Once any trend has been established, the obvious question is: how long will it last? FDNY Sweatshirts are no exception. Most observers are desperately trying to figure out how long the trend will last, since there’s nothing worse than jumping in just at the peak. Meanwhile, others are looking for what sub-trends and supplanting trends will arise: after FDNY-branded sweatshirts, will there be more explicitly patriotic clothes? Will people rush back to irony? Will the outcome be entirely unpredictable?
It’s hard to say for sure, but I suspect that FDNY sweatshirts are part of a long-term trend in a new direction. It’s harder and harder for people to stay cynical all the time — thanks to increasingly partisan politics, we spend lots of time discussing significant issues in trivial ways. FDNY sweatshirts give people a way to recuse themselves from the petty arguments, but still demonstrate their affection for the outcome.
And since avoiding partisanship is so popular, even years after 9/11, it’s fair to conclude that even if FDNY sweatshirts don’t remain common, their successors will be in a similar spirit.
But will the next big trend in a similar vein be an homage to similar groups? It’s hard to say. Aside from NYPD clothes, FDNY sweatshirts seem to be an ideal balance between patriotism and partisanship. Unlike many other nationally-known government organizations, they’re not explicitly partisan: it would be hard to misunderstand someone who lionized the marines, for example, but the FDNY can be reasonably claimed by either side. Its popularity as a middle ground makes it valuable to people who have partisan views, but are tired of critiquing their ideological opponents.
For someone involved in marketing FDNY sweatshirts, the answer is clear: it’s too hard to predict what kind of similar trend will arise to replace them, but it’s pretty likely that the replacement won’t abandon the ideals espoused by FDNY sweatshirts.
From this perspective, it’s clear that the best course is to continue marketing FDNY sweatshirts. Although one can’t be certain, it’s quite likely that they will remain popular for some time. If they don’t stay popular, it’s quite hard to predict what will replace them, and only a little easier to predict what won’t.
Unlike many fashion items, FDNY sweatshirt adoption wasn’t driven by an arbitrary desire to differentiate people. Quite the opposite: it was driven by a need to identify all of us as fundamentally the same — to say that even bitterly divided, partisan people can recognize a hero when they see one, and can agree to disagree (at least some of the time).
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