The story always plays out the same. You look at the runway pictures and think, yeah, maybe. Those slim-fit jeans have been feeling a bit restrictive recently. And didn’t your boss turn up at work in spray-on jeans the other week? You spot what appeared at fashion week on some street style don. Then an Instagram influencer. A glossy editorial.
When it hits shelves nine months on you’ve already decided yes, this one’s for you. You buy, try, and feel awkward when friends comment on its debut. Then in creeps comfort – body and brain acclimatise to a new shape. What was a statement becomes default. Facebook proffers a skinny-jeaned time capsule and you shudder. This shape, this is the one that actually flatters a man’s body.
Time ticks on and your wardrobe expands until, one day, you try something new. Saw it in an ad, thought why not? It feels… OK. OK becomes everyday. Eventually, wide legs get muscled out. Facebook. Shudder. This is the shape. Repeat.
“A fashion trend lasts two to five years,” says Henrik Vejlgaard, a trend forecaster whose book, Anatomy Of A Trend, analyses how these cycles bubble from idea to ubiquity, then eventually burst. However immune you think you are, however static your style, at some point trends will infiltrate your world.
They move from insiders down the fashion food chain, percolating through society until what was once cutting edge becomes the norm. Each group endorses the trend for the group behind, but taints it for the ones before. You see Zayn’s souvenir jacket, you want it. Your dad takes a shine to yours, you take it to Oxfam.
But there’s a distinction, Vejlgaard says, between a trend and a fad. Fads burn bright, then fade away, a six-month burst of colour, or a pattern that appears for a season then goes back in the drawer. Womenswear tends towards the former, says Graeme Moran, head of fashion and features at industry bible Drapers: “One season will be all black and white, the next everything’s colour. But menswear changes slowly. It’s more gradual.”
Which is why, when these shifts do occur, they can seem titanic. For a decade, we’ve dressed slim, as Hedi Slimane’s skinny-obsessed Dior tenure met Don Draper’s suits and a generation of men suddenly discovered how clothes could really, really fit. But as the trend filtered down, what seemed transgressive on runways became the norm.