By Alison Isko
Remember cow print? Or those strawberry dresses? Yeah, I didn’t either. Thank online micro-trends for that.
There’s a cycle. An aesthetic––usually something very specific or very niche––becomes popular. People run to buy it. Once everyone posts photos of it online, it’s no longer cool, and influencers turn to new routes for views. Those new routes become famous in turn, and the cycle continues.
While these could be called a micro-trend, that doesn’t feel like the correct word. A micro-trend is defined as a trend with a lifespan of 3-5 years––TikTok aesthetics last 3-5 months, if they’re lucky. A micro-micro-micro-micro-trend, perhaps?
It’s always good when people are able to express themselves through clothing, and the upside to trending aesthetics is that there are enough of them to let people explore dozens of ways to do so.
However, these trending aesthetics cause unprecedented amounts of clothing waste. Whatever their best name might be, microtrends’ rise are closely linked to fast fashion’s. Brands like Shein are able to sell clothes at absurdly low prices because of their exploitative labor practices, and they produce their clothing using cheap materials.
Their clothing is very specific to microtrends, so they want you to purchase from them again with the next round of trends. But because of this, their products often end up in landfills or in the back of someone’s closet.
People purchase 60% more clothing than they did 20 years ago, according to the United Nations Environment Programme. As fashion cycles grew shorter, people had to purchase more clothing to keep up. Thus, fast fashion. Fast fashion brands, however, are the cause of 10% of the world’s carbon emissions. For context, the oil industry produces less carbon emissions.
And microtrends are only expected to get shorter. 92 million tons of clothing waste is produced every year, and that count will grow to 134 tons yearly within the next eight years. Social media is only going to get bigger, so why wouldn’t microtrends shrink in compensation?
Participating in microtrends is by no means a bad thing, but what is important is to recognize why you’re purchasing it. Ask yourself if you actually like the item of clothing, and if you would be willing to wear it after it loses popularity. If the answer is yes, try to find a sustainable version of it. If the answer is no, it might be time to pass on that trend.