2018 was the year of Aperol spritz, oat milk, and overalls

The drink the New York Times calls “Violently refreshing.”
The drink the New York Times calls “Violently refreshing.”
Image: REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini
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Raise your hand if you know this person: They studied abroad in Italy, and so they only order an Aperol Spritz, even when you’re at a dive bar. They live in Brooklyn, probably Williamsburg or Bushwick, where they raise a small family of succulentsThey lose their shit when the bodega runs out of Oatly, and they wear overalls in the summer and denim jackets in the fall—both heavily accessorized with enamel pins (vintage).

If you recognize yourself or your friends in this description, you’re in good company. Transaction data pulled from millions of retailers by the mobile-payment provider Square shows that 2018 was the year in which Americans gained fresh fondness for Aperol Spritz cocktails, oat milk lattes (both iced and hot), and jean overalls. Products that included the words “rose gold”—specifically jewelry, gloss, and glitter—spiked in popularity, too.

Here’s the full breakdown of the top ten items with the most growth:

Each of the items on this list appears at least 10,000 times in transaction data for every month between October 2017 and 2018. It’s worth noting, however, that Square processed about $65 billion in sales in 2017, which only makes up a little more than 1% of all retail sales in the US.

In addition, Square notes that the payments for these items were more likely to come from big cities than rural areas. Square and other payment apps are also favored by teens and millennials, rather than older generations, so it’s likely that young people are driving many of the trends above.

While it’s hard to deduce why some of these items have become so popular, it’s fun to speculate. Indeed, many a think piece has been written on millennials and their love of plants (they fill the emotional void caused by student loans and internet-fried brains, allegedly). Other trends are easier to explain. For instance, the New York Times dubbed the Aperol Spritz the “violently refreshing” aperitif of summer 2018, while Starbucks released a wildly popular Unicorn Frappuccino in April of last year. Meanwhile, tahini—a condiment made of ground sesame used in Eastern Mediterranean and North African cuisines—recently joined quinoa and ghee as the latest Gwenyth Paltrow-anointed super-food.

We may never know exactly why enamel pins and perms showed enormous growth in 2018. But in any case, for a year that featured a dark news cycle, retail trends suggest an overall lighter mood. We’ll cheers to that.