The Evolution of the 80s Yuppie

Originating in the 80s, the term "yuppie" was affectionately coined to describe young, affluent business professionals who were often perceived as arrogant, ostentatiously wealthy, and delightfully audacious.

The Evolution of the 80s Yuppie
Gordon Gekko: Wall Street

The Rise and Legacy of the 80s Yuppie

A couple of 80s Yuppies

Let's take a step back in time and explore one of the most iconic subcultures of the 1980s - the yuppie. Defined by their materialism, style, and ambition, these young urban professionals were a prominent fixture of the era. So, grab your coffee and let's dive in!

Now, the term "yuppie" didn't magically appear out of thin air. No, it was coined by none other than author and sociologist Joseph Epstein in a 1983 issue of The New Yorker. Epstein used the term to jestingly describe this new breed of money-hungry, status-obsessed young professionals. They were "guppies" (government yuppies), "buppies" (black yuppies), and even "puppies" (prematurely prosperous). It was a tongue-in-cheek nod to a movement that was rapidly taking over urban landscapes, from New York to London. And with that, the yuppie was born!

Joseph Epstein

Joseph Epstein, the man who gave us the term 'yuppie', is quite a character himself. Born in 1937, the Chicago native has an impressive CV that goes beyond just sociologist - he's also an essayist, short-story writer, and editor. Epstein is a prolific author with a knack for observing and commenting on society's quirks, and his writing breathes life into the ordinary and mundane. He's penned more than 25 books, some of which are collections of his slyly humorous essays. Not content with just writing and sociology, our man Epstein also served as the editor of the American Scholar magazine for over 20 years, leaving his unmistakable mark on the literary world. His wit and astute observations on social trends led to his much-cited coining of the term 'yuppie'. Talk about leaving a legacy! Joseph Epstein, folks, is the 'Word Whisperer' of the literary world.

The Term Gains Currency - Thanks to Bob Greene!

Bob Greene in the 80s

Now, let's take a moment to remember that even though our good friend Joseph Epstein coined the term, it was the renowned syndicated newspaper columnist Bob Greene who really put "yuppie" on the map. Picture the scene: It's March 1983, and ol' Bobby G. publishes a column in the Chicago Tribune focusing on this brand-new societal group. He latches onto the term and before you know it, "yuppie" is bouncing off every wall in the States. It was like the Game of Thrones finale - everyone was talking about it!

So why did it stick? Was it because it was short, catchy, and easy to say after a few martinis? Or perhaps it was the way it captured the zeitgeist of that era so perfectly? Maybe it was just because it made people giggle. But whatever the reason, the term "yuppie" became as '80s as shoulder pads, perms, and questionable neon spandex. And for that, we have Mr. Bob Greene to thank. So, tip your hats (or your shoulder pads) to this wordsmith, folks!

Examples of Yuppified Lifestyle Choices

Brooks Brothers

Enough with the dry stuff, let's move on to the juicy parts! Ah, the 80s yuppie. Driven by ambition and a penchant for the finer things in life, the yuppies were easily recognizable. They were the ones driving around in their brand new BMWs, draped in designer suits from brands like Armani and Brooks Brothers, and sipping Cosmopolitans in the trendiest bars in town. 

Remember the Wall Street titan Gordon Gekko from the movie 'Wall Street', with his mantra of "greed is good"? Well, he was the epitome of a yuppie. And who could forget the character of Patrick Bateman in 'American Psycho' with his slicked-back hair, tailored designer suits, and - uh, let’s leave it there for Bateman! Patrick Bateman using a Walkman: American PsychoThese characters mirrored the yuppies' obsession with personal success and material wealth.

Then there was their insatiable hunger for the latest technology. Walkmans, camcorders, and mobile phones the size of bricks - all yuppie favourites, symbolizing their status and wealth. Not to mention their obsession with physical fitness, leading to a boom in gym memberships, aerobic classes, and the popularity of jogging (fun fact: they even jogged in their suits!).

The Yuppie Poster Boy: Alex P. Keaton

Alex P. Keaton: Family Affairs

Now, let's talk about the most adored yuppie of the 1980s, shall we? Oh yes, ladies and gents, it's time to spotlight the one and only - Alex P. Keaton from the hit television show "Family Ties". Played charmingly by Michael J. Fox, Alex was the embodiment of everything yuppie. Let's unwrap this, shall we?

Born into a family of free-spirited ex-hippies, Alex was the black sheep, or should we say, the golden wolf of Wall Street. He was all about Reaganomics, wore business suits to breakfast (a bit too early, even for a yuppie, don't you think?), and worshipped money like it was going out of fashion (which, for yuppies, it never did).

Alex's character was initially created to be a source of comic relief - the capitalist kid in a house of old-school liberals. But viewers loved him. He became the symbol of the yuppie generation, so much so that President Reagan once said, "Alex P. Keaton is what every American parent hopes their child will grow up to be." Now, that's a ringing endorsement if we ever heard one! But don't let us do all the talking. Go watch a few episodes - Alex P. Keaton will have you laughing, cringing, and possibly re-evaluating your wardrobe choices, all in a single scene.

The Yuppie Backlash: Not Everyone Was Buying What They Were Selling

1980s photograph of Barbara Ehrenreich

Hold onto your monocles, folks, because not everyone was enamoured with our designer-clad, martini-swigging friends. Sure, they had their fans (Reagan, as we mentioned earlier), but they also had their fair share of critics. And boy, did they have a lot to say!

Critics claimed that yuppies were shallow and narcissistic, too caught up in their race for status and wealth to care about anything else. Words like 'self-absorbed', 'materialistic', and 'pretentious' were thrown around like confetti at a yuppie wedding (which, FYI, would have been the social event of the season). 

One of the most vocal critics of the 80s yuppie lifestyle was Barbara Ehrenreich, a prominent social critic of the time. In her book "The Hearts of Men: American Dreams and the Flight from Commitment," she argued that yuppies represented the decline of commitment and responsibility in society. According to Ehrenreich, their pursuit of personal wealth and success was symptomatic of a broader social decay.

Bud Fox and Gordon Gekko: Wall Street 1987Then there were the cultural critiques. Films like "Wall Street" and "American Psycho" painted a dark picture of the yuppie lifestyle, showing it as a life devoid of morals and filled with greed. Novels, plays, and songs also joined the chorus of criticism, portraying yuppies as symbols of an era defined by excess and self-indulgence.

But hey, every era has its critics, right? And while the yuppies may have been far from perfect, their influence on modern society can't be denied. So let's raise a Cosmopolitan to them, shall we? After all, without them, we wouldn't have a lot of the things we take for granted today.

The Yuppie Bible - The Yuppie Handbook

The Yuppie Handbook

Let me introduce you to the unofficial guide to all things yuppie - The Yuppie Handbook. This little gem was published in 1983 and quickly became the go-to guide for anyone eager to join the yuppie ranks.

Here are some highlights: It included tongue-in-cheek advice on how to 'talk the talk' and 'walk the walk' of a true yuppie. It covered everything from what to wear (think Armani suits and Rolex watches), to what to drink (dry martinis, anyone?), to how to decorate your apartment (with abstract art and sleek Italian furniture, of course). It was a satirical masterpiece, poking fun at the yuppies while also providing a painfully accurate snapshot of their lifestyle.

One of my favourite sections? The guide on how to choose the perfect yuppie name for your pet. Apparently, the likes of 'Fido' and 'Rover' just weren't going to cut it in yuppie circles. Instead, pets were given sophisticated names like 'Tiffany' for female dogs and 'Spencer' for male cats.

In short, The Yuppie Handbook was a must-read for anyone wanting to climb the corporate ladder in the 1980s or for anyone wanting a good chuckle at their expense. It was a cultural phenomenon, perfectly capturing the absurdity and extravagance of the yuppie lifestyle. So if you're ever in the mood for a nostalgic read, or just want to see how the other half lived, give it a whirl. You won't be disappointed - and that's a yuppie guarantee!

Yuppies in the Wall Street Journal: A Love Story?

Newspaper article on Yuppies

Speaking of cultural phenomenon's, let's take a detour to 1985 - the year the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) decided to take a deep dive into the yuppie universe. This wasn't your garden-variety news report, folks. Nope - the WSJ released an entire issue dedicated to analysing the lives, loves, and lofty ambitions of these young urban professionals. Sounds like a wild ride? Buckle up, it's about to get even wilder!

From dissecting their investment strategies (spoiler alert: lots of stocks and bonds) to exploring their favourite vacation spots (hint: anywhere with a five-star rating), the WSJ left no stone unturned. They even interviewed psychologists to understand the yuppie penchant for luxury cars and designer clothes. It turns out, our yuppie friends weren't just fashion-conscious; they were trying to signal their status and success — nothing says "I've made it" like a pair of Gucci loafers and a Porsche, right?

Yuppie with his 80s BMW and mobile brick phone in hand

But the WSJ’s special yuppie edition didn’t just provide an insightful (and ever so slightly voyeuristic) glimpse into their world; it also sparked some serious discussions about the broader societal implications of the yuppie lifestyle. It begged the question: was this relentless pursuit of wealth and status sustainable? Or was it just setting the stage for a harder fall?

But let's not get ahead of ourselves here — that's a discussion for another time (and another chapter). For now, let's just marvel at the sheer audacity and flamboyance of the 1980s yuppie. Love 'em or loathe 'em, you've got to admit, they certainly knew how to make a statement! So here's to the WSJ, for giving us an unforgettable peek into the world of the "Masters of the Universe" — and for reminding us that, sometimes, truth really is stranger than fiction.

The Cultural Impact of Yuppies: From Gordon Gekko to Carrie Bradshaw

Carrie Bradshaw: Sex and the City

Talk about sticking around! The yuppies might have originated in the 80s, but their cultural footprint is still visible today. Think about it - the obsession with brands, the importance of status symbols, the blurring of work and life...all of these trends can be traced back to our yuppie friends. So they might be gone, but they're far from forgotten!

One of the most obvious examples of their cultural influence is in the world of film and television. Characters like Bud Fox from "Wall Street" and Craig McDermott from "American Psycho" have become iconic symbols of the yuppie lifestyle. Their ambition, their ruthlessness, their love for all things expensive - these traits have been immortalised on the silver screen, serving as a stark reminder of the excesses of the 80s.

But the influence of yuppies extends beyond the big screen. Take a look at the fashion world. Brands like Ralph Lauren, Armani, and Gucci owe a big chunk of their success to the yuppies. It was the yuppies who turned these brands into status symbols, making them a must-have for anyone keen to project an image of success and sophistication.

Tom Wolfe's

And let's not forget about the world of literature. Books like Bret Easton Ellis's "American Psycho" and Tom Wolfe's "Bonfire of the Vanities" painted a vivid picture of the yuppie lifestyle, exposing its darker side and sparking debates about the values and priorities of modern society. In doing so, these books played a crucial role in shaping public opinion about the yuppies and their world.

Even today, shows like "Sex and the City" and "Mad Men" continue to explore the themes that were central to the yuppie lifestyle. The pursuit of wealth, the importance of status, the struggle to balance work and personal life - all of these issues remain relevant today, and they can all be traced back to the yuppies.

Yuppies in the UK and Hong Kong: A Tale of Two Cities

Woman Yuppie 80s

Now, let's cross the pond and take a little jaunt to the East. While the yuppie phenomenon was certainly a very American thing, it didn't take long for it to go global. The UK and Hong Kong, in particular, saw their own influx of yuppies, each with their own unique flavours.

In the UK, the 80s yuppie invasion coincided with the Thatcher years. The Iron Lady's policies of deregulation and privatisation created the perfect environment for yuppies to thrive. London became the financial hub of Europe, and Canary Wharf was the epicentre. Decked out in pinstriped suits, carrying the ubiquitous filofax, and brandishing the latest mobile phones (which were the size of bricks, by the way), the British yuppies were just as much a symbol of the '80s as their American counterparts. They frequented wine bars, drove BMWs, and their catchphrase, 'Loadsamoney!', became synonymous with the exuberance and ostentation of the era.

Yuppies in London during the 1980s

Meanwhile, Hong Kong had its own yuppie boom. As a global financial hub and with its close ties to the West, it was inevitable that the yuppie culture would find fertile ground here. The city was experiencing an economic boom thanks to its bustling real estate market and burgeoning finance sector. The Hong Kong yuppies, or 'Chiuppies' as they were sometimes called, enjoyed a lifestyle of luxury and affluence. They were known for their high-end fashion, penchant for luxury cars, and a lifestyle characterised by work-hard-play-hard ethos. With the iconic skyline as their backdrop, they lived the high life, literally and metaphorically.

While the cultural contexts were different, the yuppies in the UK and Hong Kong shared many similarities with their American cousins. They were young, ambitious, and unapologetically materialistic. They were the symbols of an era defined by economic optimism, rampant consumerism, and a belief that anything was possible. And while they may be remembered with a mix of nostalgia and disdain, their impact on shaping the cities and culture of the '80s is undeniable.

1987 Stock Market Crash: A Jolt for the Yuppies

New York Stock Exchange: Black Monday

The 1987 stock market crash, also known as 'Black Monday', was a remarkable event that sent shockwaves through cities inhabited by the 80s yuppie tribe. This sudden financial catastrophe took place on the 19th of October 1987, when stock markets around the world crashed, shedding a huge value in a very short time. The crash began in Hong Kong and spread west to Europe, hitting the United States after other markets had already declined by a significant margin.

Yuppies, being heavily engaged in the financial sector, were particularly hit hard. Their world, built upon the premise of economic prosperity, suddenly came crashing down. The aspirations, lifestyle and the sense of invincibility were brutally tested by this unexpected downturn. Many who were previously living the high life found themselves facing job uncertainties, financial difficulties and a harsh reality check. 

The crash was a result of a series of factors including international disputes about foreign exchange and interest rates, fear of inflation, and the popularisation of risky investment strategies. In the UK, it coincided with the end of the Thatcher era, adding to the sense of an ending epoch.

The New York Times Headline: Bedlam on Wall StreetIn the aftermath, the 80s yuppie ethos was questioned and critiqued. Did unchecked ambition and greed contribute to the financial meltdown? This event served as an ironic twist in the yuppie narrative, underscoring the dangers of placing too much faith in wealth and material success. 

Despite the crash, yuppies adapted and endured, embodying the resilience and audacious spirit of the era. They tightened their Gucci belts, dusted off their Armani jackets, and soldiered on. From the ashes of 'Black Monday', we can see the early foundations of our modern, more cautious approach to financial markets, and the birth of a new breed of city workers. But one thing is for sure - the 1987 stock market crash marked the end of an era and the beginning of a new chapter in the yuppie story.

The Modern Yuppie: Evolution of an Icon

Yuppies in 2020

Fast forward to today, and you'll still find the yuppies among us, albeit with a few updates. The modern yuppie, often termed as the 'hipster professional', is a more polished, evolved version of the 80s archetype. These individuals, just as ambitious and success-driven as their predecessors, are now also socially conscious, environmentally aware, and digitally savvy.

They've traded in their brick-sized mobiles and filofaxes for smartphones and cloud-based productivity tools. They still frequent the world’s financial hubs but are just as likely to work remotely from a stylishly minimalist, eco-friendly home or a buzzing co-working space. The BMWs and luxury sedans have been swapped for electric cars and bike-sharing programs. Suits and shoulder pads are out, with smart casual and athleisure in.

While they still enjoy the finer things in life, their taste for luxury is also tempered by an increased consciousness about sustainability. The modern yuppie is likely to be sipping on ethically sourced coffee, shopping from locally made brands, investing in green technology, and is often a vocal advocate for social justice.

Yuppie using car phone

The political and economic landscape has transformed as well. The optimism of the 80s has given way to a more cautious optimism, tempered by the realities of economic recessions and the challenges of a globalised world. Nevertheless, the same spirit of ambition, adaptation, and resilience that characterised the original yuppies continues to thrive in their modern-day counterparts.

While the world around them has changed dramatically, the essence of the yuppie remains the same. They are still a symbol of ambition, success and the ceaseless pursuit of the 'good life'. The yuppie spirit, it seems, is here to stay - not merely as a relic of the 80s, but as a continually evolving representation of the aspirations and challenges of the young urban professional. So, here's to the modern yuppie, living proof that you can adapt and evolve while still staying true to your roots.