Pay attention to the latest fashion trends

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The world changes fast. If you don’t keep up, you’ll be left behind.

Watching fashion trends is a good way to lose money. Dress according to the latest fad, instead of by your own taste or style, and you will miss a lot of the fun.

It’s easier to see this when it’s happening to other people, because the evidence is there: someone who looks like a hipster in 1985 will look like a dinosaur by 2012. But it’s true even if you’re part of the change. You can learn from them: look at what they like and start doing that, and you’ll probably catch up to them.

Look at military uniforms. Take any army of the last 100 years or so, and you’ll find that the soldiers wore some combination of uniforms and civilian clothes, with no clear trend toward fewer civilian clothes or more uniforms.

When I was a student at the University of California, Santa Cruz, in the 1980s, most people wore flannel shirts and corduroys. Then came the grunge look, which was very popular for about four years. Then came the tie-dye look, inspired by flowers in Haight-Ashbury. Then came the marijuana look, which really took off when it was mixed with tie-dye.

One day during my freshman year I was walking across campus when I saw a guy wearing jeans, a denim jacket, and a baseball hat with black hair on it. It was the first time I had ever seen someone wearing this kind of outfit. And he wasn’t just wearing these clothes. He was strutting around campus like he owned the place. I thought “This is awesome!”

About half an hour later some other guys were walking by me. They were dressed exactly like that guy—same hat, same jacket. And they were strutting along just as if they owned the place too! They looked very cool.
All of a sudden it hit me: Everyone else had already figured out that this was how to dress up for college! What had taken me so long?

In our culture, the latest fashion trends are more likely to reflect real social change than more enduring styles of dress. In the past decade, for example, you have probably seen a lot of men wearing hats with earflaps. But if you go back 10 years, that would have been a strange thing for a man to wear.

In the middle ages, hat-wearing was a sign of status and power. Men who weren’t important wore caps. Men who were important wore hats on their heads. It was an outward sign of importance.

Sometimes you can get away with taking fashion risks if your audience remembers what they are supposed to be looking for.

This year the fashionistas are all about Harley Quinn. She’s a bad girl, with a pair of guns, in a very short skirt. The idea is that you dress up like her to look cool in public.

Cute, right? But it’s not just Harley Quinn who’s in vogue this season. It’s also cats standing on their hind legs wearing high heels.

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