Following The Trend: Is Consumerism Outrunning Individuality?


Clothing rack in a shop window with a string of lights behind them.

Fashion trends are not a new thing. The 50s had pencil skirts, the 70s had bellbottoms and the 2000s had an overabundance of denim. Whilst this isn't a new concept, the difference is how quickly we go through trends in this generation- and how quick we are to throw out our clothes for new ones.


Social Media & trending culture


In a social media world, trends go as quickly as they come. One of the biggest culprits for this is Instagram. Styles such as Y2K, Alternative and Hippy have been highly popularized through the app, giving more people an opportunity to find a style they identify with.


The concerning thing with the fashion industry right now is how quickly people are chopping and changing between these things and immediately changing their whole style to follow whatever's trending. Popular social media sites such as TikTok are evidence of this. For example, a trend right now is to make a video of items you are 'embarrassed' about buying- most of which link to Alternative fashion. Most of the items shown in these videos were bought less than a year ago, or at the start of the first lockdowns a few years ago. At that point, more alternative fashion styles such as 'e-girl' were extremely popular, due to TikTok cycling popular creators with this style across the app. However, once this was deemed uncool and embarrassing a few months later, people abandoned their style to follow the next trend.


One of the biggest problems with this is how much people are buying and then throwing away. A survey done by Barnardos found that typically, women will wear an item of clothing seven times before throwing it out. Seven times before they decide they no longer want it, and move on to the next thing. For many people, following fashion trends is a lifestyle- it's comfortable to be part of the crowd sometimes, and it's difficult to feel okay making more outlandish options. There's absolutely nothing wrong with this, but maybe we need to find ways to adapt clothes to trends, rather than buying a whole new wardrobe.


The fashion cycle


It's no lie that fashion is a cycle. The resurgence of fashions popular in the 90s is evidence of this- things that for a while were seen as ugly or weird have suddenly seen a second coming, becoming much more trendy than before. This is one of the reasons why it's a good idea to keep things around- you never know when they'll come back into fashion.


As these things come back into fashion, people who have lots of styles of clothes will sell them on. Normally, this isn't an issue- but apps like Depop are taking this to an extreme. People are going to charity shops, finding 'vintage Y2K' items for cheap, and then selling them on at a ridiculous markup. This is where consumerism takes hold- just because something is expensive, doesn't mean it's great quality. By all means, go to a charity shop, but at least go for yourself and keep what you buy, rather than putting it online as a priceless vintage item.


Depop culture has massively taken over, with people selling their items for markups, getting into arguments over the sales, and being malicious over messages. Whilst fashion is a cycle, the cycle can be kept going with the clothing you have at home. So don't throw out the fishnets, long socks and stripey arm warmers- you don't know when that's going to come back into fashion.


Environmentally un-friendly fashion


Buying clothes online is extremely popular, and always has been. Since the pandemic, it's becoming increasingly popular to buy online, which is understandable. Websites like ASOS, New Look and Pretty Little Thing have always been around.


A brand new shop popped up and found a surge in users during the pandemic- that website being Shein, well known for its variety of styles and quick turnaround times. So-called 'fast fashion' is putting our pockets at risk, but it's majorly putting our environment at risk. Check out this article for more information on why fast fashion is bad for the environment: The Human And Environmental Cost of Fast Fashion.


Is the human need for consumerism and new things more important than the lives of the people that make pitiful wages to make these clothes? I think that this is something we should think about in more depth. Shein drops 700-1000 new items on their website every single day- an insane turnaround. It makes you think about the impact that this is having on our environment, and on the people making these clothes. But people lap this up all the new trendy items, the jewellery, the bags, it's all being bought in its thousands every single day. People have been spending 1000s of pounds on clothes and doing hauls on TikTok, pushing this idea that you need all of these new things to feel happy, that you need to spend all of your money to feel happy- and if you don't, you aren't fashionable.


Overall, there isn't an issue with following trends. The issue is when following the trend becomes more important than being who you are- be it for likes on social media, or to feel more like fitting in. It's more important to be who you are, and stick to your own values and style, rather than adopting someone elses.