As Heidi Klum says in every Project Runway episode, “one day you’re in, and the next day you’re out.” This statement doesn’t pertain just to fashion, but also to music, TV shows, viral videos, slang, and other aspects of pop culture. Trends come and go as often as the sun does. We’ve all found ourselves following fads, whether it be rolling around in Heelys in our childhood or snapping selfies for Instagram today. Particularly during middle and high school when everyone is trying to fit in and go with the flow, succumbing to such trends is inevitable.
And with every fad comes the “Oh my gosh, I started wearing those/listening to that band/watching that show, like, a year ago—waaay before it became popular.” These “trendsetters” often feel threatened or annoyed when they find that something they previously “discovered” has since become popular. They scoff at the newfound recognition of the once “hipster” thing that they claim to have found. With everyone jumping onto the bandwagon, these trendsetters jump off, seeking a new, empty wagon to jump on.
Why do these individuals feel the need to jump off when others start following the trend? Constantly seeing what had previously seemed like a private, personal form of enjoyment around every corner detracts from the intimacy of it and the sense of ownership. And so, in a way, leaving this trend behind is their way of coping.
I know I’ve certainly felt frustrated after a song or artist I started listening to a few months back starts to become “mainstream.” Seeing Imagine Dragons on the top ten singles on iTunes week after week this spring made me roll my eyes and feel a bit irritated, since I had started listening to them much earlier. When they were “hipster,” I felt like I was one of the few special fans with whom they shared their music, especially since I had seen them in concert months before their songs started to become well-known. So upon hearing “Radioactive” on the radio, a confirmation that they had officially become popular, I would change the station, annoyed by their growing fame. To me, Imagine Dragons was well on its way to becoming just like every other ordinary, autotuned band.
However, I came to realize that my feelings were not at all justified. Imagine Dragons is a great band, and I should be happy that its music is reaching more people across the world and that it is gaining deserved recognition. People are free to make their own decisions, and we should accept that, even if it can feel irritating when others copy our choices.
In fact, people aren’t just following you; herd mentality itself is a fairly well-documented phenomenon that describes how people adopt certain behaviors, follow trends, and/or purchase items. The bottom line: individuals prefer to conform, deriving information from other people. In this case, the “herd” strives to be original and as a result, it adopts the same style.
Somehow, celebrities manage to take this in stride. They set trends all the time (just open any fashion magazine), but do they feel offended when others start to follow their lead? Not at all. In fact, many feel honored that people like what they do so much that they imitate and take inspiration from them. Their popularity is their success, and they only become popular when they accumulate a large number of fans. For example, just a mention of harem pants, colloquially known as “Hammerpants” after then-hip-hop-superstar MC Hammer, can evoke fond memories of “Stop—hammertime!” in “U Can’t Touch This.” Though many people won’t touch this fashion statement now, the legions of young consumers in the 1980s that proudly donned those loose-fitting trousers are a testament to the crowd-swaying power of celebrities. By following whatever trends their favorite celebrities start, the fans can show their support.
But oddly, we feel the opposite of the celebrities’ pride when we see what we thought were our own personal habits starting to appear in other people’s lives. In some ways, we should strive to adopt this mentality that celebrities have. We should transform the frustration and negative feelings into more upbeat and accepting emotions. Instead of leaving the wagon, make room for the others. Bask in satisfaction, not resentment.
And through this all, it is still possible to retain the sense of individuality we had before by keeping in mind that every person is unique. Even though people are following the general trends that we may have happened to set, we still keep our individuality by holding on to personal variations of larger trends.
So the next time we see trend followers jostling each other around, eager to fit in with the crowd, we should not immediately shun them and turn our back on the habits we once thought were so unique. Instead, we should take time to think positively and appreciate the sharing of the discovery with our community. It would not do to concentrate so singularly on being different that we forget our effect on the greater community.