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My friends and I were recently scrolling through our social media search pages, eating chips and salsa, and sharing the occasional laugh, when I came upon an Instagram ad for some really awesome clothes: baggy jeans, flared pants, oversized sweaters, tracksuits, the list goes on. The headline of the ad was, “What Was Old is New Again.” Reflecting upon this title, I wonder if the styles I wear, and that most of Gen Z currently loves, are throwbacks, then what is the true style of 2021?

Throughout the past century, fashion has moved at an accelerating speed. From flappers to hippies to millennials, trends have cycled through American brands and their customers every few years. Yet, when it feels like we are at our fastest, swiping our way through life never even stopping to look up, fashion is relying on the past for the future. Skinny jeans and crop tops feel dated already, and the up and coming generation is craving new designs to dominate. In the meantime, we incorporate graphic tees from the 70’s, baggy jeans from the 80’s, and sweater vests from the 90’s into our 2021 closets. Not to mention, vintage feels like the most coveted these days: rather than shopping at Urban Outfitters and Free People, our generation is running to Goodwill and Salvation Army to scout their next snatched fit.

When my mom was growing up, she would flip through magazines to see Stevie Nicks wearing flowy dresses and Blondie sporting jumpsuits, encouraging individuality through fashion. Yesterday, I opened Instagram to see Kendall Jenner wearing next to nothing and Hailey Bieber advertising designers most of us couldn’t dream of affording. Have the women in our magazines simply brought 2021 fashion out of our reach? Do the unattainable beauty standards that we see online, and are encouraged to ignore, push us away from icons’ brands and styles? Perhaps celebrities on social media feel disconnected from their viewers and the companies that flourished 20 years ago.

Instead, we study TikToks to tie dye our sweatshirts and remake clothes to be our own. Especially in the midst of an ongoing pandemic, we look not to brands, but to one another for inspiration: DIY tutorials on how to make pants four sizes too big fit perfectly, how to cut old sweaters to look new (and cool) again, and how to paint our sneakers to be less painfully static. Nike and Zara have created an unwavering uniform for millennials, and we are desperately thinking and designing outside of the box to make basic pieces individualistic. In our fast-paced world dominated by high-tech machinery, CEOs, and young entrepreneurs, the thought of creating something that hasn’t been done before seems almost impossible—have we pushed the boundary too far? Yet, on the contrary, with so much opportunity for innovation at our fingertips, how are brands not curating trends that are fresh and new? Maybe the reason why we are so infatuated with old style is because it feels genuine and authentic, compared to modern fast fashion that feels hopelessly unoriginal.

At the end of the day, I’m not complaining. I love chunky platform boots and just can’t pull off skin-tight jeans with an off the shoulder sweater; I feel much more comfortable in my dad’s old band t-shirts and my mom’s jackets that I lugged out of storage. Yet, I’m still left wondering how much longer we will recycle old looks as our own. When will fashion adopt the lightning speeds of technology, constantly turning new corners and breaking new barriers? I for one am excited to see where the future of fashion falls, to watch our favorite influencers rebrand trends and reshape style as we know it: all we can do is hope low-waist pants don’t make it there with us.

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