Trends are often considered the come-and-go "necessary evil" of human culture. Whether they're locked in a cycle or they plain old wither and die forever, they help define specific moments in history. So it only makes sense that In-Universe examples of trends exist in fiction.
Of course, whenever it does occur, it's Strictly Formula: Since our protagonist is usually The Everyman, he/she won't have the item in question at the beginning of the story, but will really, really want it. Hilarity Ensues, with several typical outcomes:
- The protagonist acquires the item, and it sucks.
- The protagonist acquires the item, and it's just what they wanted and everything is fine. In this case it probably won't have been a major focus of the plot, and the Aesop usually isn't there.
- The protagonist acquires the item and immediately loses it.
- The protagonist acquires the item just as it goes out of style and the next fad takes its place.
- The protagonist never gets the item, but ends up achieving its supposed benefits some other way, proving that they didn't really need it.
- The protagonist does uncharacteristically unpleasant things to get the item, alienating their real friends in the process, and discovers that the cool kids make lousy replacements, so loses interest, gives it up and wins their old friends back.
In addition, the trends themselves tend to aim for extreme stuff, with things that wouldn't even last a single day in Real Life. Many a Disco Dan will do the exact opposite and follow a trend that's already passed. A Sitcom, Slice of Life or Teen Drama series is almost guaranteed to have at least one of these. If the trend in question actually looks appealing despite the story's efforts to show it as a bad thing, it can drift into Do Not Do This Cool Thing territory.
Related to Be Yourself and Disobey This Message, since they're both pretty much the end result of this, as well as Anyone Remember Pogs? May also overlap with Gotta Have It, Gonna Steal It if one REALLY wants it.
- Judge Dredd has inspired tons of these in its approximately 30 years of existence, as the comic takes place in a future dystopia where most humans are practically permanently unemployed and take up unusual hobbies, trends, and activities to pass the time. A lot of them end up being banned or heavily regulated by Justice Dept. after a problem arises because of it; notable examples include:
- Boinging. The miracle plastic spray Boing was a substance that would expand itself over whatever it was sprayed on, engulfing it in a giant, bouncing ball and allowing people chances to engage in various fun activities like shooting down crazy tube slides and playing pinball games as the ball. People would also start using it outdoors, bouncing like crazy across building structures and roads, creating a lot of property damage in the process. Justice Dept. had to issue a law to restrict the Boing's usage.
- Otto Sump tried to start a beauty clinic but ended up making his patrons hideously ugly. Customer's unsatisfied, he rebranded his business as an ugly clinic and, with the help of a beautiful celebrity who wanted to look as horrible as Sump, helped turn ugliness into a fashion all its own and became extremely popular, until Dredd decided to crack down on Sump's business for using Dredd's image for publicity and believing that his products are a danger to the health of citizens, ruling to heavily tax them after mass demonstrations of people demand they have a right to be ugly. As a result, this only remains a trendy fashion amongst the extremely rich.
- The same plot was recycled when Otto Sump came out with his new line of delicious food products, Gunge. Yes, it tastes as good as it sounds with food names like "Mold Jam", "Slime Sauce", "Bacteria Soup", "Maggot Steak", etc. His logic was that following the food shortages as a result of the Apocalypse War, people can look to his trash slop as a healthy source for nutrition. Justice Dept. effectively bans Gunge... and then rebrands the exact same trash as Foodstuff A, B, C, etc. for the people to eat to combat the food shortages.
- Blob was a fashion trend created by a Legitimate Businessmen's Social Club as a way to make their activities easier. The idea was to create the perfect, unidentifiable criminal by erasing every physical feature from a person's face with the aid of face-changing machine, replacing his voice with an electronic scrambler, and dressing him in a single, identifiable outfit... then they present it as the next big thing so that large quantities of people in Mega-City One look like the same featureless blob that no one can tell apart from another, thus allowing their own criminals (also unrecognizable blobs) to commit crimes while not being able to be identified. Massive confusion ensues as no one is sure who people around them are, forcing the Judges step in and decide that anyone partaking in the blob fashion trend has to have an ID number printed on their foreheads so it's easy to tell who is who... and let Judges figure out which blobs are committing crimes.
- And last, but not least, Simping◊. The entire purpose of the fashion is to dress as ridiculously and absurdly as possible and get noticed for it. The simp in that picture is dressing like that to his wedding. Things do not go very well for him.
- In A Brother's Price, protagonist Jerin Whistler is too sensible to follow any trends, but his sister Corelle insists he needs to wear tight trousers with a codpiece, as that's the latest fashion. She gets her wish, as Jerin is invited to court, along with some of his sisters, for his coming out in society. All the fashionable clothes do is attracting attention that Jerin would rather not have. The tailors who make his and his sisters' clothes for the ball tell them that there's a new fad every two weeks or so at court. The Whistlers think it is pretty silly, and immediately make plans to sell their new clothes before they return home, as what is fashionable at court is unwearable elsewhere, the textile used would be ruined by rain.
- Amy and her limes in Little Women.
- Little House on the Prairie has a fad regime change from autograph books to name cards, orchestrated by Nellie Oleson just in time to make Laura uncool again.
- Anne's puffed sleeves in Anne of Green Gables are a case without An Aesop — Marilla thinks it's silly to spend the extra money making sure a child looks fashionable and that Anne needs to learn to be less worldly, but Matthew and Mrs. Lynde decide she's being too uptight and get Anne a dress with puffed sleeves for Christmas, and all that happens is that Anne is happy.
- In I Love Lucy, Lucy and Ethel want expensive designer outfits from an outre French designer. Ricky and Fred slap together some atrocious-looking outfits from old potato sacks and bricabrac, and the girls make fools of themselves by wearing the absurd garments around Paris, and are thoroughly mocked by Ricky and Fred when they reveal the truth about the "designer dresses". This is subverted when a famous Parisian designer actually copies the outfits for his new line and doubly subverted when the humiliated Lucy and Ethel reveal they have burned the offending outfits.
- Fraggle Rock had an episode in which some young Doozers took up pogo stick jumping, despite the fact that jumping gives Doozers the hiccups, which makes them unable to work. One Doozer decides to stop and is shunned by the others, but in the end he ends up saving them after they get the hiccups and cause a building collapse.
- Parodied on Strangers with Candy with Flairs, a sneaker with an extra-long lace.
- They Might Be Giants' "We Want A Rock," though they also want prosthetic foreheads.
- Happens in the "It's Way Ed" episode of Ed, Edd n Eddy.
- South Park: The latest fad in Chinpokomon, which Kyle gets too late in the game. By that time, the rest of the kids are going to bomb Pearl Harbor because all the other kids are doing it, but then they get de-fadded because their parents (pretend to) like it, and who likes something their parents like? But Kyle wasn't there (again) when everybody decided to stop liking Chinpokomon.
Stan: Dude, Chinpokomon isn't cool anymore.Kyle: What?Cartman: Yeah, dude, that's way over.Kyle: Dude, you're just jealous because I'm Chinpoko Master!Stan: No, Kyle. You see, we learned something today. This whole Chinpokomon thing happened because we all followed the group. We only liked Chinpokomon because everyone else did. And look at the damage it caused.Kyle: So now I should stop liking Chinpokomon because you all don't?Stan: ...Ye-eah.Kyle: But if I stop now, I'll just be going with the group again. So, to be an individual, I have to bomb Pearl Harbor. See ya.Stan: Oh. Wait. Actually, I was wrong. You see, Kyle, I learned something, just now. It is good to go with the group. A group mentality is healthy, sometimes.Kyle: Aw, screw it; I'm too confused.
- In The Angry Beavers, Norbert forgets to chew to keep his teeth short and when his forest friends discover his long dentures, they all follow suit with it. The same goes for Dagget later, and they both suffer for it by having their teeth grow long enough to bind them.
- Dexter's Laboratory featured an episode where Dexter's glasses get cracked and the kids take notice on how awesome they are, so they start wearing glasses with broken lenses. Unfortunately, the temporary popularity boosts distances Dexter away from his friend with whom he sat next to on the bus. It didn't take too long until Mandark's body cast became the next center of attention.
- In one of the later episodes of Madeline, a fashion designer named Madame Cliché (who tends to make rather bizarre clothes) creates designer clothing made entirely out of cheese, which quickly becomes the hottest thing in Paris. It doesn't last due to the fact that the clothes are made entirely out of a common dairy product. In addition, the musical number featured in the same episode itself is a Trend Aesop with the standard Be Yourself message to back it up.
- The Simpsons did it in "Simpson Tide", in which Milhouse gets an earring that everyone else in school thinks is cool, so everyone starts getting one. Bart gets his, much to Homer's outrage. Bart later gives Homer the earring before embarking on a nuclear submarine with the Naval Reserve. The earring ends up becoming the Chekhov's Gun that saves the submarine from sinking.
- Arthur had an episode featuring "woogles", a toy which resembled a cross between Beanie Babies and Furbies.
- In the VeggieTales story "Rack, Shack and Benny", the Frame Story had Larry following the new fad of wearing an oven mitt on his head. That blinded him, and thus caused him to fall into the sink.
- There were a couple of examples in Recess. The main ones being Mons Cards (which ended up becoming a currency) and a complex game that involved collectable tiles called "Ajimbo" (which everyone became hopelessly addicted to).
- Spongebob Squarepants: Spongebob is mocked the entire episode for wearing a powdered wig, but it ends up becoming popular after he decides to get rid of it.
- The episode "Dressed To Kill" from My Life as a Teenage Robot dealt with this. Brit and Tiff are infuriated when XJ-9/Jenny manages to one-up them in terms of fashion sense. As the girls prepare for their prom, their gowns turn out to be made from Pip Crystals unknowingly lost by Smytus. It's soon discovered that said crystals give them superpowers. Naturally, they try to enact their revenge on Jenny until they discover that a new fashion statement has rolled in, causing them to abandon their dresses in horror. A later episode ("Victim of Fashion") has the two engaging in a fashion war with Jenny once more.
- In Doug, The Protagonist in a Show Within a Show called "Teen Heartstreet" wear the same outfit Doug wears. Originally, Doug laughs this off, but the next day, everyone at school is wearing it. Doug spends the entire episode trying to reclaim his uniqueness...only for Skeeter's outfit to become the next big thing.
- An episode of Baby Looney Tunes had Sylvester suckered in by a Totally Radical commercial for pickle chips and getting Granny to buy them for him, only for him to taste one and find out they taste terrible. The moral of the episode is you can't always believe commercials.