The yuppie, or young urban professional, emerged as an American icon in the 1980s and 1990s during the largest economic expansion in US history, courtesy of tax reform in the mid-1980s as well as the creation and introduction of new technologies that streamlined corporate operations. This led to rapid economic expansion, creating the corporate culture that was eventually satirized in movies like “Office Space” and television shows like “The Office.” From this new corporate culture, the yuppie was born.
The emergence of the yuppie brought us the young urban professional stereotype perpetuated by characters like Patrick Bateman and Bud Fox. Young, suit-wearing, fit, well-to-do corporate climbers driven by ambition, greed, and excess. Basically, the American Dream on steroids. But two or three decades have passed since then, and those of us in the white collar workplace find ourselves in a diluted brand of yuppiism. How have things changed? Let’s take a look.
Even with all the regulations and red tape, it’s easier than ever to start your own business. In fact, small businesses have been the biggest job creators over the past 25 years. This means that your average young professional is much more likely to be working for a small firm or as a self-employed consultant, with the exception of certain industries, of course. This means you get to be a bigger fish in the company, but the company might not have the kind of prestige you can throw around at high school reunions. That’s mostly because the prestigious companies are merging and hemorrhaging personnel to cut costs and grow earnings. That brings me to secretaries.
The secretary is a dying profession, if it’s not dead already. There was no bigger corporate power move than having a personal secretary organize your meetings, book your flights, and make your coffee. The problem? People are expensive and technology is cheap. The modern young professional is booking their flights on their Delta app and syncing their appointments with their iCal, not saying, “Call my secretary, she’ll set up something.”
Because businesses are bootstrapping now and trying to earn more with fewer employees, many employees are working more hours. There’s no real nine-to-five anymore. The “extra effort” that the previous generation’s yuppie corporate climbers put in now has to be padded on top of the extra time added from everyone’s additional tasks. That doesn’t leave a lot of gym time for everyone, so your average white collar warrior isn’t going to have Patrick Bateman’s abs or Julia from “Horrible Bosses'” legs. This is because we can barely fit a half hour workout, let alone a two to three hour long workout, into our schedules.
Because employees are working longer and doing more, companies have tried to create more comfortable working environments for their employees. Only a handful of old school corporations require suits anymore. For most companies, business casual is sufficient, and if you are lucky enough to be allowed to work from home regularly, you’re probably working in your skivvies. This means no showing off ties, new suits, or other accessories without looking like a try hard, and those are daily battles that should be fought and won in the traditional yuppie thunder dome.
So, how can we resurrect the yuppie? How do we bring back the American icon which embodied the young, virile, educated American dreamer? There are fewer opportunities to be big fish in prestigious companies. We have fewer subordinates to perform our lesser tasks. Working to be successful or hitting the gym seems like a binary decision. We rarely even wear suits anymore, for goodness sake. We can’t bring back the old yuppie, but perhaps we can adapt the stereotype into something so much more realistic to today’s world.
In terms of prestige, well, these days you just have to make your own, and thankfully there are plenty of ways to do it. However, we can do something about underlings, power plays, and maintaining a superior appearance.
One of the biggest benefits of the technological revolution that began during the Dot Com boom is rapid deflation. Many services we previously considered reserved for the rich are now much more affordable. You can even crowdsource a freaking private jet these days. With the push of a button or even an oral command we can control almost any aspect of our lives. Automate everything. Become an Alexa pro. Put together a smart home. Make reservations at every restaurant with OpenTable, turn on your A/C with your phone, and nothing sets the mood on date night like having Alexa throw on some smooth jazz. If we can’t use humans to throw around our weight anymore we might as well use AI, right?
If you’re going to achieve peak yuppie, you’re going to have to find the time and willpower to diet and exercise. Many say they love the re-emergence of the dad bod and yet they also take any Jabba the Hutt-bodied colleagues less seriously than their more fit counterparts. Luckily, medical science has also made advances, and the science of American civilian fitness is approaching a century old. Modern technology has allowed people to study the body and figure out how to most efficiently exercise. Your two hour high school football or track work out is no longer required. You can probably get results with some dietary changes and two hours of working out per week. I personally recommend Tim Ferris and Pavel Tsatsouline as good, under-the-radar sources. Folks, let’s all be hot.
Finally, our appearance. Although suits (or even ties for that matter) are becoming rarer in the American workplace these days, stepping it up a notch can still give you options. You can still work in some quality style without looking like a try hard. Or you can go the Halpert route, wear a tuxedo to troll a coworker, and have to explain to your new boss why you are dressed like you are going to a cocktail party in 1919. In a business casual environment, you can still wear a tie without turning too many heads, as well as a French cuff button down with power cufflinks if you must. Even a casual jacket works, preferably a light colored, light material for the summer and a nice gray suit jacket in the winter. Ladies, you can wear the female equivalent, but I’m no professional woman’s fashionista. No one will complain about a woman in a professional power suit. A more casual environment should have a professional top or button down and work slacks. Basically, whatever the office dress code, go one step up, maxing out at a full suit.
If tweeting CNN dank memes can be “modern day presidential,” then we young professionals can create the modern day yuppie. We don’t need to be a watered down bougie douchebag. We can be professionals. Thinking you’re sophisticated is one thing, behaving like a successful, greedy capitalist is another. God bless America..
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