One of the many paradoxes of fashions is that consumers’ choices change rapidly and with an astonishing degree of synchronization. What is successful or socially acceptable in one period is considered the opposite in the next. This paradox has brought economists and other social scientists to represent fashions and fads as one of many forms of irrational behavior. Weakness of will, a taste for mimesis or, conversely, the desire to distinguish oneself, and herd-behavior due to informational cascades, have all been invoked to explain the rapid evolution of modes of behavior that emerge and more or less suddenly disappear. In this paper we try to show that fashions, even if fragile and transient, are nonetheless rational. It is a rationality, however, that has to include something overlooked in most economic writing, the desire for novelty and variety. In fashions this desire takes the form of coordinated behavior that both facilitates consumption and destroys its novel content, thus paving the way for new fashions to appear.
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