Q: When is a trend not a trend?

A: When it appears in the Star Tribune

The Star Tribune ran an article on Wednesday about the latest trend framing the faces of hipsters across the Twin Cities: vintage eyewear. The story reads like the infamous 1992 piece in the NYT, "Grunge: A Success Story," where a pair of pranksters at Sub Pop Records convinced the writer that "swingin' on the flippity-flop" was Seattle slang for "hanging out."

Geek-chic glasses have been an under-the-radar trend since their inception in the 1950s. Even an eyewear-shop owner interviewed for the article says punk rockers have been wearing them for 15 years. But the Strib didn't get it wrong because wire rims are about as new as Doc Martens. They got it wrong because they appear totally alienated from a core demographic they're so intent on targeting.

For the Star Tribune, making ridiculous claims about so-called crazes is nothing new. (They would probably call this a "trend" in journalism, though for them it's as commonplace as a pair of blue jeans.)

In September 2004 they ran a 1716-word story about men decorating their respective bachelor pads using a recently unearthed hybrid design: They were mixing macho and metrosexual aesthetics. (This just in: Dudes like things!)

The article, which was loaded with references to name brands, seemed more targeted at the paper's prospective advertisers than its readers. And maybe that's the point: If they're writing articles about supposed trends, they?ll catch the attention of the coveted fashion-forward reader who's loaded with so much disposobale income they could throw it at the polka-dotted furniture (according to the Stib, that's really in right now) at Room and Board or Marshall Field's Home Store and not bat a vintage-glasses-covered eye.

And all too often, these pieces read more like paid advertorials than trend-spotting stories. According to an article the Star Tribune ran on February 3 (first featured in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution), the latest trend sweeping a country crippled by the fear of terrorism and an out-of-control economy is the need to clean. Apparently, scrubbing and disinfecting has turned into "a psychological salve for folks frustrated with the chaotic state of society."

At 1075 words, the article made widespread assertions about a new desire for self-control, all of which, according to the article, could be illustrated by high-design vacuum cleaners. Of course the popularity of Swiffers and super-sucking cleaning machines doesn't mean people are cleaning more. (Was there a time when it was a "trend" to live in filth?) It means consumers have been duped into buying overpriced cleaning products by the onslaught of cheap marketing gimmicks.

And for Strib readers, they're duped into believing that moccasins, faux fur, tattoos, flip-flops, Swiffer sweepers, and now tortoise cat-eye glasses make the world feel a little less chaotic. Or at least that's what the Strib would like to tell its advertisers.

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