Whatever Happened to the Yuppie?

Back in the eighties, if you didn’t know, there was a ‘class’ of people known as ‘Yuppies.’ (Which either stood for ‘Young Urban Professional’ or ‘Young Upwardly Mobile Professional depending on what source you look at.) They were typically characterised as being greedy, power hungry, obsessed with work and money and climbing up the social ladder. Usually they could be found flaunting their cash on designer clothes and expensive restaurants. They strutted around the world treating everyone as though they were dirt and that they had the god given right to everything under the sun. The common consensus is that the yuppie were a bad group of people. They were selfish, they were greedy and they were arrogant. Honesty and fairness were alien concepts to the yuppie. The yuppie was very much a product of the eighties and like most of that decade they are now considered as tasteless. By the early nineties the term had fallen out of favour and Time magazine even announced ‘the death of the yuppie.’ But what really did happen to the yuppie?

Most sites and articles and other sources agree that the yuppie died out because of the 1987 stock market crash and the recession that followed, which is a fair enough assumption. The rug would have been pulled out from under them and their over the top, ‘business-aristocrat’ lifestyle would have taken a battering. Some yuppies would have even been made redundant and that possibly marked the end of their life as a yuppie. It’s an interesting theory and one that does indeed work, but in most cases when you’ve been working for a major financial company and been on a large salary then you probably aren’t going to be unemployed for long. And also, when it comes to redundancies, most of the time, it is the lower echelons of the labour pyramid that get the boot, not those on higher salaries as the yuppies mainly were. So it’s my reckoning that most yuppies rode out the recessions and stock market crashes and carried on as they were.

It is most probable, therefore, that the yuppie only vanished because the media got bored of them. With nobody to keep them in the public consciousness the idea of the yuppie faded from contemporary society and became something of the past, a part of history. They were still around, it was just that they and their lifestyles were mostly ignored. It’s a very similar situation to that of chavs in our own time. A few years ago the chav, it seemed, was everywhere. They were lampooned in comedy sketches and what not whilst the media had a field day over how terrible they were. And yet here we are today, you hardly ever see the word chav mentioned any more. It may crop up on a rare occasion but other than that the term has become antiquated. Ask a modern thirteen year old what a chav is and the chances are they won’t have a clue what you are talking about. And yet… I could walk down the high street and I would probably see a number of people who could be described as ‘chav.’ They’re still around… They haven’t gone anywhere. It’s just that as a society we now tend to ignore them and these days it is the Beliebers who garner all the attention and scorn of society and the media… But rest assured that they too will fade into obscurity and be forgotten, even though there will probably still be a great many of them around.

And that is my point. Nothing happened to the yuppie. They just became sidelined and ignored, left to carry on with their selfish, money grabbing lifestyles in the serenity of obscurity. And time passed. Those yuppies became older and as positions above them became vacant they got promoted. The money kept rolling in and they all became rich beyond the dreams of avarice, or at least comfortably off. Some even settled down, started families. But they were still obsessed by work and greed and money and power. It’s just that they were no longer labelled as ‘yuppies’ because the term had become antiquated and outdated by that point.

By the end of the nineties you could have hardly called them ‘young’ anymore. As for their arrogance and greed and selfishness and obsessiveness about work, did that go away? Perhaps it waned and matured slightly, but I highly doubt that all those personality traits vanished in all former yuppies. In a lot of cases those traits have always been there since their childhood and probably always will be. As the old idiom says, a leopard never changes its spots.

It’s quite clear that the yuppie must surely have triumphed. Many of them got what they wanted. They reached the peak of their careers and they achieved their ultimate goal: Power. Those that were once called yuppies are now in control. They are the managers and the high end board members, they are the commissioners and the controllers. They are the ones in charge. Given how bad the yuppies were claimed to be that seems a very scary prospect. Worst of all, it does seem to be a theory that makes sense when we look at the state of our economies. The bankers are running amok, taking huge bonuses and carrying on as though they never did anything wrong, a very yuppie thing to do. Isn’t it curious that they, most of the ones who have really done wrong, could have perhaps been yuppies? Their selfishness, greed and arrogance would certainly fit them into that category. You can see them in every other career as well now. The publishing industry is certainly now full of the arrogance that characterised the yuppie, for instance rejecting books for the flimsiest and most nonsensical of reasons, like the fact that they have a prologue for example. To me that sounds like a very arrogant and snobbish thing to do and perhaps very typical of the yuppie. The yuppies are our politicians (Look at the David Cameron… Selfish, arrogant, full of himself…) Wherever you look, be it music, publishing, business, banking, politics… It’s most likely that it is now the former yuppies who are holding the strings. I’m not saying that they were all once yuppies, far from it… But it’s fair to say that in many places the former yuppies are now in charge. If this is truly a good or bad thing I don’t really know, but from what I can see of the bankers and of the greed of the corporations, it looks like a bad thing.

There have been some recent articles that reckon there are now a new generation of yuppies but I think this is perhaps a gross miscalculation of the situation. Firstly, you have the fact that the original yuppies are still hanging around and are now most likely to the ones in positions of power. Secondly, there have always been greedy and arrogant people around, those obsessed with power and gaining as much money as possible. It’s called a capitalist society and in a capitalist society those sorts of people are inevitable. I don’t think the modern group of young and arrogant, work obsessed maniacs are yuppies. I think that the yuppie was a phenomenon exclusive to the eighties because it was only in the eighties, the decade of excess and greed and making as much money as possible, that the yuppie could garner enough attention and public awareness to become so prevalent a part of society and to be taken seriously. No other decade has put up with their sort. No decade, with the exception of the eighties would put up with their sort.

Today we laugh at people like that, usually because they’re mostly your average Apprentice candidate… But they aren’t really yuppies in the true sense of the word because we don’t take them seriously. The thing about the yuppie was that they were taken very seriously, particularly by the media. I’m sure that if most modern day ‘apprentice candidate’ style entrepreneurs had been around in the eighties they would have been considered yuppies. The thing about the yuppie is that they were taken very seriously and you can’t say that about today’s breed of business entrepreneur. Yes, they may be similar to the yuppie, particularly in attitude, but the original yuppie was very much a product of the times. Today’s arrogant teapots can’t really compare to their predecessors. For starters if they were as arrogant and as selfish as the yuppies of the eighties then it stands to reason that they would be just as prevalent in our society as they seemed in the eighties, just as prevalent as chavs were a few years ago. But they aren’t. They aren’t a part of our culture and they aren’t a part of our society. They’re just very irritating people who we occasionally see on trains etc. We might be able to label them as ‘yuppies’ but in the true sense of what yuppies were originally, I would say they pale in comparison and are therefore not really yuppies.

So what did happen to the yuppie? Similar people still exist certainly but I doubt that we could call them yuppies. The yuppie was very much a product of the times, the ultimate symbol of the greed and excess that characterised the eighties. And what is more those yuppies of the eighties are still around, most probably now contemplating their retirements (Of which, those that are still obsessed with work, will either die of boredom or give up their retirement… In theory. But that’s another article all together.) The yuppies, in all probability, are now the ones likely to be in charge and likely to be in high ranking positions in major companies. Some of them will have passed over their yuppie ways but, crucially, others will not have done. Those who were once ‘yuppies’ never went anywhere. They didn’t all suddenly die of plague or end up homeless on the streets. The media just got bored of them, like they did with chavs.


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