Every day, thousands of ideas are thrown at us regarding what to think, how to live and what to buy. One of the biggest drivers of consumerism is social media. TikTok’s video feed is curated algorithmically to our interests – all with an effortless swipe of our finger.
If you are like me, you are on “FashionTok,” a side of TikTok displaying the latest news and trends. Every time I swipe, there is a new “Shopping Haul” or “What I Wear in a Week” video. I see new viral videos every day of users wearing unique outfits and every other comment begs to know where it is from. Thus, another “microtrend” is born. Microtrends are short-lived trends created by the fast-paced nature of social media.
A microtrend used to be considered as a trend that stayed for one to three years. Now, that period ranges from a couple of months to a year. Typically it begins when a celebrity – ranging from runway model Gigi Hadid to TikTok sensation Addison Rae – is seen in an expensive clothing item.
Soon, fast-fashion distributors like Shein and Zara produce dupes of the item. Millions of people purchase the item but never wear it again after a few months of hype. Another contributor to the quick rise and fall of trends is the word “cheugy.” The word was coined in 2013 but is yet another thing to take off on TikTok. There are thousands of videos of influencers discussing what is deemed cheugy.
Like most things, the pandemic could be to blame. We spent months with nothing to do except scroll through social media. People had plenty of time to shop online and dream of future reopenings. A study from the National Center for Biotechnology Information shows that humans’ attention spans are rapidly dropping. Consumers no longer have the patience for macrotrends. They want the newest and hottest microtrends.
The music industry is experiencing a similar shift in pace due to social media. Most viral TikTok songs crowd the top music charts. Lizzo, a Black American singer, rapper and songwriter, discussed this struggle in an Instagram caption in December when added to former President Barack Obama’s favorite music of 2021.
“Whew! I needed this right now… Listen y’all – there’s amazing music that isn’t viral, that isn’t charting, that don’t have a TikTok trend… My music touches people – don’t believe me, ask Obama,” Lizzo said.
Microtrend demands have resulted in overconsumption and making fast fashion even faster. These trends have environmental costs. The fashion industry is the second-largest water consumer behind agriculture and contributes up to 10% of global carbon emissions. There are several ways to combat this. While keeping up with trends can be fun, investing in a “capsule closet” could save your time and money when getting ready for an event.
A capsule closet consists of five to ten neutral, timeless items that are less likely to go in and out of style. For example, a white collared shirt, a leather jacket and a pair of wide-leg jeans. These neutral items will pair well with that trendy bag you decide to splurge on.
Another helpful practice is shopping at second-hand stores. Besides being eco-friendly and wallet-friendly, thrifting allows for a thrilling experience as you search for niche items. Buying sustainably does not limit fashion, but provides an opportunity to tap into your creativity and use fashion as a form of activism.
Aja Barber, a Black fashion activist from London, said it best, “Once you get to that point you don’t feel the pull of fast fashion ever. Because fast fashion plays on our insecurities hardcore, pushing us constantly onto the next thing. But maybe the best thing is the one you already have. The goal is always to look in your closet and see several things you’re actually excited to wear.”
The most important change we must make to combat microtrends and their negative effects is our mindset. We need to develop a mindset of conscious consumerism. We are what drives and progresses these trends by making them our own.
It is impossible to keep up with every single trend out there, so make sure at the end of the day you’re wearing what you love and feel good in. That’s what I will be doing.