How Younger Generations Conform to Fashion Trends

Hannah Lorenzo ‘25

Staff Writer

Labels are everything. Well, that’s what we told our younger selves during that period between middle and high school when we began thinking more about our fashion sense. Before then, we had carefree days of being able to dress without thinking about societal norms of what was deemed acceptable to wear at certain stages of our lives. When we “grew up,” that mindset changed to focus on the latest trends.

From white sneakers to oversized, vintage T-shirts, my generation was all about retro, casual looks in high school. Even the ‘90s came back into play with the obsession with halter tops and skinny jeans. I tried to make myself believe that I was different from my peers; I thought I wore what I wanted because it was my own style. My style consisted of baggy sweatshirts, black leggings, and sneakers that were comfy and cute to me. Soon, I realized that my so-called unique inspirations for fashion came not only from what I saw the “popular” crowds wear but also the broad expanse of social media fashion trends.

This concept of wanting to blend in with what everyone else is wearing is what tends do to sneak up on us. The clothing, shoes, and accessories we adorn ourselves with make us feel comfortable because we don’t stand out; instead, we fit in with our friends and strangers in our communities. I wore my casual outfit of the day that was also worn by other students and people I followed on social media. We don’t call attention to ourselves with what we wear on our bodies, and that’s fine by us because it means acceptance and stability within such social contexts.

In college, one may think that these stereotypical ideals are beyond our way of thinking. College is the time to experiment with different styles and genres pertaining to who we are as individuals, especially when it comes to fashion. We begin concocting plans to dress as adults in a casual or formal sense, and there’s much excitement when starting brand new wardrobes. We attempt to dismiss any significance related to overrated trends or designer labels, but, in reality, our mindsets shift right back to fashion conformity.

In my own experience, the transition to college appeared intimidating yet undoubtedly familiar as I looked around and saw the same emphasis on fashion statements. It is still fashion trend after fashion trend, where it seems like everyone has the same fashion sense. Maybe not the exact same apparel items, but the brands and logos remained the same. The rising trends of Lululemon activewear, Apple watches, and that same pair of Nike sneakers make up the sea of students, and I am no different.

There is more to this story than fashion brands and articles of clothing as this sense of conformity hidden in plain sight. Now, I am not saying that people are at fault for sharing the same taste in clothes and logos, but I look to fashion stereotypes and media trends as main causes.

The rise of social media and influencers becomes more and more substantial as they start the fashion trends that are “in” right now, giving off this idea that if people succumb to this particular fashion sense, then their style fits into what society looks like at the time. It seems like a popularity contest that changes at any moment from the actions of influencers and celebrities who publicize their fashion statements. What first started as a way to support those who we follow in the media became the catalyst for what social conformity is in fashion.

Social media applications like Instagram and TikTok add to the hype of fashion trends through edited, filtered posts and fashion haul videos that create different aesthetics that have now been popularized. From Y2k, VSCO girl, dark academia, to streetwear classics, people design their own fashion styles through these formats with the mindset that they are showing their own personality and character. But, in reality, we continue the hype of the same fashion trends rolled over to the next generations.

This can become negative when this conformity controls our ability to truly choose fashion for ourselves. Though fashion may be a mundane topic to discuss in comparison to larger social issues, it is one of the starting points that can lead to animosity and hatred.

Like it or not, the fashion world remains a major part of consumerism and shapes the minds of individuals who understand fashion to be a tool that brings people into their own cliques. In such a diverse society, growing stereotypes, like the rich preppy students or middle-class casual streetwear, define those lines beyond social class to reach divisions between racial and ethnic diversities, cultures, and class status.

Overall, it is important to recognize how fashion trends will most likely remain trendy in its own right through media portrayals and influencers, but we also have to remember that fashion is truly what we make of it and that our own styles are part of that bigger social picture.

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