Fads: a thing that becomes very popular in a short amount of time, and then is forgotten at about the same speed.” — The Urban Dictionary
None of us are immune to fads.
I consider myself a person of moderate thought and deed, a man who wears traditional clothing that never goes out of style.
But in the 60s, I sported hair tumbling over my ears and collar and had an affinity for bell-bottom trousers topped off with Edwardian jackets. A friend commented that I looked like a seedy Prince Valiant.
Did I stand out? Nope, because many other people were dolled up in unique clothing, from Sgt. Pepper attire to frontier buckskin outfits. We were making a statement, although we weren’t sure what it was.
My foray into fashion splendor didn’t last long. I was soon back shopping at Brooks Brothers after I decided looking like a British dandy was probably not my cup of tea.
But who among us can say that they never tried a Hula Hoop or a Rubik’s Cube, danced the Twist or played Pac Man? Who has not worn a mood ring, owned a pet rock, wore a tie-dye shirt or played with a Slinky?
We are all faddists, each and every one of us.
According to an essay on culture and society written a decade ago, the specific nature of the behavior associated with a fad can be of any type including language usage, apparel, financial investment. And even food. What, people don’t eat porcupine meat balls anymore?
Apart from general novelty, fads may be driven by mass media programming, emotional excitement, peer pressure, or the desire of “being hip”.
We are warned, however, not to confuse a “fad” with a “trend,” since a trend tends to evolve into a permanent change. This may or may not exclude the “Macarena.”
The latest fad sweeping the country, according to a source with dubious credibility, is orange jump suits, the kind favored by the incarceration community.
This fashion trend has been inspired by a television series called “Orange Is the New Black,” a comedy-drama about women in prison.
This is either a statement of fact or a home run by the show’s publicist.
Whatever. According to Saginaw (Mich.) County Sheriff William Federspiel, kids insist on wearing neon-orange jumpsuits to the mall in order to emulate what they see on the show.
As a result, the Saginaw County Jail is transitioning from the orange jumpsuit to the classic black-and-white garment “because it signifies ‘jail inmate,’ and I don’t see people out there wanting to wear black-and-white stripes,” the Sheriff told a local Michigan news outlet.
Like flag pole sitting (a fad in the 1920s), this is fraught with danger. I know nothing about law enforcement in Saginaw, but here in Los Angeles County if a sheriff’s deputy or an LAPD patrol officer saw a gaggle of kids parading down the street in orange jump suits, I suspect they wouldn’t just wave and drive on by.
Of course, switching to black-and-white striped jump suits could inspire a new fad. These kids nowadays.
Fads have been with us for centuries. Fortunately, most never became trends.
Pointy jester shoes were what all the fancy gentleman wore in the 1400s. Even though — as archeologists would later discover — those shoes deformed their feet, caused pain, and made them trip, they were still excellent status symbols among courtly men.
The shoes irritated King Henry IV, and he had them banned. He proclaimed the “beak” of a shoe was not to exceed two inches, and any cobbler who made such a ridiculous shoe would be fined 30 shillings.
In Elizabethan times, poor people ate a more healthy diet than the rich. That’s because they subsided on fruits, vegetables and meat while the well-off stuffed themselves with costly sweets.
As a result, bad teeth became a status symbol. Ladies to the manor born actually used cosmetics to black their teeth out, in order to look more rich and glamorous.
Tear catchers were a fashionable way to mourn in the Victorian era. You would cry your tears into a tiny bottle until it was full. A special stopper allowed for slow evaporation of the tears, and when it was empty, your mourning was over.
As we became more civilized, we confined ourselves to such innocent pastimes as goldfish swallowing, marathon dancing, phone booth stuffing, streaking and eyeball licking.
Fast forward to now.
I’m happy to say without hesitation that you’ll never see me in a jumpsuit — orange or otherwise — for the rest of my days. Nor will I dance the limbo or revel in the music of Abba. I’ve sworn off fads forever.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go take a selfie.