The pinnacle of print media has long been and gone – or so we thought. Gen-Z’s fascination with the neon ‘90s and pop-trash ‘00s has seen a resurrection of countless trends previously presumed to be lost to the annals of history. Frankly, those of us that witnessed the frequent fashion atrocities of the early 2000s first-hand thought that was a good thing. Nonetheless, Gen-Z is reviving certain cultural sectors that embody the antithesis of the internet age, combating the constant intrusion of the virtual worlds on our lives by returning to the tactile world of vinyls, books, and now magazines.
In a world of filters, edit comment buttons and watch-once culture, there is something strangely comforting about the permanence of magazines. Society has become more globally intertwined on almost all cultural levels as the advent of the internet and streaming has made every sub-culture or underground activity readily available to anyone regardless of their geographical location. In theory, this would and has for the last few decades, diminished the value of localised fandom and the feeling of belonging to a secret society of those “in the know” about a certain band, film or fashion trend. If a teenager in Texas can be a diehard fan of Japanese Jazz from the ‘80s, suddenly the definitions of fandom and sub-cultural affiliation become smudged. So much so that it became pointless to create expensive magazines dedicated to specific subcultures that could never be circulated across all areas where newfound fans lived.
In many ways, the Gen-Z resurgence of magazines in the form of ‘zines’ can be seen as a reclamation of identity, regrounding fandom in the real world and away from a virtual one where everyone can be a fan of everything all the time. ‘Zines’ actually have their history in similar roots, beginning in the 1930s as a way for science fiction enthusiasts to create networks, share ideas and collab without the rest of the world looking on. The famous Beat Poets of the ‘50s recognised the value in zines for subcultures and formed the first ‘underground press’ – giving people a voice outside the traditional media. When social media arrive in full force in the late ‘00s, society thought magazines would become obsolete as Twitter and Facebook became the default soap box in the town square for all subcultures.
So what happens now that social media has become the mainstream? Well, a resurgence of Zines dedicated to issues as far-ranging as DIY women’s streetwear, graffiti lettering and tutorials, skateboarding or even “Reptiles and Amphibians of The Simpsons” have emerged as Gen-Z establishes a new era of ‘Offline Press’. Small circulations among true enthusiasts have become an indispensable resource for political activism, cultural engagement and the building of offline communities – somewhat mirroring the newfound value of ‘micro-influencers’ over traditionally larger celebs.
Some of the standout stars of this new era of Offline Press include ‘35mm’ a small circulation zine dedicated to photography. Similarly, zines like Lilith – dedicated to intersectional female journalism, Queer Wrath – dedicated to LGBTQI+ rights, and Isolate – dedicated to the BLM movement are all making waves by offering an alternative and more tangible connection to the communities we each believe ourselves to be a part of. Whilst mainstream magazines also seem to be on the uptick with 44% more magazines being launched n the UK last year than in 2020, it’s Gen-Z that should pat ourselves on the back for bringing back an art form that lost its way not its value. Is print really dead? Apparently, it was just sleeping.
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