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Cost of Current: The True Price of Staying Trendy

The societal pressure and allure of being “on trend” can quickly override personal style and authenticity. This relentless cycle not only dictates our everyday fashion choices, but also shapes our identities.

Credit: Shutterstock/Wayhome Studio

New year, new you. Or at least, that’s what everyone wants you to think. Reinvention takes center stage every January as top brands and influencers push this narrative of transformation. Who will you be, what will you wear, and how much money will you spend to change yourself entirely?

In the realm of fashion, staying on trend is the currency of cool. Blink and rethink your closet because what’s in one minute is out before the next begins.

Set your search to filter by “most popular” because if you want to swim at the top, you can’t go against the trend current.

In the summer of 2022, Quinn Shephard’s “Not Okay” was released exclusively on Hulu. The film follows Zoey Deutch’s character Danni as she desperately seeks internet fame as a “survivor” of a tragedy from which she was countries away. 

As her lie progresses, so does Danni’s divulgence into micro-trends. From bleached money pieces to beaded phone cases, she sports them all.

When asked about her character’s styling, Deutch explained, “Of course, we knew that this summer, the trends would be very different. And that’s sort of also the point of it, that trends would move so quickly, and we all jump on board things so quickly.” She continued to say, “Everyone can look back to the film and know it was from the summer of 2021.”

This stylistic choice highlights Danni’s lack of individuality— her readiness to adopt something simply because it’s trending. Danni’s archetype of trend-chaser raises questions about the cost of conforming and the potential loss of individuality in the pursuit of staying ‘on trend.’

It’s almost unbelievable the viral House Of Sunny green Hockney dress wasn’t featured. 

A Cycle Cut in Half

As 2023 wrapped up, people began to reflect. This meant an influx of Ins and Outs lists. While the majority of these videos are light-hearted and fun, granting dating apps out and sweet treats in, a few have a more strict undertone.

In the Reddit thread r/femalefashionadvice, one user asks if everyday fashion is more cutthroat than before, saying,

“Normally I would just call things ‘outdated’, but I feel like cheugy takes things to the next level. There’s almost like a shamey cringe associated with key pieces from a few years ago.”

Fashion isn’t simply going out of style anymore. Instead, they are canceled.

It’s become clear through these fashion Ins and Outs that cheetah print is incoming, and ribbons are on their last thread. Though these videos often end with the promise that you can “wear whatever you want” and that these “are just opinions,” I wonder if this is ever true.

Can something truly be “on the way out,” or is it exiled the second your go-to fashion influencer deems the fad faded?

While wearing her cheetah pants, TikTok user @xxoohayley begs her followers not to go overboard with the print “like we did with the bow thing.” She discourages calling the print trendy, responding to the comment, “PLEASE cheetah print is my literal fav forever now it’s gonna be considered ugly in like a month” with “THATS WHAT IM SO SCARED OF!”

@melodynotevintage

Old lady screams at clouds. You are not a #trendforcast you are here to find your own #personalstyle #fyp #eclecticgrandpa #fashiontiktok

♬ original sound – MelodyNoteVintage

This sense of gatekeeping is prevalent in several other areas of our everyday lives as well. The idea of being part of the “in” crowd will always be present— not liking something because everyone around you does or being too “cool” to participate in trends once they reach mainstream culture. Cheetah print will not change or suddenly become objectively “ugly.” The only thing that will change is it’s public perception.

Have fun before Ins and Outs lists tell you that that, too, is overrated.

I, for one, will continue peacefully sleeping in my Urban Outfitters bow bedsheets (even though they’re so last year!)

Cheugy Culture

Though what’s in and what’s out is at the forefront of your feeds come the start of a new year, this phenomenon spans much more than 30 days. It’s ever-present, just ask the girls with infinity sign tattoos. 

In 2013, then-teenager Gaby Rasson coined the term “cheugy.” The term caught mainstream attention in 2021 and disparagingly describes something or someone who is outdated, trying too hard to be trendy, or lacking in style and originality. Common attire considered “cheugy” includes skinny jeans, side parts, and even blonde hair after every trend comes threats of the term.

One user under @melodynotevintage’s video discussing the inaccuracy of trend forecasting attributes a trend going out of style the second Target gets whiff. 

So, is accessibility cheugy?

YouTuber @AlexaSunshine83 has made numerous videos challenging this notion. From “styling fashion trends that are OVER in 2023” to “outdated fashion trends I STILL LOVE,” Alexa encourages her viewers to embrace their personal style beyond the confines of what’s in.

Commenter @katie483 explains under Alexa’s video that as a woman in her 30s, she’s noticed that “there’s a camp of people who get mad if I don’t wear trends (“ugh your clothes are outdated and old!”) and a camp of people who get mad if I do wear trends (“ugh why are you dressing like a teenager!”) — no way to win!” 

This same sentiment is repeated throughout all of Alexa’s videos, as well as in everyday discourse surrounding the impossibility of women’s fashion. 

New videos appear daily discussing “Trends I Hate,” but they’re doing more harm than good. Comments asking, “What are we supposed to wear then?” flood the videos.

Even Alexa says, “Apparently, everything I wear is now outdated,” and “So many pieces on this list are, like, parts of my core personal style.” She continues saying, “I also wanted to reinforce to myself that these are the pieces that I’m comfortable in, and it doesn’t matter if they aren’t trendy because I’m trying to build a wardrobe that I love and that I’m happy with.”

Trend List or Shopping List?

Who benefits from threats of “cheugy” more than the fashion industry itself?

In May of 2021, Entertainment Tonight published the article “These Trends Are Officially Cheugy — Try These Instead.”

The best part? The article, which urges readers to “swap out the outdated trends,” is subtitled, “we may receive commissions from some links to products on this page.”

“Say goodbye to your oversized hobo bags and totes!” This year, “smaller bags are back in vogue,” and ET has so graciously linked a $495 Coach bag for easy purchase! “Cast aside those pumpkin spiced lattes” for this $200 Smeg Drip Coffee Machine! The list goes on and on.

Is the trend we bought just a month ago, straight from their website, now too embarrassing to wear?

Brands like ET sustain a cycle of constant buying and constant waste.

@miks_tiks

Reply to @rocky_esquivel what to wear instead of the trends in my first video!!!! #cheugy #cheugyfashion #whattowear #fashionstudent

♬ 3 minutes – StMooY7

These companies strategically place “cheugy” in our line of sight, subtly encouraging us to police each other’s choices and adopt trends we already have. The industry uses the term to rapidly declare styles outdated, fostering a sense of urgency for consumers to embrace the next micro-trend.

Has personal style become an endangered species? Is it possible to win the fashion game if you refuse to play along?

Bella Hadid, Please Don’t Bring That Back!

We are falling into the trend trap.TikTok user @biryanibby explains in her video that “America is having an individuality crisis.”

Such a style crisis is, of course, increased by our online culture. Every ding from our black mirror links us to another best-dressed list or another red carpet fail. Can this cutthroat trend cycle be attributed to those at the top? Most definitely.

When discussing her style with WSJ Magazine, Bella Hadid said, “In the last year, it was really important for me to learn that even if people talk about my style or if they like it or if they don’t, it doesn’t matter, because it’s my style. When I leave the house in the morning, what I think about is: Does this make me happy? Do I feel good in this, and do I feel comfortable?”

This sentiment works—when you’re Bella Hadid.

For the rest of us, however, the same rules don’t apply. While Hadid may only worry about comfort, the rest of the world is bombarded with headlines such as “Bella Hadid Is Bringing Back Knee-High Socks If You Like It Or Not,” “Bella Hadid Is Bringing Back Low-Rise Cargo Pants,” and “Is Bella Hadid About to Revive Skinny Jeans?”

Throw away your $160 platform ultra mini uggs because Bella Hadid hasn’t been seen in them in MONTHS.

The Obsession Obsession

Hadid most recently brought “Bloquette” fashion to center stage— an aesthetic noted on the aesthetic wiki. This page covers over 1000 similar “cores,” including “Tomato Girl Summer” and “Female Horror Game Protagonist Fashion,” of course. Most credit Hailey Bieber for their inception.

We have come to feel inclined to meticulously curate every aspect of our lives, turning them into these carefully crafted aesthetics— we’re obsessed with obsession.

Do you like a band? Buy their merch. Like a celebrity? Put their face on a t-shirt. It’s not enough to tell people you’re in the know, you now have to show them— strangers included. Even a niche sticker will let other members of the in-crowd know you’re one of them.

Side parts are “cheugy” when your mom wears them, but when Sofia Richie does the same, Glamour magazine announces their revival.

Similar attempts are being made by Addison Rae, who has been sporting an iPhone 5s and Instagram filters in recent posts.

Will this Tumblr revamp pair nicely with the upcoming cheetah print? Will the infinity sign tattoo girls finally feel free to show their skin without shame? I guess that’s up to Bella Hadid.

Written By

Sydney Havlick, a recent Smith College graduate with a B.A. in English Literature and a minor in Sociology, is an aspiring and modern-day Carrie Bradshaw. Don't be too surprised if you catch the “Sex and the City" influence sprinkled throughout her work. Join her as she discusses the most pressing (and most fun) topics in popular culture and beyond!

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Ruthie

    January 15, 2024 at 8:25 am

    I love this article. It is spot on to the reality of what is going on with celebrities and all “influencers” sadly! People don’t realize all the influencers are pushing the same items at the exact same time. And many stores, such as Nordstrom, no longer market heavily or make their items available for loyal customers. When they have their coveted “Anniversary Sale” all the influencers that are pimping all the same items for the sale get first dibs; nevermind that a customer has been loyal to this store for decades, the available merch goes to the “influencers” to pimp out and when the sale is over, miraculously there are items that were all
    Sold out made available for their loyal customers to pay full price. Be true to yourself and don’t get caught up in the frenzy of spending thousands to keep up with trends!

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