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Generation X, Baby Boomers, and Swing: marketing fair trade apparel

Mary A. Littrell (Department of Design and Merchandising, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, USA)
Yoon Jin Ma (AESHM Department, Iowa State University, Ames, USA)
Jaya Halepete (AESHM Department, Iowa State University, Ames, USA)

Journal of Fashion Marketing and Management

ISSN: 1361-2026

Article publication date: 1 December 2005




This study focused on two research questions: How do generational cohorts of fair trade consumers differ in their product attitudes and behaviors, retail preferences, shopping orientations, and socio‐political attitudes? How do factors influencing purchase intentions for fair trade apparel differ among generational cohorts?


Data from 1,055 current customers of four North American fair trade businesses were collected via mail survey and store‐intercept. Respondents included generation X (ages 29‐40, n=200), baby boomer (ages 41‐59, n=589), and swing (ages 60‐75, n=266) generations.


Results revealed that baby boomers and swing respondents differed from Generation X participants in their greater focus on qualities of apparel comfort, value, and quality; preference for authentic products and ethnic attire; and local activism behavior. In contrast, they exhibited more limited interest in wearing fashionable attire. All respondents placed high importance on fair trade philosophy centered on wages, workplace, and the environment. For all generational cohorts, their propensity toward wearing ethnic attire was the strongest influence on future intentions to purchase fair trade clothing.

Research limitations/implications

For fair trade researchers, taking generational cohorts into consideration is recommended for assisting fair trade business persons in reaching their goal of market expansion to younger consumers.

Practical limitations/implications

Coupling significantly expanded information on ethnicity of designs, colors, production methods, or garments styles, along with current promotion of fair trade practices, was suggested for expanding purchases among consumers in both the generation X and swing cohorts. Baby boomer participants also valued pragmatic clothing details related to comfort, value, and quality.


This research provided support for use of generational cohorts in understanding consumer behavior. Regression analysis across the total sample led to different results as compared to when each generational cohort was examined individually.



Littrell, M.A., Jin Ma, Y. and Halepete, J. (2005), "Generation X, Baby Boomers, and Swing: marketing fair trade apparel", Journal of Fashion Marketing and Management, Vol. 9 No. 4, pp. 407-419.



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