How To Know When A Trend Has “Jumped The Shark”

True story: I mostly miss the boat on trends. About three years ago, Ray-Ban Wayfarers made the scene. I saw them on the likes of Kirsten Dunst and Sienna Miller in paparazzi photos—and, at the time, wasn’t so sure about their place in my wardrobe. For one, I wasn’t about to spend the money on something that wouldn’t at least kick around for a season (cough cough, my numerous misguided baby doll dress purchases) but also, I didn’t know if they could be me. Let’s just say that, sartorially speaking, I’m not hipster-ish, not super-pink-green-and-pearls-preppy—I try to be a classic version of what’s happening in fashion at any given time. How would Vogue characterize me? Slightly seasonally madcap, but optimistically sophisticated? Uh, yeah sure, I’ll stick to that.

So, for the last three years I’ve mulled over the Wayfarer purchase, at times getting quite close to plunking down the 120 dollars—i.e. spending an hour in Solstice discovering that buying a pair can be rather confusing, didja know there are about three versions of the original out there?—and alternatively swearing off the trend completely. Fashion shouldn’t be this hard. I should save my over-analyzing nature for more important topics, right?

Mostly my M.O. is to become entirely no-looking-back enthralled with a trend because of one photo. I see a model/celeb/anyone with whatever trend I’m mentally debating and, justlikethat, I’m hooked. In the case of the Ray-Bans, it was a picture of Domino magazine contributing editor Rita Konig all bundled up for a shopping trip in Boston looking hyper-chic in her Wayfarers. Done. I want them. For sure.

But now that the Jonas Brothers are sporting them, J.Crew has their own version and every 14-year-old mall-obsessed teen can’t get enough, has their time passed? Did I miss my window? Is there any sort of fashion protocol on when to get in on a trend and when to let it pass?

In 1962, Everett Rogers, a communications scholar, writer and professor, came up with a (now famous) theory of “diffusion of innovations” which can, believe it or not, be applied to my little style conundrum. According to Rogers, a given innovation/trend (or recycled trend as is mostly the case in fashion—hi, boho chic, military-inspired jackets, etc., etc.) will go spread through our population over a certain time that’s measured in phases as different types of consumers adopt the product. The first peeps to find the trend are the “innovators”—they’re 2.5% of the population, give or take. Once the “innovators” have started wearing their Wayfarers the next phase of consumers pick up on the trend.

Once the second tier of trend-seekers reaches a certain level, usually between 5 and 20 percent, the trend will totally take off. Then the majority of fashionistas jump on the bandwagon. And at last come the “laggards” as Rogers called them—which is me re: the Wayfarer craze.

So, what to do? Let’s take an up-and-coming trend and figure it out: combat boots. Have you seen all the photos of model Agyness Deyn sporting them around the chilly streets of New York lately? Vogue’s latest issue just talked about a swap party where model Jessica Joffe traded her much-loved Doc Marten boots for a pair of Philip Crangi hoop earrings. That’s the “innovator” phase.

So, us regular folks have two options: Take a chance and spend the money on a pair for yourself and be ahead of the Joneses or wait it out a little and sport them with everyone else next fall.