Do Fashion Trends Always Return?

The question of whether fashion trends return or not is a rather obvious question to answer. The answer is – unfortunately, sometimes, yes. Why is it so unfortunate? Well, it is that the nostalgia seems to end up controlling the culture – and we seem to end up almost in an inescapable cycle of watered-down versions of what was once considered original. What does this cycle mean for individualists, rebels, and the permanent adversarial culture?

The Return of the Same Trends

A good example of a returning trend is seen in popular culture – Lady Gaga’s audience has said of her many times that she’s a Madonna for the 21st century – both critics and admirers seem to recognize this return to pseudo-shock culture, grotesque displays, sacrilegious theatre and so on. It resonates with the same audiences – the sex-craving, fun-seeking, carefree, party-free-or-die crowd embodied in an anthem of their own making: Girls Just Wanna Have Fun. Who can resist singing along after a few shots? In mass culture, there will always be sexual themes, money, and a chorus to sing. People who will sing Journey‘s Don’t Stop Believing, will probably end up also knowing Soulja Boy’s dance. But is there more to trends than just those trivial and material things? Those things will never go away, but does anything else stay around? What of trends in the counterculture – or even, if the counterculture is still, truly, around?

English: Two models on the runway in clothes a...

Two models on the runway. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

No one can argue if fashion trends return or not – it is nearly self-evident: John Lennon’s Imagine at the end of the year, watched by the neo-hippies on their iPhones – the mainstreaming of punk culture and clothing (Anarchy in the UK), the slightly changed hairstyles of teens in the eighties to the disillusioned and nostalgic youth of today – it is all around us – and isn’t restricted to clothing: As of January 2012, Vinyl sales are at a 6 year-high! Certainly, there is something to be said of our traditions and our celebrations of history through trends – our own personal traditions and habits, the clothes of our parents, and their ideas, and the ideas of the anarchist punks who first saw the Ramones when they started – perhaps the return to the music and clothes of that time (Leftover Crack, Against Me!, etc.) is an expression acknowledging the “passing of the baton” so to speak, that people say, “We can do what they can do. It’s our turn to: Start a revolution, fight the power”, and so on. But does the return of certain fashion trends guarantee the return of all of the ideas that were coupled with them?

The Difference Between Returning and Continuing Trends

There is a difference between the return of some trends, and the growth and continuation of others that acknowledge their roots. For example, one could see that, in fashion and in mind, to some extent, Beatlemania has embodied itself in the 21st century with the rise of Apple, downloads, file sharing, and so on. Often times, I hear I Wanna Hold Your Hand, played sweetly on the guitar on the university campuses. We could point to The Beatles: Rock Band as a sort of paramount in the “re-mainstreaming” of The Beatles for this current generation – but it seems that, though the fashion returns – pretty dresses, flowers in hair, and hipster haircuts – something is lost on the way.

To continue with Beatlemania as an example, the original fashion had with it, a sense of rebellion – The Beatles did LSD, they experimented spiritually, they became entangled in the political structures of Nixon, and the struggles of the Vietnam War. John Lennon conceptualized the idea of “Nutopia”, an imaginary country in which there was not a border, or law, or victim of violent act. All you had to do to be a part of it, was to acknowledge that you wanted to be a part of it, and believe in it. It sounds almost like any hippie caricature on television today, and there’s a point to that – by now, the ideas embodied in the fashion and the music of The Beatles have been institutionalized. Gone are the drugs, the social consciousness and the Nutopic visions. The skirts, and haircuts remain – but the song is over. It may be true that the clothes are back – but does that mean that with that trend, the ideas are back as well? This is questionable.

English: "LG Fashion Week Beauty by L’Oré...

L’Oréal Paris (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Jay-Z even talked about how an entire music genre was a response to the insufferable trend of hair metal – but he talked about, also, the tendency for those once-original sounds and ideas to become victims to trendiness – hence his album, the Death of Autotune. We can see how it has affected fashion: The recycling of Flava Flav’s style with T-Pain might be a good example.

Punk’s institutionalization was sooner than today’s punk bands, like Green Day – it was the band, the Sex Pistols, who killed the creativity, and the true intellectual spirit of the movement. It was because of John Lyndon’s markered shirt and dyed hair that he was chosen by the record producers to be a part of the Sex Pistols – it had nothing to do with the work or creativity or even activism that other punk bands had embodied. Television, with their intricate hit, Marquee Moon – it was Black Flag with Henry Rollins – a man who is known for his acting career, his literature, his green philosophy, his stance against war and for LGBT rights. That is so much more than John Lyndon’s “I hate Pink Floyd”, shirt, or the Sex Pistols‘ hit, Anarchy in the U.K.

So how do we keep nostalgia and trends from becoming our rulers? We continue to create – and come up with new ideas, while acknowledging our roots and traditions. We talk about the history of our fashion – as if we were to welcome the return of fashion trends in a ceremonious manner – celebrating the culture of the clothes. We should remember that with these fashion trends, came ideas.

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