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The Atlantic
The Atlantic
8 Apr 2023
Isabel Fattal

NextImg:How Trends Are Made

This is an edition of The Wonder Reader, a newsletter in which our editors recommend a set of stories to spark your curiosity and fill you with delight. Sign up here to get it every Saturday morning.

When my colleague Amanda Mull’s mom wouldn’t let her buy high heels in high school, she got an after-school job and bought them herself. Amanda continued her dedication to foot-ruining footwear for years: “When I was 25, a physical therapist who was treating my ankle, destroyed years prior during rec-league soccer, told me that he’d never before had a client with a leg injury show up in flip-flops.”

Now, at age 37, Amanda is turning toward comfort at last, as are many other sore-footed shoe consumers her age. Over the past decade, she explained in a recent article, “ultra-comfy sneakers, cushy clogs, sandals with arch support, and all manner of quasi-orthopedic footwear haven’t just become more abundant than ever; they’ve also become cool.”

Amanda explains that aesthetics alone aren’t enough to make a trend last—“instead, they’re the spark that gets a fire going; the size of the eventual blaze depends largely on the environment in which it burns, and what kinds of needs and desires are available to fuel it.” Today, we’re exploring the many factors—some of which you might never have thought to associate with clothes, shoes, or bags—that help these “trend blazes” spread.

On Trends

Cool People Accidentally Saved America’s Feet

By Amanda Mull

Millennials popularized bulky, super-cushioned shoes. Then Millennials got old.

Something Odd Is Happening With Handbags

By Amanda Mull

Where do shoppers turn when an industry built on novelty runs out of new ideas?

Everything You Wear Is Athleisure

By Derek Thompson

Yoga pants, tennis shoes, and the 100-year history of how sports changed the way Americans dress (From 2018)

Still Curious?

Other Diversions


I’ll leave you with a quote from Lawrence Schlossman, a co-host of the men’s fashion podcast Throwing Fits, that’s simultaneously a little sad and a little hopeful. Describing the Millennial turn toward comfortable shoes, he said to Amanda, “You’re just getting older, and you want to look cool, but you also have a body that is absolutely failing you because you’re aging, and that’s just how it works … Time stops for no man, and it stops for no sneakerhead.”

He’s right; time comes for us all. At least we’ll be comfortable when we meet it head-on.

— Isabel