Soccer moms weren’t the only Americans in the late 1980s and the 1990s more or less defined by their automobile. There were also the yuppies. The term stood for “young urban professionals,” a new generation of adults with high-paying jobs in business, finance, medicine, law, and the like.
After the word “yuppie” was coined around 1980, it gave rise to such derivatives as buppies (black urban professionals) and guppies (gay urban professionals). There were more to come. Many yuppies enjoyed spendthrift lifestyles in the early years of their marriages because they were DINKs, which meant Double Income, No Kids. As time went by and one spouse traded his or her career (usually hers) for homemaking, some free-spending DINKs became ORCHIDs: One Recent Child, Hideously In Debt. ORCHIDS sometimes became the SITCOMs: Single Income, Two Children, Oppressive Marriage. So went the alphabet-soup sociology of the day.
Yuppies, distinguished not only by their age and their occupations, were people who had to buy to live, just as sharks had to swim to breathe. But they couldn’t buy just ordinary stuff. Theirs was a restless and creative materialism, a constant search to find the most distinctive and expensive version of just about anything. They favored $2 Dove Bars over 50-cent Eskimo Pies. Their beer was Anchor Steam instead of Budweiser. They chose Macallan single malt over J&B, Camembert over Kaukauna Club, Air Jordans over sneakers, Starbucks over Dunkin’ Donuts, Perrier and San Pellegrino over tap water. And so on. By buying upscale versions of everything, they separated themselves from the unenlightened, the uneducated, and the unwashed. And they were proud of it.
Yuppie pride surfaced one night in the late 1980s in Ann Arbor, Michigan, when four young friends went out for a beer. After a couple rounds, one of them, a software developer, blurted out, “Listen, I get up in the morning, put on my French-cut suit, climb into my BMW, and drive to my high-tech job. Now, I ask you, what do I have in common with you people?” Not much after that outburst, as it turned out.