How unique are fashion trends really?

Neulich evening, I'm sitting in the S-Bahn, opposite me my younger self. The girl, around 14, looks out the window into the black tunnel. She wears bell-bottoms with a center-stitched seam, low-slung to show the hipbones. A tank top and a buttoned denim vest over it. Nothing about this outfit is ironic; too new for vintage, too normal for a costume. No, that's exactly what I wore when I was 14 years old. Two things are irritating: Firstly, that this girl was probably not born in 2006. On the other hand, that as a child she is wearing exactly what I wore when I was young.

I imagined going into the future as a teenager to find that the teenagers looked like me. Hadn't anything happened in that half generation? Why hadn't there been a fashion revolution? Or does an all-encompassing, epoch-defining style develop? Is fashion simply caught in endless nostalgic loops that get smaller and smaller over time? And how much distance does it take to be able to reuse the iconography of another time?

Each individual is special

I look at her Y2K look. The slightly bleached bell-bottoms, the dark waistcoat, the undershirt disguised as a top. Strictly speaking, what my counterpart is wearing does not belong to today's youth or to my youth: it belongs to the youth of the 1970s. The 1970s, the decade in which modernity reached its peak. After the great wars, the world had reorganized itself - socially, artistically, technologically. What had been broken open at the end of the sixties spilled over into the following decade.

In 1972 the Center Pompidou was built, the TGV was driven and the concorde to fly. Women, gays, lesbians and blacks demanded more rights and got some. Fighting continued in Vietnam, the world powers continued to threaten each other, the RAF terrorized, and the New Right grew louder. The world became smaller, oil became scarcer, the climate warmer. And society aesthetically imploded into nothing but small subcultures. They promised young people: Each one of you is special.

An icon of the seventies: The

An icon of the seventies: The "Starman" costume worn by David Bowie's alter ego Ziggy Stardust

Image: AFP

Means of expressing distinctiveness: music and fashion. Ziggy Stardust for Rock in Kansai Yamamoto; Liza Minnelli for Glamor in Halston; Roxy Music as Bohemian in Yves Saint Laurent; Sex Pistols as punk in Vivienne Westwood; Blondie for New Wave in Stephen Sprouse. Designers in France and the United States, in particular, installed themselves as seismographs for the vibrant surface of pop culture, capturing it in its most beautiful forms—only to be instantly overdrawn by the mainstream and worn away for the masses in the very stuff of the era, polyester.

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