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In pursuit of the new



Features Editor: Chris Hannay •

In Pursuit of the New
MJ Deschamps puzzles out the psychology behind fashion, fads and trends.
All I can say is, I hope the trucker hat never comes back. The trend is almost laughable now, but back in 2000 when Ashton Kutcher popularized the mesh hats on his TV show Punk’d — thankfully extinct as well — they were all the rage. Teenage boys wore ones with semi-ironic statements, while brand name lovers were constantly on the hunt for a new Von Dutch hat to add to their collections. Some fads and trends seem ridiculous when we look back on them, and often one question pops into our heads: “What was I thinking?” But in the throes of a fad, people do not always think about whether or not these things will still be trendy in the future. They might not even know why they are following the trend at all. So, as consumers, what are we really thinking? Michael Mulvey, a professor of marketing at the University of Ottawa, said he believes we are not contemplating anything at all. “I’m not sure people are really thinking about [following trends] actively,” he said. “A lot of times you just get caught up. It’s like the air you breathe — it’s kind of everywhere — and you can’t really escape it.” There are also emotional reasons why people follow trends, whether it is to fit in with a particular group, to project a certain image of yourself or because you just love a certain thing. But there is no one concrete reason why so many people follow trends and, a lot of the time, they are not aware they are following anything. In fact, a lot of the people who are actually aware of mainstream trends around them are the ones who try to reject them. Trends, however, are not that easily escapable. “One of the great ironies of trends is that the people who try hardest to be different and express their ‘individuality’ are actually often the ones who are the most hyper-alike to others within their particular cliques,” Mulvey said. “If you try to escape the mainstream, you’re inevitably going to jump into another stream,” he said. “It’s really hard to be a pure individualist without coming off as bizarre, because people generally won’t get it.” Janet Lee, manager of Aritzia (home of the infamous TNA bag you see everywhere) in the Rideau Centre, said consumers like to look like famous people. “It’s all about celebrities,” she said. “They have a huge impact. You say Justin Timberlake wears these jeans, and all of a sudden, everyone wants them. I hear girls ask all the time if we have a certain item that their favourite celebrity has been spotted with. It comes down to magazines and pop culture.” While a lot of trends are institutionalized, such as in fashion where something new is introduced and focused on each season and what is in or out constantly changes, something like a music trend can be either extremely short-lived or span over a substantial period of time. “When you think of the popularity of various music genres, it’s not usually in terms of months or years. It’s almost like decades,” Mulvey said. “When you think of the punk rock movement, or the new age movement, or the grunge movement...these are broader time periods, maybe seven or eight years.” When it comes to pop culture, Mulvey said he believes there will always be links between music, fashion, celebrities and the trends they inspire. “If you were going to be a punk rocker back in 1979, sure you were going to listen to certain bands, but there were also other elements that were necessary if you wanted to partake in that movement,” Mulvey said. “You had to have your black jeans, you had to have some chains, and maybe a piercing or a Mohawk haircut if you were really daring.” In fact, music movements do not only have the power to change the sound of popular music during a set time period. Musicians themselves are also important in setting new trends, especially when it comes to fashion. When thinking of a particular genre of music, specific images tend to come to mind — whether it be the safety pins and mohawks from the punk movement, plaid shirts from the grunge movement, bell-bottom pants from the disco era or even excessive “bling” from today’s rap videos. It is important, however, not to try and follow these trends to a tee. Otherwise, instead of trying to become trendy, the trend will become you. We also have to wonder whether we are allowing ourselves to be caught up in a trend because we genuinely like it, or because everyone else is doing it. “When the quest to become cool is obvious, it becomes uncool,” Mulvey said. K

What was your favourite trend as a kid? "I had sweaters and pants with Pocahontas and The Lion King [on them]. The matching sweaters and the Northern Getaway tracksuits." — Amy Comeau, second-year psychology

What fashion trend do you wish would come back? "Neon spandex pants because colour should be worn. Also, wedgies are nice." — Anshula Chowdhury, first-year political science

What do you think of 'trendy' people? "I think that following fashion is stupid, but expressing yourself through the way you portray yourself by wearing clothes is good." — Jessica Scott, second-year health science

What do you think is the ugliest thing people are wearing right now? "Tights with skirts are just ugly. A skirt should be to show off your legs and you're putting tights under there. I think it's really stupid." —Denise Hing King, second-year psychology

Why do people follow trends? "I don't know if it's that you study what people are wearing, but you go in the store and it's what they have. You can't help it. I mean, you can if you really want to. It's not like you put a lot of thought into it. I don't think, 'Is this popular?'" — Rachel Black, second-year social work What trend to you think is really lame? "Crocs, without a question. Crocs make you look like a gnome, for one, and they should not be worn out of the garden...My mother has a pair of Crocs and I refuse to be with her if she's in public and wearing them because they're not meant to be worn in public. They should be for people [who are] geriatric and wandering among the begonias. They're just for gardening and they should not be in fashion." — Jessica Bruno, second-year journalism

Why do people follow trends? "They jump on the bandwagon. Someone starts getting something and people say, 'I want that.' I just dress in what I like, what's comfortable." — Jason Thomson, first-year art history




the Charlatan • October 18, 2007

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