The difference in beauty standards between generations

From hair styles to clothing choices, age isn’t the only difference between youths and the elderly.

Shannon Kuan

Weird talents include playing the violin, but with a ukulele and a clothes hanger.

Published: 26 November 2020, 5:34 PM

As superficial as it sounds, beauty tends to be a trend that comes and goes as time passes. 

Be it hairstyles, fashion trends, makeup looks or even body types, what the world is currently obsessing about may soon be irrelevant in a year or two.

Recent trends can be attributed to the popularity of social media and how quickly hot topics can be spread online. If popular celebrities and influencers are taking part in something, you can bet their audience will follow suit. For example, hair-dyeing has become extremely popular and most youths can be seen with specific sections of their hair dyed in bright colours.


Popular TikToker, Charli D’Amelio, dyed the underside of her hair and side fringe hot pink — a current popular hairstyle trend. PHOTO CREDIT: INSTAGRAM/@CHARLIDAMELIO


But at what age do we stop following the latest fad? Does the standard of beauty vary with age?

Fashion and style

Fashion amongst the younger generation relies greatly on personal interests and style. Everyone is encouraged to embrace the aesthetic they resonate with most and dress the way they like best.


An example of a popular aesthetic is the e-boy look which involves layered dark coloured shirts tucked into long pants, usually paired with chains and rings. PHOTO CREDIT: INSTAGRAM/@SPIFEY


Personal style and identification is of the highest value within youths.

While the younger generation tend to believe in fashion over comfort, older generations seem to favour practicality.

On my walks around my neighbourhood, I realised that almost all of the grandpas and grandmas I came across often wore casual outfits and sandals. While teenagers would wear plaid skirts, ripped jeans and crop tops, most of the elderly donned loose longer pants and tops that never showed any midriff.

To get a deeper understanding of the older generation’s mindset and opinions about beauty, I decided to interview my 75-year-old grandmother, Tan Yan Neo.

When she was a youth, money was harder to come by. Fabric was cheaper to purchase than actual pieces of clothing, so she and her friends would often make their own clothes.

“Back then, there weren’t any branded stuff [in Singapore] and no one cared about that. Only the higher class people could afford more expensive things. Cloths were only around $1 then… so I would just buy that and hand sew clothes for me and my younger siblings.”

Times are very different now though and my grandmother is grateful that she can afford and buy pre-made clothes. However, the frugal side of her ensures not to spend over her budget.

When asked what factors are important to her when purchasing clothes, she replied: “They must be easy to wash and iron! I like flower patterns and the colour red… so most of my wardrobe is red.


Almost all the shirts in my grandmother’s closet are loose, red in colour, or have flower patterns. PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTHOPIA.SG/SHANNON


“I also prefer loose shirts because they hide my fats,” she said, laughing.

While my grandmother used to love wearing skirts and dresses when she was younger, she never does so anymore.

“They’re so troublesome,” she exclaimed, “Pants are better for everyday wear. I would wear [skirts and dresses] to fancy events… but honestly, my butt is too big for them now!”

Hairstyles and hair colour

Apart from fashion, many youths like expressing themselves through their hairstyles.

One of the biggest hair trends that youths are following currently is dyeing specific sections of their hair bright unconventional colours.

From bleaching only the front few strands of their fringe, to dyeing the underside of their hair a more vibrant colour from the top layer, many are using hair dye to express themselves.

Hairstyle trends have also become pretty versatile, with Korean style bangs being pretty popular. Elegant short bobs, long beach waves and natural curls gaining its fair share of popularity.


Curtain bangs are bangs that part down the middle, framing the face on each side. The hairstyle is hugely popular right now. PHOTO CREDIT: INSTAGRAM/@BEST.DRESSED


Meanwhile, one thing I noticed among most grandmas in Singapore is that they tend to keep their hair short and often permed.

My grandmother, who has kept her hair short and curly for years now, said: “Short hair is easier to wash. Singapore is also so hot, so keeping my hair short is more convenient.”

When asked why she chose to perm her hair, she laughed: “If my hair isn’t curly, my hair will look too ugly and flat, and turn into a bowl cut!”


It is rare to find a grandma with long flowing hair, most of them don’t leave it past their shoulders. PHOTO CREDIT: TIAGO MURARO VIA UNSPLASH


However, my grandmother did not keep her hair short all the time. As a teenager, she adored keeping her hair at a longer length – she felt that she looked prettier that way.

“Usually, wealthier people have longer hair. Because when you’re poor, you need to make the most of the money you spent on your haircut. Some just have their parents cut their hair for them to save even more money,” she said.

As for hair dye, my grandmother immediately grimaced when the topic was brought up.

“The most I do is dye my hair black to cover my grey hairs because I’m old! I’ll never do those crazy colours… because back in the day, it wasn’t common. Only performers would wear bright coloured wigs.”

My grandmother added: “I actually know of this auntie with blue and red hair! She always wears hair clips and outfits with holes here and there. I honestly find it a bit weird but she likes it! She wants to feel young again like those teenagers, so I understand.”

Physical Appearance

Social media can be a boon or a bane, but most of the time it is known to have harmful effects on one’s self esteem and mental health. Many of us fall victim to comparing ourselves with others despite knowing that everything online is either exaggerated or fake.

While it helps us keep up with the latest trends, it can also backfire and make us feel inferior for not having the ‘ideal’ body type, facial features or branded goods.


It has become extremely common to find self deprecating comments online, comparing themselves to ‘better-looking’ individuals. PHOTO CREDIT: SCREENSHOT FROM TIKTOK


Sadly, even women’s body shapes have become a changing trend. In the 1950s, having an hourglass figure was all the rage, with women trying to accentuate their slim waists and large chests. However the decade we currently reside in seems to lean more towards having thicker thighs and bottoms.

The world seems to never be satisfied with accepting yourself and the features you were born with. Instead, it tells us that we need to constantly strive to improve and upgrade ourselves to be happy.


There are also comments focused on bringing down other people and asking them to change their weight. PHOTO CREDIT: SCREENSHOT FROM TIKTOK


As someone who has been through 75 long years of life, this is what my grandmother thought: “I [ideally would] want to be skinnier… but I am happy and satisfied with myself right now. At this age, it’s hard to lose weight especially because I sleep and eat a lot! But it’s okay cause I enjoy it.

“I was very pretty when I was young. Now, I’m much older but I’m still pretty! What matters most is what I think about myself… I don’t care about other people’s opinions.”

Perhaps the older generation not being exposed to social media is a blessing in disguise, or maybe with age comes acceptance and satisfaction. 

But nevertheless, what matters most to my grandmother is this: “When you grow older, health becomes more important than beauty. But the most important thing is your mindset… because you [define] your own happiness.”

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