The animal onesie: the fluffy scourge of Generation Y

Adults, myself included, are regressing to childhood - moving back in with their parents, job-hunting in between porn-viewing sessions and eating bowls of Frosties for dinner. Who could blame us?

Even as a ten-year-old, I couldn’t stand fancy dress. One World Book Day, where primary school children dress as their favourite literary characters, I loopholed my way out of wearing a humiliating Harry Potter costume by writing Ellie; a two-page semi-autobiographical novella. I went to school that day dressed as the book’s protagonist: me. The last Halloween costume I wore (2011) was similarly half-arsed. I scribbled the Euro symbol onto a white shirt in permanent marker and told everyone at the party I’d come as failing currency.

But grown-up fancy dress is no longer purely the stuff of stag nights and themed parties. It’s seeping into everyday life with the insidiousness of something truly sinister. I’m referring to the fluffy scourge of Generation Y; the animal onesie.

In recent years, my fellow twenty-somethings have taken to dressing as cuddly fauna. Pandas, giraffes, monkeys, foxes – one-piece suits shaped like all of these critters can be seen covering a young person near you. They wear them everywhere from parties to nights out, to lying comatose on the sofa in front of Deal or No Deal. So ubiquitous is the animal onesie that I wouldn’t look twice if I were stuck behind a human kangaroo at the Sainsbury’s checkout, or fighting for bar space with a set of badgers. In fact, I recently spent a train journey tightly engulfed by a sweaty-crotched tedium of humans dressed as the contents of London Zoo.

As a recent Time cover story reminded everyone, millennials are widely disliked by older generations. They call us lazy, they call us entitled, they call us mollycoddled. The animal onesie brazenly confirms that we are all of these things and more. From Thatcher to Britain’s Got Talent, a great number of socio-economic factors have paved the turd-strewn way for my generation. These various obstacles have resulted in what’s been referred to by many as prolonged adolescence. Adults, myself included, are moving back in with their parents, job-hunting in between porn-viewing sessions and eating bowls of Frosties for dinner. Who could blame us? The graduate job market looks like a recently-flushed toilet. (Yes, yes, I know, but at least if it were un-flushed there’d be something in it). And there’s one bear/rabbit/chicken-shaped item of clothing that so neatly encapsulates the pathos of the situation.

Wearers of animal onesies are resigning themselves to the overgrown child stereotype. This isn’t even prolonged adolescence; it’s prolonged infancy. When a person in his or her twenties puts on a rabbit costume, they’re saying: “I give up.” Nihilists with bunny ears are collectively curling into the foetal position and jamming their thumbs firmly into their mouths. No act could be more submissive, more docile, more supine.

Admittedly, I’ve flirted with the idea of buying an animal onesie myself. One afternoon in bed, my eyes glued to an episode of Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, while periodically shovelling Haribo Tangfastics down my throat, I thought to myself: “What could make this better?” My conclusion? Being dressed as a giraffe. As my cursor hovered over the “add to basket” icon of an online animal onesie shop, I had an epiphany. It was this: “Margolis, you suck.”

When I nearly bought that animal onesie, I was about to contribute to a generation-dooming stereotype. Not only this, but I also ventured dangerously close to the realm of kookiness. Kookiness – that self-conscious, wide-eyed, nail-biting effort to be “different” and, oh God I hate this word… “quirky”. This brand of cutesy, pseudo self-deprecating, supposed originality touted by the likes of zany (ugh) actress Zooey Deschanel is yet another element of the zeitgeist that badly needs exorcising.

Just consider this: animal onesies are the opposite of funny. They’re so unfunny, in fact, they make me want to stick kebab skewers in my ears. They’re malevolence with a bushy tail. And, for the love of all that’s holy, please stop taking pictures of people in them. They’re not “genius”, they’re grown-ups pretending to be hilarious squirrels in a land where you can pay off your mortgage in fondant fancies. Stop encouraging them.

But grown-up fancy dress is no longer purely the stuff of stag nights and themed parties. Photograph: Getty Images.

Eleanor Margolis is a freelance journalist, whose "Lez Miserable" column appears weekly on the New Statesman website.

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Air pollution: 5 steps to vanquishing an invisible killer

A new report looks at the economics of air pollution. 

110, 150, 520... These chilling statistics are the number of deaths attributable to particulate air pollution for the cities of Southampton, Nottingham and Birmingham in 2010 respectively. Or how about 40,000 - that is the total number of UK deaths per year that are attributable the combined effects of particulate matter (PM2.5) and Nitrogen Oxides (NOx).

This situation sucks, to say the very least. But while there are no dramatic images to stir up action, these deaths are preventable and we know their cause. Road traffic is the worst culprit. Traffic is responsible for 80 per cent of NOx on high pollution roads, with diesel engines contributing the bulk of the problem.

Now a new report by ResPublica has compiled a list of ways that city councils around the UK can help. The report argues that: “The onus is on cities to create plans that can meet the health and economic challenge within a short time-frame, and identify what they need from national government to do so.”

This is a diplomatic way of saying that current government action on the subject does not go far enough – and that cities must help prod them into gear. That includes poking holes in the government’s proposed plans for new “Clean Air Zones”.

Here are just five of the ways the report suggests letting the light in and the pollution out:

1. Clean up the draft Clean Air Zones framework

Last October, the government set out its draft plans for new Clean Air Zones in the UK’s five most polluted cities, Birmingham, Derby, Leeds, Nottingham and Southampton (excluding London - where other plans are afoot). These zones will charge “polluting” vehicles to enter and can be implemented with varying levels of intensity, with three options that include cars and one that does not.

But the report argues that there is still too much potential for polluters to play dirty with the rules. Car-charging zones must be mandatory for all cities that breach the current EU standards, the report argues (not just the suggested five). Otherwise national operators who own fleets of vehicles could simply relocate outdated buses or taxis to places where they don’t have to pay.  

Different vehicles should fall under the same rules, the report added. Otherwise, taking your car rather than the bus could suddenly seem like the cost-saving option.

2. Vouchers to vouch-safe the project’s success

The government is exploring a scrappage scheme for diesel cars, to help get the worst and oldest polluting vehicles off the road. But as the report points out, blanket scrappage could simply put a whole load of new fossil-fuel cars on the road.

Instead, ResPublica suggests using the revenue from the Clean Air Zone charges, plus hiked vehicle registration fees, to create “Pollution Reduction Vouchers”.

Low-income households with older cars, that would be liable to charging, could then use the vouchers to help secure alternative transport, buy a new and compliant car, or retrofit their existing vehicle with new technology.

3. Extend Vehicle Excise Duty

Vehicle Excise Duty is currently only tiered by how much CO2 pollution a car creates for the first year. After that it becomes a flat rate for all cars under £40,000. The report suggests changing this so that the most polluting vehicles for CO2, NOx and PM2.5 continue to pay higher rates throughout their life span.

For ClientEarth CEO James Thornton, changes to vehicle excise duty are key to moving people onto cleaner modes of transport: “We need a network of clean air zones to keep the most polluting diesel vehicles from the most polluted parts of our towns and cities and incentives such as a targeted scrappage scheme and changes to vehicle excise duty to move people onto cleaner modes of transport.”

4. Repurposed car parks

You would think city bosses would want less cars in the centre of town. But while less cars is good news for oxygen-breathers, it is bad news for city budgets reliant on parking charges. But using car parks to tap into new revenue from property development and joint ventures could help cities reverse this thinking.

5. Prioritise public awareness

Charge zones can be understandably unpopular. In 2008, a referendum in Manchester defeated the idea of congestion charging. So a big effort is needed to raise public awareness of the health crisis our roads have caused. Metro mayors should outline pollution plans in their manifestos, the report suggests. And cities can take advantage of their existing assets. For example in London there are plans to use electronics in the Underground to update travellers on the air pollution levels.

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Change is already in the air. Southampton has used money from the Local Sustainable Travel Fund to run a successful messaging campaign. And in 2011 Nottingham City Council became the first city to implement a Workplace Parking levy – a scheme which has raised £35.3m to help extend its tram system, upgrade the station and purchase electric buses.

But many more “air necessities” are needed before we can forget about pollution’s worry and its strife.  

 

India Bourke is an environment writer and editorial assistant at the New Statesman.