report predicts ‘romcom core’ – people shamelessly dressing up as their favourite early Y2K romcom characters – as the aesthetic to watch (surprise, surprise: romcoms represent a more mainstream side of entertainment). In a similar light, recent hit shows like The White Lotus have people hunting on Google for the theoretical price of a White Lotus hotel stay, or step-by-step makeup tips from Jennifer Coolidge. 

Halloween 2023 is gonna be a big one. All this chat is making me hungry… bingo! Brunches are back. The more ‘basic’ the better (bottomless, anyone?). And, while it would’ve been semi-ghastly to post a food pic in the past, shameless basicness encourages those “no-one-eats-until-I-get-the-insta-worthy-shot” moments.

So does all this mean I can enjoy my pumpkin spice latte in public? Yes! When the time comes, enjoy your seasonal drink with zero hesitation. You may run into long lines of other like-minded pumpkin spice lovers, but there’s no time like the present to partake in the lamestream.

TL;DR: People are shunning social media’s ever-fracturing aesthetics in favour of simpler, mainstream joys. Take those UGGs out of storage and wear them without fear of public humiliation – you will be the trendiest person everywhere you go.

Crowd Shortcuts – a quick chat about something that’s caught our attention. This week, we're getting our teeth into cannibalism in culture and campaigns

What’s all this then? Last year was a cultural smorgasbord in cannibalism with films, TV shows and books having an appetite for flesh. British Vogue even crowned cannibalism: “The Defining Cultural Trope of 2022”. 

Hungry for more? Well, yes. Now cannibalism has been culturally accepted, the ad industry has begun to build it into campaigns. One particular success is using it to help sell fake meat products. 

Huh? Yes, so cannibalism is winning awards. 

Tell us all the gory details… Plant-based meat maker Oumph! won a silver prize at 2022 Cannes Lions Festival for its ad teasing a “human meat burger”. (No humans had actually been harmed). 

Meanwhile, Liquid Death ran a special Halloween promotion for their Vegan Cannibal Steakhouse delivery service featuring New Yorkerless Strip Steak, Guiltless Grilled Rack of Sam, and Manless Meatballs in Marinara.

As LOLA MullenLowe, the agency behind the Oumph! campaign explained, it was a way to convince meat-lovers that plant-based products could replicate the taste of any meat – even human.

We hear cannibalism is also helping save the planet? Very much so.

Bit of a stretch? No, the ‘Eat a Swede’ satire presented eating human meat as an option should we fail to act on the impact of the climate crisis on food supply. The Swedish Food Federation campaign won a Grand Prix at the Cannes Lion Festival.  Meanwhile, the “Ouroboros Steak” exhibit at London’s Design Museum imagined growing meat using our own cells and donated blood to also highlight the plight of the food industry…

Just to be clear then: Cannibalism no longer has us clutching our pearls? Yes, the cannibalism trope has been warmly embraced. 

TL;DR: Nihilsm rocks 2023. Or as put by Chelsea G Summers, the writer of A Certain Hunger about a female cannibalistic serial killer: “Cannibalism is the need to nourish yourself in a depriving, neglectful world.”

Crowd Shortcuts: Teddy bears

Crowd Shortcuts – a quick chat about something that’s caught our attention at Crowd. This week, teddy bears for grown-ups

What’s all this then? On the top of a cupboard, carefully stored away – maybe gifted on to a child – but adults don’t usually display their teddy bears. Until lately, that is. We’ve seen it from music’s most stylish Drake showing that he “only love my bed and my momma (oh, and my teddy bear)…” and Harry Style’s collaboration with Gucci featuring pouting pink bears. Plus there’s the ubiquitous teddy coats on the high street, the spike in TikTok searches for cockapoo#teddy#bear, and Thom Browne showing his A/W 2022 collection in front of an audience of 500 stuffed bears. 

Surely it’s all harmless though? Yes, if it’s for the Lidl 2022 Christmas campaign. But it’s not without risk. As Balenciaga catastrophically found out, there’s a problem with adults co-opting toys: they had to pull their Christmas 2022 campaign featuring teddy bears trussed up in bondage attire being modelled by children.

Ah. Let’s stay with bondage for a moment? No.

But is the teddy bear craze about security? Yes, of course being wrapped in a full length fleece is cosy. As is cuddling up to a soft toy or softy tufty doggy. And sitting next to a childhood toy rather than Anna Wintour on the front row is probably preferable if you are of a nervous disposition. But to be serious for a moment, it’s no surprise that the teddy bear is one of the items the Red Cross pack in their disaster kit.

So why are adult toys so popular now? As an item that can take us back to our childhood, evoking those secure memories, the teddy bear is standalone in its power. Adults are seeking out this comforter as part of a wider trend shift to calmness and serenity – as we also see in 2023 colour of the year, Digital Lavender. A teddy bear is a transitional object needed at a time when the Emoji of 2022 is the face holding back tears and the Collins Dictionary named ‘Permacrisis’ as Word of the Year 2022.

OK, now I need my teddy… It’s fine, go for it. And remember that cockapoos are hypo-allergenic, so that’s another bonus.

TL;DR: There’s no shame in needing a cuddle whether as an adult or a child, and if that means reaching for a teddy bear, then at least now you can tell the haters that it’s a fashion statement. 

 

In the latest issue of Crowd Signals, we step into the world of Wellbeing Recharge and analyse online conversation around Psychedelic Health...

In times when our resilience is tested, we turn to ways to bolster our mental and physical health – we call this shift in focus Wellbeing Recharge. Our Crowd Signals series reports on the trends in Wellbeing Recharge, and focuses on the potent developments in Psychedelic Health. 

The hard stop of the global pandemic gave many of us an opportunity to pause and reconsider the balance in our lives, while notions of collective – including global health – are now being confronted. This connection with ourselves and those around us is now a multi-layered endeavour as we explore spiritualism, tech-enabled optimisation, new-wave ingestibles and alternative healing therapies. 

Our third edition of Crowd Signals is now live and available to download here. This is informed by our regular exploration of unstructured data using our trends platform Crowd Signals, designed to identify real-time cultural change and future opportunities with advanced NLP, AI and machine learning capabilities. 

Using our Crowd Signals Hub we have identified seven trends within this shift to Wellbeing Recharge. This edition of Crowd Signals looks into one of them: Psychedelic Health. The full report features: 

– innovation in health technology with start-ups in micro-dosing

– insight into how knowledge about psychedelics is shared online

– trend analysis of psychedelic use from underground to mainstream

– our emotions tracking tool illustrates the role played by trust in conversations around psychedelics.

So turn on, tune in, but don’t drop out – and read here to open your mind to all the potential. 

Contact us to find out more about the seven trends in the Wellbeing Recharge culture shift, or to talk more about our Crowd Signals platform.

 

Crowd Shortcuts: Twinning

Crowd Shortcuts – a quick chat about something that's caught our attention. This week, twinning in fashion and beyond...

What’s all this then? Gucci tracked down 68 identical twins – some scouted at the annual Twins Day festival in Ohio – for their Twinsburg show for Spring/Summer 2023. This followed its creative director Alessandro Michele appearing at the Met Gala 2022 accompanied by actor Jared Leto styled as twins, their long locks flowing. In a hyper-individualised world, rebellion is to be twinning, and being part of a gang.

But I thought we are all as individual as a snowflake, right? Well… on the inside for sure, but this season, fashion wants us to be comfortable with dressing the same as others – in fact, looking exactly the same.

Does the look work? It certainly stops traffic. 

But isn’t wearing the same outfit a fashion no-go? Gucci doesn’t quite see it that way – it took the concept of sameness way beyond fashion and into a mediation on the ‘new normal’.

So it’s a new fashion rule? Yes, it’s not about being a trend leader. Instead, it’s about sharing your love. Or ‘co-belonging’. Alessandro Michele explained that the intention behind his casting choice was to illustrate a “rift in the idea of identity”, breaking down the notion of singularity, and wanting “sisterhood” to prevail.  Meanwhile, for Prada’s 2022 collection, co-creative director Raf Simons shared this sentiment on the catwalk – he described having the collection take place in Milan and Shanghai simultaneously as “about sharing —not just sharing imagery, not just sharing through technology, but sharing a physical event.” 

So twinning is about belonging? Yes, and don’t we all want a bit more of that right now?  

Anything else…? Well, now you’ve asked, the twins stomping down the catwalk aren’t the only twins blowing our minds. They are a visual on our potential metaverse future: our physical and digital twin, living (beautiful) simultaneous lives. 

TL;DR? We’ve always been fascinated by identical twins to look at – and Gucci has taken that and wrapped it up in a bow. But twin as a verb – to pair up – goes deeper. Digital natives are likely to actually experience life as an identical twin. So for now images of the twin are full of impact and potential that goes beyond fashion and into a fascination about how we will actually live sometime soon.