Origins of Trends From Across The Globe


Trends are an odd concept. Sometimes it feels like they emerge from nowhere, dominate the high street and then disappear off the face of the earth without a trace. However, this is actually far from the case. Like everything else, trends have origins, and I felt inspired to track their untold backstories down for you. 

Waist Beads

This was a trend I definitely got onboard with whilst experiencing summer camp in the USA a few years ago. There are many reasons why this trend gained popularity: firstly, they can be colourful, and they are super easy to create so you can make them yourselves to be patterned exactly how you like it. They also make great accessories for beachwear and they are just perfect for the summertime.

The origin of waist beads is traced back to tribes in Africa, in particular, the Yoruba tribe in Nigeria. African women used to believe that the beads would protect pregnant women and could also be used as birth control – which maybe contradicts itself? The beads were attributed to having healing properties, especially depending on the variety of bright colours and materials used to craft them, such as gemstones, glass, pearls and so forth. Alternatively, they could be used as an effective way to help keep track of weight gain or loss. Once the beads start to get too tight or too loose it would let you know that your body is changing.

Suit Cuffs

Cuffed sleeves go hand in hand with suits and you probably never even stopped to think why. Well have no fear, I’ll tell you exactly what you were not wondering. The reason suits have cuffed sleeves was because, in the 1800’s, the high-class surgeons and doctors needed the ability to lift their sleeves up to their elbows to perform their medical wonders. You may ask yourself why they didn’t just take the suit jacket off but that, in fact, is a ridiculous question to have asked during that time period because it was thought to be distasteful for a gentleman to remove his coat in public.

Nowadays the cuffed sleeves have no purpose, because if you need to perform surgery you probably wouldn’t wear your finest suit! So instead, suit jackets include buttons or fancy cuff-links for some unknown reason, maybe it’s just to pay tribute to their origins.

Ear Stretchers

This was a body modification trend that swept the UK at the turn of the decade. Not everyone was keen but it didn’t change the fact that ear stretching became common. It didn’t matter what kind of cliché you associated yourself with, the fascination with big ear loops was everywhere!

In reality, the trend was nothing to do with Western culture. In fact, the furthest thing from it, ear-stretching can even be traced back to Ancient Egypt with the discovery of the Mummy, Ötzi the Ice Man, who had his ears stretched to around 8mm. The Maasai tribe in Kenya had also been using ear stretching long before it ever caught on in the UK. Body modification has been a significant part of their culture, sometimes it was carried out by using weights and other times by increasing the size of the piercing. They would use different sources to increase the size, sometimes stone, wood, and even film canisters. Safe stretching takes a lot of time, therefore the older generation of the tribe had the biggest stretched ears, so it was associated with wisdom.

High Heels

This is a trend that has nearly always been around and shows no sign of leaving anytime soon. We associate heels with femininity, elegance and extreme regret during a wobbly weekend bender. However, back at the beginning of the trend, this couldn’t have been further from the case. High heels were created to represent the masculine elitist – soldiers! The design came to life in Persia as a matter of practicality during battle. The horseback riders found wearing high heels to be helpful in increasing their balance whilst trying to simultaneously ride and do archery. So I guess that puts us modern ladies to shame who can just about hold our drinks in one hand whilst keeping our balance – or is that just me?


Now this is a bit of a gruesome origin story, and not to sound sadistic, but one of my favourites. Mohawks were the epitome of steam punk for a while, especially during the 70’s. However, long before they took to the stage they originated from a Native American tribe conveniently called the Mohawks. The hairstyle wasn’t just a fashion statement back then, it actually had a very practical existence. The tribe invented the style because they didn’t want other Native Americans to rip their scalps off their heads, which maybe sounds bizarre to us now, but it was actually a common practice that demonstrated victory in battle – kind of like a trophy.


Former English Student | Travel Editor 2016-17 |Current MSc. International Politics | Editor at Wessex Scene for 2017-18.

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