One of the first scientists to think about how influence aggregates at the collective level is Georg Simmel. Simmel is one of the fathers of sociology, especially with respect to the principles of social identity and social circles. Today we will focus on his work on fashion. Simmel defined fashion as the non-cumulative change in cultural features, where cultural features are displayed as status symbols. Status symbols are externally displayed traits associated with high social class, e.g. surnames, clothing, sport, food, etc. With these definitions in mind, Simmel observed this effect:
The Simmel effect: The persistence of social differences under the instability of status symbols
Simmel noticed that fashions come and go, but fashion is always present. When something becomes popular, it is bound to lose its popularity. Simmel introduced this theory in his 1904 article “Fashion”, describing observations that are still relevant, such as how going against fashion is a way to acknowledge its relevance (the hipster paradox). Simmel’s theory explains the emergence and instability of fashions based on two mechanisms: imitation and differentiation.