25 Jul 2023 ///

‘Why did dad sneakers make a comeback?’ The psychology of trend cycles

Trends are constantly reverberating in the ‘washing machine’ of our collective conscience. As they say, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure; in the case of trends, it’s more like “one era’s favourite trend is another era’s error’’. Trends are prevailing patterns that seem to exist within the collective psyche and are made manifest outwardly by social media, production and marketing. As we continue our technological, globalising progression as a species, it appears that trends are more rapid-cycling than ever and while we know that  fast-fashion business models encourage this – why trends are so successfully repeated is also deeply connected to our psychological instincts. 

Trends are able to transcend regional boundaries in a globalised, connected world. The use of digital media and social networking has changed how information is shared and now, with fashion trends quickly spreading through platforms like Instagram, Pinterest, and TikTok, reaching millions of people worldwide in seconds. Social media itself speaks to our innate desire to connect with each other; our sartorial choices today reflect the way that we connect each other and how clothing serves as a ‘uniform’ through which we recognise and categorise notions of ‘being cool’, or ‘interesting’ or ‘aligned’ with popular culture. This phenomenon known as ‘herding mentality’ is one of our most innate qualities as human beings; we are a herd-animal species, who have always sought to relate and survive in accordance with the experiences of the communities around us. 

In Katya Loviana’s article for the Centre for Digital Society, she writes, over time, social influence has proven to impact consumer behaviour through the herding effect. Even before the internet and social media era, the tendency to get influenced by others already existed. Consumers can ignore any signals from themselves in order to copy the behaviour of the majority. Nowadays, the existence of an online environment enhances the impact of being influenced, as consumers can now observe others’ buying behaviour more easily, with social media as one of the most used online environments.” 

Another significant aspect of how trend-cycles manifest is through nostalgia. Our strong connection to the past and our selective memory or romanticisation of it, are critical notions for how trend cycles appear to regurgitate. This cultural continuity is why we have seen the most wild returns in recent years; the famed ‘Crocs’ which were once all the rage in the 2000s were relegated to being that lame shoe our dads wear in the garden. It seemed hardpressed that they’d ever make a comeback – alas, anything is possible and by 2020, Crocs were not only just cool again; they were on the runway. Greta Jelen’s observation in her piece titled ‘How Crocs Leveraged Pop Culture To Make A Comeback’  describes the way Crocs used collaborations with Balenciaga, Post Malone and Justin Bieber to signal to the world that Crocs are hot again, “The only difference now is the marketing strategy, which admittedly, is appreciable. Clearly, someone at Crocs is a Millennial and understands that we are living in the age of the influencer. For a lot of people, what their favourite social media icon, rapper, actress, model, etc. says, goes. The saying “if all your friends jumped off a bridge, would you do it, too?” comes to mind.”

Crocs X Balenciaga courtesy of Balenciaga
The return of the ‘dad sneaker’ of the 1990’s are another example of how trends infuse the ever-evolving fashion landscape with echoes of the past. What came to be understood through the chunky silhouette of ‘dad sneakers’ is how perfectly it aligned with the exaggerated direction of y2k as a greater trend cycle – now, we get to pick and choose things that could be relevant today in a much more efficient way. Generations like Gen-Z have entire digital archives online of what the past looked like; nostalgia for the 90s has proven to be a continued source of inspiration. I mean, I even got back into tattoo chokers in high school.
Courtesy of Independent UK
Courtesy of Ervy Jewels
In 2022, we saw Miu Miu almost singularly decide that the ballet flat was back, a shoe I had sworn to never wear again from my era as a 12 year old. For some strange reason (the herding effect I assume) I, along with many other fashion girlies are obsessed with ballet flats again – like moths to the trend-cycle flame.
Courtesy of @livia ballet flats
The return of the ‘fanny pack’ is another one that I never could have anticipated – yet, it’s proven to be one of the most enduring and functional additions to fashion’s accessories roster. Worn in a multitude of ways, the fanny pack hones in on versatility and convenience across the gender spectrum – with dudes also realising they too can store their things stylishly when leaving the house! Personally, my  favourite comeback of late has to be ‘skirts over pants’ – a style that I was obsessed with as a child. I would wear gypsy skirts over jeans, or miniskirts over cargo shorts, and continued to do it intermittently. Now, it’s one of the most popular trends in the ‘fashion girly’ realm, even if it’s not wholly mainstream yet.
Photographed by Phil Oh, & Sandy Liang Spring Summer 2022 
Fashion trends and creative movements have consistently shaped human behaviours and appearances, reflecting the tastes and values of each era. Trends are the markers of our evolution, serving as a means of self-expression while facilitating social cohesion and identity within different communities across the ages. In a world driven by growth, profit and materialistic goals, we can sometimes forget that trends have always been a part of who we are. The nature of how quickly trends can be proliferated by fashion retails is hugely problematic but let’s always remain committed to wearing, doing and being true to ourselves. Who we are doesn’t hinge on whether we are following current trends or not, but current trends are quite a cute way of seeing how connected we really are as human beings. If you like it, then I guess most of us like it – right?
Written by: Holly Beaton
For more news, visit the Connect Everything Collective homepage www.ceconline.co.za

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