Oct 14

Am I Too Influenced by Influencers?

by Claire Hussey

Throughout my teenage years, I followed trends religiously. Much like a groupie would follow a band around in the 80’s, desperately seeking their attention and mutual adoration. I allowed myself to be assimilated into the masses; eagerly adopting the neon’s and suedes and platform sneakers my classmates were wearing. Only for these trends to never reciprocate my affections; and end up buried at the bottom of a drawer after only a few wears.

I’m almost embarrassed to admit that this mentality continued well into my late teens. I felt obliged to adhere to the ‘rules’ of fashion and impulsively purchased trend pieces with the remnants of my weekly budget. The need to stay relevant and fit in with my new classmates was the driving force behind my spending; and even when I’d thought I was free from the vice-like grip of my peers’ judgements, I couldn’t seem to dissuade myself from purchasing that hot pink tube top.

Perhaps it was a result of spending my study breaks watching YouTube. The fashion content that dominated the platform back then encouraged excess. Twenty-minute long Primark Hauls and ‘Winter trends’ videos filled my ‘recommended’ feed. I would happily click on them all; craving the glimpse into the latest collections that these videos offered me. They had me hooked. But more than that, they made me want to spend.

What was once the influence of my friends and peers had become the influence of the strangers on my feed; all of whom were paid to promote the latest collections and brands. And all of which I immediately wanted.

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But why? And how had I allowed myself to become so influenced by influencers?

Before I left school in 2015, the Influencer-sphere was virtually non-existent. It was a hobby, not a job, for many well-known social media personalities. Whereas now, in 2021, I struggle to imagine a world pre-influencer.

Since my interest in style and clothing didn’t fully materialise until my late-teens, I felt behind everyone else. While others were experimenting with their clothing choices, I was still following trends like a sheep follows its flock. Therefore, as I began to learn that there was more to fashion than simply buying what everyone else was wearing, I slowly realised that I was out of my depth. The influencer-sphere was primed and ready to enter my impressionable mind.

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To me, these individuals were the ‘fashion Gods’, so to speak. As someone who had no clue what she was doing when curating a coherent outfit, these alluring, well-shot images on my feed were gospel.

Now, as I near the ripe old age of twenty-three, I’m beginning to question more and buy less. I find I’m becoming more reflective as I drift further away from my teenage insecurities; wanting now, more than ever, to re-program my relationship with trends and learn to separate my own tastes from those that are broadcast to me online.

I think the easiest way for me to break this habit is to consider what I gravitate towards when shopping in person, rather than during an impulsive online browsing session.

When I think about it, I’m often drawn to more chic, minimalist styles or sportier designs. If I consider this before I hit ‘checkout,’ I’ll automatically ensure that I make a smarter, more conscious decision. But, in this current climate of buying less, shopping second-hand, and integrating vintage pieces into our everyday outfits, do I even need to be buying a horde of new clothes with each passing season? I can use the Whering app to style ‘trend’ focused outfits in a more sustainable way. Figuring out fresh outfit formulas with clothes I already own means I don’t feel the need to buy as many new, often poorly made items. Plus, I can better visualise my outfit options without emptying my entire wardrobe; saving those that work for me. Rather than relying on online styling content that encourages me to buy into trends, I can instead look to the app for advice. It’s a huge help when it comes to distancing myself from the external influences of influencers.

We may see ourselves move away from trends over the coming years, what with a rise in sustainability and conscious shopping. Or, trends may always hold a place in our wardrobes. After all, they typically mirror the world in which we live: the cultural, economic and social shifts. (Why do you think, after a long lockdown, we’re all gravitating towards fun patterns, vibrant colours and chunky, childish jewellery? They reflect our desire to be hopeful, optimistic and free after a long period of social isolation). Either way, learning to separate my own tastes from current trends and influencers will ultimately save me money, solidify my style, and keep my drawers free of hot pink tube tops for many years to come.