[quote]A guy walks up to me and asks 'What's Punk?'. So I kick over a garbage can and say 'That's punk!' So he kicks over the garbage can and says 'That's Punk?' and I say 'No, that's trend!'[/quote]
Quite a few years ago, I came to the realization that suddenly I was stuck in a fashion rut. Trends had gone beyond my knowledge, and I was lagging woefully behind the times. I was still dressing like I had in college and this seemed like a pretty big problem to me, one that I had to rectify tout suite. So I did. I subscribed to Lucky Magazine for knowledge about trends, and as I re-educated myself, my pants (begrudgingly) got skinnier, my tops grew beyond jersey-knit tanks and v-necks, and my shoes lost some of their chunkiness. I follow fashion blogs these days (save the trees!) to keep up with the ever-changing world of fashion around me, and frankly, I feel better about myself for it. But it begs the question: Why? Why was it a problem in the first place that I wasn’t keeping up with trends? What does that say about me? What does it say about anyone if they do or do not choose to stay current with their garb?
Anthropologically speaking, we are group animals – we historically like to stay with the crowd, starting with our primate ancestors and moving on down the line to our current city-dwelling homosapiens. According to Richard F. Taflinger, this is because “the individual benefits by supporting the group, because the group reciprocates by supporting the individual.” Following trends is just a natural extension of that animalistic trait. Think of how much we punish our fellow human beings for being different (bullying, anyone?).
That being said, as Americans, we culturally love to love our leaders -- those who don’t necessarily follow the flock, but instead, choose to lead us to change. Much of this leader vs. follower behavior can be tracked to neuron pathways in our brains. Apparently, those who are exposed to more information from birth have the ability to create more neural networks, which later translates into more of a leader personality. We can therefore reason that how we are socialized can trump our anthropological need to conform. Perhaps that’s how we get the Patricia Fields of the world.
These days, how we dress seems to reflect upon how we feel about ourselves and our place in society. Episode after episode of the popular show What Not to Wear is filled to the brim with men and women alike neglecting their outward appearance, because they don’t feel worth being noticed by their fellow man. It’s how they choose to ostracize themselves from society. They dress to be dismissed by straying from the herd. Inevitably, as an episode progresses, Stacy and Clinton show these people how to be a part of society again by updating their wardrobes with current looks. Also, inevitably, the people whom Stacy and Clinton have refashioned feel better about themselves, because they once again feel like they belong to the larger collective, satisfying that deep anthropological need within us all.
In my fashion reeducation, I discovered that while I do have my own sense of style, I am indeed more confident in my appearance if I can tip my hat to a fashion statement du jour (I’m currently hunting down an emerald green bag or pair of shoes to trot out this fall). I’m not advocating all trend all the time, but if even just one article of my ensemble is particularly en vogue, it shows that I’m in touch with the rest of society and can adapt to and accept changes as time goes by. For others, like our leaders, they feel better when they’re on the cutting edge of fashion, loudly marching to the beat of their own drummer out in front of the fold. God bless them for it – they are the ones setting the styles of our future.
Ultimately, we need both trend followers and trend setters. It’s a symbiotic relationship, for whom would the followers follow and who would the leaders lead if one did not have the other? Here are some tips to learn more about trends and how to follow or defy them:
Read: Delve further into the world of fashion psychology by picking up Fashion, Culture, and Identity by Fred Davis.
Watch: For frequent alerts to all things hip, stop by top fashion vlogger, Michelle Phan’s YouTube channel.
Defy: Don’t just follow the trends – try setting your own by getting in touch with who you are. Here are 10 ways to get your freak flag up the pole where you can fly it proudly.