That's the Thing About Taste

The Tastemakers and The Trendy

Originally published on Medium.

By Jaylin Paschal

There are two types of people in this world: The Tastemakers and The Trendy.

The Tastemakers, the minority, are the creative strategists of the world. They know not only what’s good, but why. Everything from the clothes they wear to the food they eat is considered in context of “The Culture.” They are able to look at the often overwhelming plethora of content which exists today in both a tangible and digital forum and decide what matters — they are the cultural declutters. They discern the fads from the fantastic, setting the cultural tone and constantly redefining what’s “cool.” Essentially, they are the cultural gatekeepers. Their palettes are diverse and expansive. They try things just to say they did. They typically abandon most, if not all, rule sets. They’re not keeping up or falling behind, but establishing their own pace. The Tastemakers most likely curate your favorite playlists, are constantly asked “how,” “why,” or “where” regarding their careers, outfits or posts, or always show up to parties slightly over- or underdressed, but never appropriately.

The Trendy, the majority, make the world go ‘round. They possess the buying power; allow stores like Forever 21 to exist. They decide what goes viral. They provide the “clout.” They are the masses. They are attentive and receptive. They’re usually the kid who needs all their friends’ approval of a haircut before going to the salon. The heart-eye-emoji-for-everything-quote-tweeters. They are less capable of finding the needle in the haystack stroke of cultural magic. But once it’s been pointed out to them, they generally know just what to do with it. They are the nourishers to “The Culture,” keeping it growing and healthy and powerful. They can put together a good moodboard. The Trendy are typically very stylish, awesome curators of aesthetic-based Instagram feeds, very forgiving of bad DJ’s and likely to always order the same item off the Cheesecake Factory menu.

The Tastemakers and the Trendy coexist beautifully. They must. The Trendy, obviously rely on the Tastemakers to, well, set the trends; to establish the cultural pace. But the Tastemakers need the Trendy to make their ideas stick; to turn their individuality into a movement. The truth about leadership is that it doesn’t really matter (or exist, even )if there is no following; no followers.

Which is where the tension between Tastemakers and Trendy exists. The problem is, everyone seems to think they fall in the first category; that they’re totally original in all facets of life. Today, “follower” operates almost as a slur and is definitely a fighting word. To be a “follower,” in modern context, is interpeted as participation in groupthink. Therefore, nearly everyone seems to claim to “set their own trends.” And well, they’re most likely lying. The truth is, most of us are followers of the very few tastemakers in our society. Oftentimes we can’t point out who these Tastemakers are. We think since we cannot identify the source, we must be it — we convince ourselves that our thoughts are original if we’re unable to pinpoint or cite our inspiration. Easy mistake. And it’s understandable why someone might be offended by the term “follower,” especially when they’re making that mistake.

But it’s important to understand that “following” is not always a bad thing. Being Trendy does not necessarily make one small and unoriginal, but rather makes them the body of a movement. And it doesn’t make one tasteless. After all, it requires taste to be able to point out the tastemakers; the people worth following, the trends worth incorporating into one’s own style. No one, no thing and no trend is “on” without the say-so of the Trendy.

Again, there is no leader without followers, no tastemaker without trendspotters, no movement without a body.

That’s the thing about taste — if only one person has it, it doesn’t really work.

Jaylin PaschalComment