Trends have staying power. No matter how long since their initial popularity, they still matter. Take hip-hop music, which could have been labeled an early 80s fad given its centrality on the streets of NYC. Now it's at the foundation of our popular culture. From Billboard and Total Request Live to ad jingles, with the look and fashion adorned by most every mallrat in Iowa. Hip-hop and urbanization of culture was a trend that took hold over the last 20 years.
Real trends have depth. There is a cause for their popularity and acceptance. In the example above, a reason why hip-hop fused itself to our culture. Understanding that is the job of sociologists, trendwatchers, market researchers and other professionals who are sought to analyze society and forecast the trends that will change the game.
Their trend reports need to be more than lists of what's in at the moment. That is only spotting trends or fads, something I do on this site admittedly, which is a valuable skill to hone. But to aspire to more, analysis must come into play to understand what is behind the fad, why is it here, and what are its prospects for trend-hood. They need to be weary of the latest hype and media spin, which often portray minor movements as national sensations.
That is at the heart of the criticism voiced by Daniel Radosh, contributing editor for The Week , in his piece "The Trendspotting Generation." He notes the death of hard news and rise of trend stories where today more people can tell you last weekend's box office numbers than how many soldiers died in Iraq. According to Radosh, the myriad of stories on what people are buying, wearing or gossiping about used to be called "small talk," it was never news.
But, perhaps thanks to the media, we have become very astute pop culture experts, hungry to stay current, which all of our 24-hour news channels, style magazines and millions of bloggers are only too happy to satiate.