A fashion is a style or practice, especially in clothing or hairstyles, that becomes popular at a given time. A “fashion” must be spread and copied in order to become a true phenomenon, but this can occur both top-down through the media and bottom-up via viral memes.
In addition to the societal implications, a fashion can also be a form of self-expression or identity. The way people dress can communicate a lot to those around them, including their social status, gender, mood and ethnicity. Clothes can also reinforce traditional gender roles, for example revealing clothes can indicate a desire to be sexually active or body-conscious, while conservative styles may signal a desire to appear serious and professional.
People can be influenced by many things, from what celebrities wear to what their friends and family members do. A trend can also come from the workplace, such as business people wearing suits or nurses wearing scrubs. In high school, group membership can be indicated by a particular look (goths and skaters, preps and herbs), and even the style of music can influence clothing trends.
It’s not always easy to trace the origin of a fashion, as it relies on individuals reacting to events and media (ie how did short skirts and boots make it from England to Paris?). However, it’s often possible to track changes in fashion through the evolution of a particular culture or society, such as changing laws that allow women to work outside the home, or the introduction of train travel and mass production of clothes that allowed for a more rapid cycle of fashion.