Content Is The Only Trend

by Corey Malley

I can't seem to escape in the ever-snaking algorithmic scroll. And it makes me think. Probably too much.

Last week my good friend Michael Abe of Lost Daze DM'd me a TikTok. This has been a regular occurance for a couple years now, but this one really gave me pause. The creator was detailing how wide leg pants are already "over" and we're moving back to "slim, but never skinny". I was shocked, as it seems like the wide pant leg is only just breaking out of the early adopter phase. Now it's on its way out?

Then the lightbulb moment. The current trend cycle isn't about pant width or sneaker choice or the status posturing du jour - CONTENT IS the current trend.

The algo-economy has incentivized being first, and being sensational, birthing an army of barnacles clinging on to whatever suggestion breaks out. It's how we've gotten fisherman sandals, sambas, wide leg pants, God's Favorite hats, vintage Carhartt, boat shoes, and whatever thing Abercrombie will be releasing in 6-8 weeks all within the span of 18 months.

Of the many "trends" that come and go on TikTok, and by proxy, Reels, Shorts, etc., I'd say very few are informed by an aesthetic motivation, a zeitgeist moment, or a functional purpose. Rather, they're the result of a content firehose optimizing toward views, likes, shares, and ultimately, creator revenue on a monetized platform. The actual clothing doesn't matter. All that matters is that it gets engagement and maybe an invite to one of the 45 nightly press dinners.

Now trends whiplash at a truly nauseating clip. See the signals, rush in, milk it for maximal engagement, hit the saturation hockey stick, repeat.

Capital C content is actually the macro trend cycle we're stuck within.

Personally speaking, I think this is why it's felt so difficult to sense what's actually cool these days. W. David Marx has spoken about the concept of "infiniculture" essentially rendering our opinions meaningless and devoid of communicating identity like some sort of multiversal singularity. What I'm attempting to explain here is the identifying the concept of content as the trend, soon to be evolved, replaced, and reborn. 

This breakneck jump from "the next big thing" to "played out" is starting to happen before even the trend-concious consumer can get the product in hand. Attrition is natural. Despite being a content moment, things like "Quiet Luxury" took hold as a mitigation of the trend cycle, kind of like Bonds in a volatile market. Park the money where it's safe.

What does this mean for culture? If I'm being optimistic, I hope it is yet another indicator of the shift offline and back into subcultures. I can't yet see the Golden Renaissance of Cool, but I do think, in conversation with my thoughts on AI leading to hand-made, we'll start to see content saturation de-incentivize mid-tier creators and the actual cultural influencers will increasingly move offline and away from the front facing camera. Gatekeeping will return as a safeguard from having your identity commodified into someone else's content moment like an algorithmic PE teardown.

This is a fresher thought than some of my other topics, and still pretty raw. What do you think? Drop me a line and let me know.

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published