In Defense Of Following Trends Because "I'm Not Like Other Girls" Isn't Always An Achievement
My style has not always been the uninhibited show of glitter, feathers, and decadence that it is now. For a long time, following fashion trends — especially ones found on the Internet — was a huge component of my look. Although there are hundreds of haters and online article commenters who would probably do anything to tell you how bad my style is, the clothing I wear still reflects a progression of trends that have faded in and back out of my wardrobe. Those people might not consider me to be in vogue, and maybe I'm not. But I still see value in trends nonetheless.
I believe that trends affect all of us, including those who have eschewed fashion at every possible opportunity, or who turn up to an internship at a fashion magazine looking like a total nerd and scoff at the importance of belts for a photoshoot, only to get schooled on their sweater color by Miranda Priestly.
Sure, that might be the plot to The Devil Wears Prada, but Priestly's point that high fashion affects fast fashion still stands. This means that even if you spend $3 on a skirt from a thrift store, that skirt's history is likely intrinsically tied to a popular fashion week look — even if it was a look from many moons ago.
No matter what faux superiority complex some folks garner from "not caring" about trends or contemporary fashion, there is value in them; and there is value in following them. Ultimately, the people who follow them are no better or no worse than those who don't.
As an outsider looking in (and with a touch of feminist theory), I'd wager that what hatred of trendiness boils down to is the "other girls" trope — and the notion that women who specifically try not to be like those other girls are somehow the best women; the cooler women.
Think of the manic pixie dream girl in many fantasies who wears odd socks and isn't like anyone else in school. Or the "cool girl" as Gillian Flynn described in Gone Girl :
Being the Cool Girl means I am a hot, brilliant, funny woman who adores football, poker, dirty jokes, and burping, who plays video games, drinks cheap beer, loves threesomes and anal sex, and jams hot dogs and hamburgers into her mouth like she’s hosting the world’s biggest culinary gang bang while somehow maintaining a size two, because Cool Girls are above all hot. Hot and understanding. Cool Girls never get angry; they only smile in a chagrined, loving manner and let their men do whatever they want. Go ahead, shit on me, I don’t mind, I’m the Cool Girl.
She's the woman who has to distance herself from other women — the underlying message being that most women are inherently bad. So by not being like the "other girls" (the other girls who follow trends) one becomes a good, non-vapid, non-tanned, non-girl.
This trope has been used to discuss the drama and catty-ness associated with "other girls," as written by Emily O'Connell for Thought Catalog, but I feel the conversation can be applicable to fashion as well. By looking down on women who follow trends they enjoy or who listen to fashion magazines and emulate popular celebrities, we end up looking down on a large majority of women in our culture.
But no matter how much of an individual you feel your style makes you, our individuality and worth arguably boil down to our personalities more than our clothing choices. This is a reminder that I'm sure many of us would love to give to anyone who bullied us for being emo or skater kid in middle school.
Some of us present our personalities through style. Some of us don't. Crafting your own, unique image is something to be treasured, though. And honestly, it's my favorite thing about both fashion and beauty. However, the hierarchy that people place themselves in for their personal style feels not only ludicrous, but completely made-up.
Ultimately, most people who dress themselves in the morning dress themselves in clothes they enjoy wearing. Whether that's a comic book fan wearing a vintage Spiderman T-shirt they bought on Etsy, a trend follower spending 20 minutes lacing up thigh-high boots to nail those Kardashian vibes, or even me, layering five different gold eyeshadows onto my face. We're all doing these things because we think they look and/or feel good.
There is no need to rob anyone of that feeling. If you're feeling yourself in your stripes and polka dots combo, let others feel themselves in their monochrome chic looks as well.
Besides, every different sartorial style that seemingly deviates from the norm usually ends up following its own trends. Although I felt oh so alternative as an emo teen on MySpace, even then I was following the trends of fellow emos and not being truly original. When Tumblr permeated my style choices, I was simply following Internet trends of flatforms and pastel-colored hair instead of the beach waves and stiletto heels of the mainstream.
It might sound cliche, but the observation that "everything's been done" already is something I'd like to reference here. I don't take that adage to mean that there's a lack of originality in the way we all present ourselves. Rather, that originality itself is defined differently from individual to individual because of that statement. The uniqueness of following trends versus not following them comes from picking and choosing the ones that appeal to you personally.
Although I feel far removed from a trend follower, I know that as soon as long boots came into fashion, I bought two pairs. I may not dress myself in beige or neutral tones, but I can appreciate those who do wear them and wear them well. By mixing and matching trends with non-trends, we can find a unique style all for ourselves.
So try to remember Miranda Priestly's words if you catch yourself side-eyeing a women for "copying" Kylie Jenner's style. "You go to your closet, and you select that lumpy blue sweater for instance because you're trying to tell the world that you take yourself too seriously to care what you put on your back [...] [But] you're wearing a sweater that was selected by people in [the fashion industry] from a pile of stuff."
What you are wearing has been chosen for you by the sartorial industry in some way or another, whether you care to admit it or not. We're all trend followers, but that doesn't mean we're not trend setters as well.
Image: Georgina Jones