How does a trend start and why do trends keep coming back?

How does a trend start and why do trends keep coming back?

Who really says what’s right now? And how do trends prevail? A fashion researcher has the answers and explains why so many things in fashion eventually make their way back into the spotlight.

The carrot pants of the 80s, the thin eyebrows of the 90s or the ballet flats of the 2000s: every trend sooner or later returns. No matter how old-fashioned a style was, sooner or later it will be rediscovered and, of course, labeled “trendy” again.

But why is this so? And how does a fashion trend actually arise? Kristin Hahn, professor of fashion theory and studies at the Macromedia University of Applied Sciences in Berlin, knows this. The prerequisite for a look to become a trend is acceptance by a wide segment of the population, explains Hahn. So when many people imitate a style, it becomes a trend. It disappears when the acceptance of the respective look decreases again among the general population. So far everything is logical.

Trends emerge on stage, on social media or in the classroom

“A trend wouldn’t be a trend if it lasted forever,” Hahn says. Since people always want something new, even more beautiful, even better, trends are characterized by short duration.

But before the general public can imitate a style, someone must demonstrate it. Hahn calls these people opinion leaders. They could be celebrities, for example. A clear example is Kim Kardashian: since she chose cycling shorts as a personal must-have a few years ago, there was almost no woman who considered herself attentive to trends he was wearing cycling shorts.

But a trend can also arise on a small scale, for example in a school classroom. In the hit series “Gossip Girl,” classy “It” girl Blair Waldorf wears white tights and headbands—she and the other girls imitate her. In the class cosmos, they are the general population.

Kristin Hahn teaches fashion theory in Berlin. Photo: Macromedia University of Applied Sciences

While once upon a time trends were clearly dictated by the upper class, today this is no longer so easy. Starting around the 1960s, fashion trends were also influenced from below, explains Hahn. The designers took inspiration from so-called subcultures, i.e. groups such as punks.

Fashion shows what we desire

Even today, digital technologies play an important role in the development of trends, says Hahn. You can Google current trends or find out by looking at your Instagram feed. At the same time, everyone can spread the looks they find interesting and, with the right reach, become a trendsetter themselves.

But why are so many trends always a journey into the past? “Fashion always reflects the desire for a certain spirit of the past,” says Hahn. After the Second World War, looks came into fashion that were reminiscent of the Baroque and Rococo, that is, times characterized by splendor and lightness. People wanted to forget the war years full of deprivation. However, it is impossible to predict how quickly the trends will return and how long they will last. According to Hahn, the recovery of trends does not follow a particular pattern.

By Franziska Wessel

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