See all Blog posts

Getting to know Gen-Z: Who is CARLY?

Can't afford real life yet' or otherwise known as CARLY. Find out what makes up this new Gen-Z subculture and how brands can tap into this market.
Getting to know Gen-Z: Who is CARLY? | EDITED

Not only is it the most popular social media platform right now, TikTok is also paving the way for many Gen-Z subcultures, including Cottagecore, E-Girl/Boys and now the CARLY.

A new marketing study has unearthed a key Gen-Z subtype, the CARLY. It follows in the footsteps of other prestigious consumer acronyms such as HENRY (High Earner, Not Rich Yet), DINK (Double Income, No Kids) and Yuppie (Young Urban Professional).

So who is CARLY?

The power of Gen-Z

The elusive group that every retailer wants to court, Gen-Z has substantial spending power (even if it is pocket money) that’s set to increase in the years to come. Hugely different from older generations, retailers must invest time and effort into understanding this cohort’s disruptive shopping habits and personal values in order to engage and capture the market share. Those that do will help future-proof their business. However, every brand will need to keep on their toes.

Who is C.A.R.L.Y?

They ‘Can’t Afford Real Life Yet’

The acronym summarizes this group’s financial status – they spend money they haven’t earned by their own means and are the polar opposite of HENRY (High Earner, Not Rich Yet).

They’re under 25

Gen-Z is generally defined as those born between the mid-to-late 1990s – early 2010s. This cohort is specifically on the younger end of that spectrum.

They love memes & socially shareable experiences

Like other Gen-Z subcultures such as the VSCO Girl, social media ranks highly. They use TikTok and Snapchat – the viral nature of these platforms means this group thrives on impermanence.

They value irony, diversity and flaws

CARLY connects with brands and celebrities that encompass their way of thinking. Primarily, those who show their flaws and champion imperfection.

They see the world as unsafe

From the climate crisis to cyber-bullying, theirs is a world that is tumultuous, leading them to seek safety among their peer group, where emotional openness and honesty is celebrated.

They believe they can make a change

Though they view the world as a fundamentally flawed and dangerous place, they also believe that they have the power to make a difference – activism is in their DNA.

Ugly is their aesthetic

They subscribe to the ‘anti-design design club,’ favoring streetwear, normcore and ‘ugly’ brands such as Crocs.

They’re community-driven

Brands that create a ‘tribe’ like experience resonate with the CARLY consumer, as well as those who have developed strong relationships within the communities they’re based in. Peloton and Outdoor Voices are key examples here.

The brands they love


Collaboration and community are central to this lifestyle brand with streetwear roots.


Loungewear-leaning, ‘optimistic’ lifestyle brand defined by bold branding and trend-led colorways.


Thrifting taken online, ThredUP is the largest online secondhand resale platform.


Nostalgia and collaboration contribute to CARLY’s affinity with this love/hate brand.

  • @kithwomen
  • Mad Happy
    Mad Happy
  • Thredup
  • @crocs 1


Leaders of the anti-design design pack, the brand’s focus is cool basics. Its tagline is ‘the stuff you live in.’


Star shaped band-aids for blemishes that celebrate imperfections rather than hide them.


Colorful, sustainable and comfortable underwear for women that’s also size-inclusive.


Centered on hype culture, viral drops are available every two weeks on the brand’s mobile app.

  • Entireworld
  • Starface
  • Parade
  • Mschf

How you can tap into this market

Offer meaning & be transparent

Brands must be authentic and walk the walk when it comes to values. This group demands retailers to make good on their promises. According to Agility PR, 64% of Gen-Z prefer brands with a ‘higher purpose’, making the supporting of social causes an essential requirement for winning over this group.

Color and branding is key

There are two unifying factors when looking across the list of brands that CARLY identifies with. The first is strong branding, often encompassing bold graphics and a unisex aesthetic. The second is bright, trend-led colors. It’s important to get your basics right – how your shop feels and looks is everything.

Embrace flaws

Many brands have pulled back on photoshopping in recent years, normalizing common imperfections such as cellulite and stretch marks. This is a good start, but strive to go further. Keep a finger on the pulse for emerging brands such as Starface that not only accept flaws, but actively celebrate them.

Don’t be afraid to break the mould

Get creative and explore new avenues to tap into this market’s penchant for social spaces, community and shareability. Keep your eCommerce platform fresh, breaking away from traditional shopping set-ups by experimenting with music radio, playful feeds, chat forums and viral drops.

Learn how to tap into CARLY and other emerging profiles by reaching out for a demo to see EDITED in action.

This report is based on the study ‘Nine by Nine’, originally produced by retail media research firm, Future Commerce, and email marketing platform, Klaviyo.