Trend Hunters: Outside the hipness domain

Cupcakes or pie? I seem to remember reading somewhere the cupcakes are out and pie is in. Or maybe it was the other way around. Frankly I didn’t pay too much attention because to me, no matter what is going on in my world, there will never be a need to choose between the two. I’m just not that trendy. And the turn of a new year not only marks the annual topic of resolutions, but also the annual topic of trends. Yes, we are all guided through the difficult questions of what’s out (Lululemon gear) and what’s in (hand-me-down sweatpants) by lifestyle staff writers at The Washington Post.

I didn’t start thinking too much about trends until I caught the topic while listening to the radio show To The Best of Our Knowledge and an interview with Grant McCracken, who teaches anthropology at MIT. McCracken explained that the early days of trends are difficult to identify and that the poeple creating the trend often don’t know exactly what it is. In fact, it’s not a trend until it’s embraced by a group of people. In essence, you don’t know what’s trendy until it’s actually a trend. McCracken pointed out:

Trend hunters can tell you what the hip stuff is, but 90 percent of American culture falls outside the hipness domain.

Wow. That totally has a new Discovery or History Channel reality show written all over it: Trend Hunters. And when it comes to the hipness domain, I am part of the 90 percent. Mostly I’m proud of it though I do confess, I spent more time and energy than necessary chasing that 10 percent hip domain. It was mostly during my 20s, but I still fall into that trap every now and again.

Olympians Apolo Ohno, Picabo Street and Dan O'Brien were in the Katamibar infomercial.

And so, as we begin a new year where there is plenty of emphasis on nutrition and exercise while we eat the last of the Christmas cookies and the holiday colored pretzel M&Ms, I started thinking about health and wellness trends. There never seems to be a shortage of them. And “trend” often seems to have a negative connotation to me. I link it with “fad” and “quick fix”  and trendy (read: dangerous) diets mixed with fitness programs to give you a beach-worthy body. I admit it: I am not immune from fitness trends. Hello, I bought a Katamibar because Apolo Ohno was in the infomercial. (OK, maybe that’s not so much me attaching to a trend as it is being swayed by a celebrity spokesperson. But it’s a corollary principle.)
The Huffington Post brought us the top 20 fitness trends for 2012 which were less about gimmicks and more about the way in which health and wellness are evolving including sport-specific training, functional fitness and worker incentive programs. The list also included “trendy” fitness activities like boot camp, Zumba, yoga and spinning. Maybe programs in the workplace will help people create lasting healthy lifestyles. Maybe Zumba and boot camp classes are just fads, like leotards, leg warmers and the 20-minute workout.

I’ve become a bit wiser when it comes to trends. I see trends as a way to learn about new things, gather information, engage in conversations and then make decisions based on my experiences, knowledge and instincts. Sometimes that means I join in with the group. Other times it means I’m off by myself munching Nature Valley granola bars while toiling way on my bike trainer for two hours on a Sunday morning. I don’t have to blindly follow a trend, but I can let a trend lead me to new experiences, new places to explore — whether  it’s a new restaurant, trendy TV program or the latest exercise craze — and then decide how to make it uniquely my own. That is, if it makes my personal cut. I am, after all, part of the 90 percent of American culture that lies outside the hipness domain. And I’m quite OK with that.

To hear the entire interview with Grant McCracken about trends visit the following audio link:

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