How does a trend emerge and why do trends keep reappearing?

Who really says what is there at this moment? And how do trends prevail? A fashion researcher has answers and explains why so many things in fashion come back at some point.

The carrot pants of the 80s, the thin eyebrows of the 90s or the ballet flats of the 2000s: all trends come back at some point. No matter how unfashionable a style once was, at some point it will be rediscovered and, of course, labeled “in” again.

But why is it like this? And how does a fashion trend really emerge? Kristin Hahn, professor of fashion theory and studies at the Macromedia University of Applied Sciences in Berlin, knows this. The precondition for a look to become a trend is acceptance by a broad sector of the population, says Hahn. Therefore, 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. Up to this point, everything is logical.

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

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

But before the general public can imitate a style, someone has to prove it. Hahn calls these people opinion leaders. They could be, for example, celebrities. A good example of this is Kim Kardashian: when she chose cycling shorts as her personal must-have a few years ago, there were hardly any women left who considered themselves trend-conscious. He was wearing cycling shorts.

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

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

While trends used to be clearly dictated by the upper class, today it is no longer so easy. From the 1960s onwards, fashion trends were also influenced from below, explains Hahn. The designers were inspired by so-called subcultures, that is, groups like punks.

Fashion shows what we long for

Digital technologies also play an important role in the development of current trends, says Hahn. You can search on Google for current trends or find out by looking at your Instagram feed. At the same time, everyone can spread the looks that they find interesting and, with the right reach, become trendsetters themselves.

But why are so many trends always a trip to the past? “Fashion always reflects a longing for a certain zeitgeist of the past,” Hahn says. After the Second World War, looks reminiscent of the Baroque and Rococo became fashionable, that is, periods that were characterized by splendor and lightness. People wanted to forget the war years full of deprivation. However, it is impossible to predict how quickly trends will return and how long they will last. According to Hahn, the resurgence of trends does not follow any particular pattern.

By Franziska Wessel

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