When a parent or grandparent sets out to buy stylish clothing for the teenage children in their lives, they often have trouble determining which trends to follow. Today, it seems that there are numerous trends in play at the same time. The couture lines have their definition of fashion. There is mainstream fashion, which tends to appeal more to adults than teenagers. And then there are the youth-centered trends like skinny jeans and snapback caps.
It used to be that the latest fashion trends were pretty well documented in fashion magazines, but today that is not necessarily the case. Now, the dynamics of fashion have changed dramatically; the fashion magazines are still the sheets of the high fashion industry, but that industry is getting a run for its money from a newly established style vanguard.
Youth style – and youth culture in general – has largely been taken over by a few entertainment moguls who have correctly estimated the power of spreading a celebrity's pull power over a variety of product lines. The star effect has been well known for a long time: if a hot young starlet goes out for a highly visible evening with friends and she's lugging along your handbag, your handbag will be the next big thing before the paparazzi have even finished uploading all their pictures to the Net.
Harnessing the star effect has been hugely successful. Instead of handing all that free publicity to a whole lot of little brands, stars stamp their names on the products they like, allowing their brand to benefit when sales go through the roof. Because young people tend to be more easily influenced by celebrity behavior, those who manage these celebrity brands have locked in on youth culture.
Basically, they've taken over. Youth culture belongs almost entirely to that group of young, ultra-famous celebrities who have taken their fifteen minutes of fame and parlayed it into a brand with its fingers in every pie from clothing to fragrances to jewelry.
The stars don't design the clothes any more than they mix the fragrances. And those who do the designing have discovered an immensely easy market to penetrate. Fashion choices are always, to some extent, about self-expression, and the basic thing that most teenagers want to communicate is how they are different from their parents, their teachers, and the rest of the establishment. All a fashion trend needs to be is different. It does not have to look good. It just has to break with tradition.
The mechanics of imprinting new fashion choices on the culture have nothing to do with the aesthetic value of the design or the quality of the construction. Frighteningly, they have more to do with how bee swarms work than with using a sewing machine. A new fashion concept is simply placed in enough places that it suddenly becomes ubiquitous; as soon as it does it will be successful.
Most of the time, when a parent or grandparent spends money on clothes for a teenager, they want the teenager to look good in those clothes. They have to accept, however, that youth fashion is about something else entirely. A snapback cap may look good; skinny jeans may not look good; but those values are essentially irrelevant. The key to buying clothing the teens in your life will like is to take them to the store and let them pick it out.