The never-ending cycle of fads

Christine Guerrini

In-between the sound of silverware on plates and crunching cereal at breakfast, I overheard my mother’s conversation. She and an acquaintance were talking about twinsets.

Normally, the subject wouldn’t even register with me. Who wants to think about a sweater with a matching shirt underneath? I’d rather be daydreaming of one of the slinky Versace dresses in the King of Prussia mall that I’ll never afford. But, ironically, this small exchange of style fit perfectly for my article: fads.

As my mother sat in the leather cushioned restaurant chair, her acquaintance gabbed on and on. My mom was wearing an olive twin-set, which set them off on the tangent.

Apparently, 30 years ago this particular clothing item was necessary in every color. What is it about fads that allows for their creation, disappearance and re-emergence? If they faded, shouldn’t someone seal them away in the “faux pas” grave?

The key to the ongoing circle of fads is that tiny modern tweak. Originality is preserved but updated to get people interested. Take pencil jeans, for example. I happen to think that they are positively unflattering on the majority of people. However, once I see Audrey Hepburn dancing through the Gap commercial, I think “classic.” This advertising reels the buyer in. Despite the fact that the fabric isn’t cut precisely the same way and the colors have been updated to fit the times, the outcome is still pencil pants. Old, but now new.

Let’s not forget the ever-changing music scene. Throughout the years, we’ve gone through big-band, jazz, rock and roll, pop, boy-band, hip-hop, grunge … Okay, you get the idea. Such a variety of prominent musical movements makes it difficult to think that anything could be truly unique. The reality: it’s not.

Artists borrow from the old favorites and revise the tunes that used to get people dancing. You might not turn to Smooth Jazz 106.1, but you’ll buy the Maroon 5 CD. Early rash street rap might not suit your fancy, but club-ready rappers like 50 Cent and Ludacris do. Same general message. Different beat.

You may listen to a song, watch a movie, see a dance or notice a fashion style that you hope will sink to the depths of the cultural abyss. You’ll probably be lucky enough to bypass it for a good 20 years, but don’t get your hopes up for too long.

Original ideas are growing slimmer, and companies are forced to update that which was popular in the past. Chances are, your children are going to be driving you crazy with the same things you did as a child. With that to look forward to, who would ever want to throw away … or burn … their old fad items?