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Trendiness Is in the Eye of the Early Adopter



Cleanliness may be next to godliness, but trendiness, well, it's way down at the bottom of the list, sharing a spot with ugliness. If you don't believe it, just look at any woman over the age of 30 wearing a Paris Hilton miniskirt and crop top; the kid next door who's wearing huge baggy jeans that not only look like oversized Bermuda shorts but also are the size of their namesake country, with the waistband hanging below his, uh, hips and his underwear pulled up to where his waistband should be; or anyone wearing Uggs. Hey, there's a reason their name is short for "ugly" and a homophone for "ugh." But full-length mirrors have never stopped anyone from a following a trend. Face it, if you want to be trendy you just have to give up some things. Like self-respect.

Being trendy doesn't exactly bring out the best in us. It makes us wear unflattering clothes, eat food we don't really like, watch TV shows we can't stay awake through, and read unreadable books because everyone tells us how much they loved them. Or would if they ever managed to get through more than half a page before picking up the latest copy of People and reading it cover to cover. It's why we listen to gangsta rap while sitting in our pristine suburban house, and why we drink bottled water that costs more per gallon than gas instead of the cheap stuff that comes out of the tap. It's also why we walk around wearing glowing Bluetooth earpieces 24 hours a day. Nothing says "I'm trendy and important" like spending every waking moment with what looks like my grandmother's old hearing aid stuck behind an ear.

Trendiness is why we like restaurants that serve food that's so intricately arranged it looks better than it tastes, or ones that offer a whole menu of appetizers renamed as small plates, because lord knows no one would ever think of sitting down and sharing half a dozen appetizers that each cost as much as an entrée should. It's also the driving force behind flaxseed, which is the trendy food supplement of the week. Flaxseed, for those of you who have been too busy mailing foie gras to the Los Angeles County jail so Paris won't starve to keep up with what the hip people are eating, is the wheat germ of the new millennium. It's high in fiber, has lots of omega-3 fatty acids, and it's being added to just about everything from tortilla chips —- "Now with organic shade-grown fair trade flaxseed!" -— to cereal, to brownies. And if, perchance, you accidentally buy something that doesn't have flaxseed in it, you can sprinkle some on top. It adds antlike specks, more fiber than a cardboard box and an earthy flavor. You know, like dirt.

If this is the first you've heard of flaxseed -— hey, you can thank me later —- then you're a laggard. If you've been using it for a while, you're an early adopter or early majority. If you're still mourning Jerry Falwell's passing, you're a silent majority, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't be eating flaxseed. Heck, you can probably find some Sinless Communion Wafers with flaxseed added without any problem. If you invented flaxseed, you're not only an innovator, but God. If that's the case, please forgive me if I said anything to offend you.

These classifications aren't made up -— well, they are, but not by me — they're part of the diffusion of innovations theory, which was formalized back in 1962 by Everett Rogers in a book called, amazingly enough, "Diffusion of Innovations." Hey, no one ever said Rogers was an innovator. In it, he states that adopters of any new innovation or idea can be categorized as innovators, early adopters, early majority, late majority, laggards and Luddites, who wouldn't touch a trend with a 10-foot old-style pole. Just kidding about the last category I innovated there. Hurry and adopt it before it gets too trendy.

See, the problem is, by the time an idea gets past the early adopters, it's on the way out, and you should avoid it like this year's recycled leg warmers. Hey, even Jennifer Beals isn't wearing them this time around. Though Pat Benatar might be. The point where something goes over the edge and becomes popular is called the tipping point. Malcolm Gladwell spends a whole book talking about this, a book called "The Tipping Point," yet another example of an author who isn't a title innovator. Think of the tipping point as the moment when the sleeping trend cow tilts just enough to tip over and fall on its side. It's the moment when something unusual becomes common. In other words, when something fun becomes boring. It's when Crocs stopped being a weird shoe you saw someone hip wearing and your grandmother gave you a pair for Christmas. It's the moment you heard your favorite undiscovered band's music in the dentist's office. It's when your parents set up their own MySpace pages. And invited you to be their friend.

Remember: Trendiness is in the eye of the beholder. Following a trend is easy, being a trendsetter isn't. And honesty is the best policy, so do what you want, not what everyone else is doing. With luck, this will start a trend. Just don't forget where you heard it first. S

©2007 Barry H. Gottlieb. All rights reserved.

More writings from Mad Dog (aka Barry Gottlieb) can be found online at www.maddogproductions.com. His compilation of humorous travel columns, "If It's Such a Small World Then Why Have I Been Sitting on This Airplane For Twelve Hours?" is available from Xlibris Corporation.

E-mail: md@maddogproductions.com.

Opinions expressed on the Back Page are those of the writer and not necessarily those of Style Weekly.

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