Trends! We love trends! And the only thing better than a real, live trend story is one that appears to be largely concocted and highly, amusingly disputable. If there is a magical "truth" to a trend story, a secret algorithm, perhaps it's that it must be both amusing and also debunkable. A "good" terrible trend story should lend its reader equal amazement that 1) people are doing or thinking about said trend and 2) reporters saw fit to "report" on people doing it. In the case of trend stories this year, we have to give the Overall Achievement Award (quantity plus quality) to The New York Times, a paper so devoted to the supposed happenings of the day that there's a dedicated (and very much unofficial) Twitter account to point out all the ways the Times has been "on it" in 2012. People are wearing pantyhose! Teens have messy bedrooms! Slippers are street wear! The Internet is terrible! People are doing things at night! And on and on. As part of The Atlantic Wire's Year in Review, we've gathered our favorites from among all the ridiculous, kernel-of-truth in a popcorn-bowl-of-pleasure stories reported across the media — the Times included — and bestowed them with their own special awards:
The Widest Media Swath Award Ah, the inexplicable allure of "très Brooklyn," an expression meant to signify the fact that Parisians were eating food from street trucks, just like bona fide Brooklynites, and loving it! Julia Moskin put forth the phrase, overheard on the Paris streets, in The New York Times this June, and it carried all the way over to USA Today, where Rick Hampson wrote, "The arrival of the NBA Nets gives Brooklyn its first major league team since the Dodgers' departure for Los Angeles in 1957, and something else: more evidence that, as its denizens claim, the borough that was once a punch line is now the coolest place in America, a land of rooftop farms and pop-up art galleries, of haircuts, eyeglasses, hats and body piercings so chic that even Parisians utter, 'Très Brooklyn!'" Yes. Sometimes we still say it, to ourselves, quietly, just to see what will happen. (Spoiler alert: Nothing happens.)
The Most Soporific Award If you feel a little bit tired, maybe that's because we are all working from bed nowadays, according to The Wall Street Journal's Sue Shellenbarger. Well, it's either that or (The Twee-est Award alert) working from our sustainably decorated artisanal cubicles, as per Bloomberg Businessweek. Choose your poison.
The Emperor-Has-New-Clothes Award Speaking of artisanal, there were countless "bespoke or locally derived" trend stories (based on "bespoke or locally derived" items being created and/or sold) in 2012, but the one to exemplify all the rest, we think, was The Wall Street Journal's report that a store in New York's East Village, Molecule, was selling "artisanal water," described as "unusually 'fluffy' with a 'smooth' finish." Mmmmm.
The Most Diabolical Award (tie) We are commuting to the suburbs to find people to date, according to the New York Post. No we are not. NO. We. Are. Not. But really, we're not. Are we? You guys. Second place, and more recently, from the New York Times: Asking one's date for his or her credit score is a thing now. No. We. Are. Not. NO.
The Verbal Trend Award Anglophilia was all the rage this year, and so was peppering one's expressions with Britishisms, from "Cheerio, good fellow!" to "Gol Blimey, mate, are you knackered?" to "Crikey, I'm gobsmacked!" We loved this article, from the Times, because who doesn't love a fake British accent and a put-on expression, and also, because it allowed us to put anglocreep, a word that is perfection on a crumpet, in a headline.
The Meta Award The Onion's "Sunday Magazine" asked, in September, "Trend Stories: Are They On the Wane?" Of course, this is a rhetorical question.
The Enduring Cycle Award Wars were fought this year over ... what's popular and what's not! Trendy wars, over things like brunch, which we still can't decide if we like or hate (the New York Daily News says it's ruining America; BuzzFeed adores it beyond reason). And also, over ice cream trucks, corgis, Greek yogurt, and, um, grapefruit (Team Tomato!)? There were backlashes and frontlashes regarding these various lifestyle accoutrement, and in many a case, it's not just the "trendy item" itself but the fact that there is a fight over it ratcheting it up into "trend story" worthiness — at the very base of its existence, a trend story is simply something that is happening. Rest assured, the fight is never over in the cases of trend stories, it's often just seasonal. So you will, if all goes well, see these trend stories swing up and into your life yet again, perhaps in as little as a few months. There's some comfort in that. While we wait: brunch!
The Teenage Dream Award (tie) If there's a trend story that makes us feel everything that a trend story is supposed to (out of touch, old, obsolete), it has to be about teens getting drunk. Because once you're not a teen anymore, everything teens do to get buzzed sounds pretty crazy. So, excuse us while we shake our heads at The Los Angeles Times's Anna Gorman reporting on how six teenagers drank hand sanitizer to get drunk and then calling it a trend, or Las Vegas's KTNV-TV reporting that teens (although they didn't find any teens who admitted they were actually doing this) were soaking tampons in liquor and sticking them in their back ends to get drunk faster, otherwise known as butt-chugging.
The Gross-out Award Bird poop facials are totally in! Here is the "poop graf," from a piece by Alix Strauss in The New York Times back in July: "I was calm as Ms. Nunose explained all of this while applying the poop powder, prepared and flown in from Japan. Then it brushed up against my lips and slipped into my mouth. I fought my desire to leave, and surprisingly the next morning my skin did glow.... When it comes to fighting aging, many of us will try anything." Merde.
The Teflon Award So young Jewish men and women are getting concentration camp tattoos in honor of their ancestors — "at a hip tattoo parlor downtown," no less.
The Sexiest Hardware Store Award There were so, so many Fifty Shades of Grey-inspired stories this year, but our favorite out of all of 'em (Mitch Albom's included) was the one that appeared in the New York Post, by Carrie Siem, who led with this: "There's a run on rope — and not the camping kind." Yes, sales were up, “I'd say tenfold more rope than usual in the last six months," according one hardware store owner, who was not tongue-tied in the slightest about this trend.
The Caffeinated Baby Award Everyone likes babies, everyone likes coffee. So what if babies liked coffee??? That's the root behind the intriguing case of babies demanding and consuming "babyccinos," a trend story that ended up all over the place, including on Colbert. But what are babyccinos? In the words of former Atlantic Wire intern Eli Rosenberg, who wrote for the Brooklyn Paper of this supposed trend, "Brooklyn's obsessive coffee culture is rubbing off on the borough’s youngest cafe-goers, with tots ditching their bottles and juice boxes in favor of 'babyccinos' — mini decaf cappuccinos or frothy cups of steamed milk and foam."
The Internet-Is-Making-Us-Nuts-or-Ruining-Us-or-Both Award This is less a 2012 trend story, specifically, and more a bi- or tri-annual trend story, one that pops up again and again to warn us that modern society is out to destroy humanity as we used to know it, you know, because of the Internet and the computers and various devices we use to view said Internet all too often, all of which either separately or together are making us crazy. Pair one of these with a good "cursive is dying" story and you could power YouTube cat videos for a month!
The Beginning of Men Award It is the year 2012, the same year that The New York Times and writer Douglas Quenqua decided to run a story about how teenage boys want muscles. We thought this was a tried-and-true trope born long before Revenge of the Nerds, but, no, apparently it wasn't. "Many of these boys probably see themselves in Mike Sorrentino, 'The Situation' from the Jersey Shore series on MTV, or the Adam Sackler character, on the HBO series Girls, who rarely wears a shirt or takes a break from his crunches," writes Quenqua. We refuse to believe that teenage boys see themselves in "The Situation," but if this is true, then we're really glad we aren't teenage girls.
The End of Men Award It was a tough year to be a trendy man. Particularly in the follicular department At the end of 2011, those of us blessed with a Y chromosome were told to adopt a "Hitler Youth" haircut, which was kind of impossible to ask for. Right after that, on January 25, men were told that "man buns" were in. These were buns that you would see on a ballerina or Allison Williams, but men were sporting them! And, hey, you had all that overgrown hair from your "Hitler Youth" cu,t so you may as well have used them. Then, in April, The New York Times said that shaving your head would make you cool like Pitbull, and who doesn't want to be cool like Pitbull? And there were conflicting reports because at the same time, Esquire was telling the rest of us to go all Don Draper with the side part. Oh, and there was "pejazzling." But that's neither here nor hair.
The Actual Fake Trend Story Award We were ready to believe the idea that the college bar was "dying." Then we remembered all the times we went to The Grog, and Kelly's, and how college bars will always endure solely because freshmen will always need one place where their fake I.D.'s work. Well, that, and we found out that underage Cornell drinkers, who happened to be the basis of this particular story, completely lied to Times reporter Courtney Rubin about how college bars were "dying."
The Stretch Award The editors at The Wall Street Journal were really pressed to fit a piece about little kids pretending to be horses and jumping over things onto their pages (a "horseless horse show," they called it). Luckily, Rafalca and "Gangnam Style" were really popular.
The 2012 Carrie Bradshaw Raspberry Award Later that day we got to thinking about trend stories and their many iterations. There are stories that open you up to something new and exotic, trends that are old and familiar, nouveau ideas that bring up lots of questions, those that bring you somewhere unexpected ... and those that make you think you're reading someone doing their best Carrie Bradshaw impersonation. That's what Times writer Rachel Swarns did when she stumbled upon the novel idea that Manhattan women are lowering their standards and reported that the days of swooning, flowers and princes are over. "Savor every connection — the drunken conversation at the bar, the casual sexual fling and the impassioned philosophical debate over pumpkin lattes — without worrying whether any of it will lead to love," Swarns wrote, ripping Carrie Bradshaw from 2001, and into 2012.
The Most Diligently Executed Award Perhaps my favorite trend story of all of 2012 (this is Jen, here) is the one that Justin Peters wrote for Slate, titled "The Trendiest Guy in New York City." This piece was highly researched and critically informed through personal experience, which is to say that Peters lived an array of New York Times trend stories we've paid homage to above — including wearing a man bun, growing a beard, speaking in Britishisms, getting a bikini wax, using way too many pillows, and blacking out a tooth — to imitate a gap, to hilarious effect.
Insets via Flickr/Anthony Sigalas; The Onion, Colbert, Bravo, HBO
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.