April 20, 2024

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Crafting Fashion Trends

From fast fashion to excessive earrings, these trends might be harmful to your health

5 min read

The perilous nature of some fashion items have a long history, from the potentially hazardous heights of stilettoes to the damaging constrictions imposed by the corset. But health-harming trends aren’t a thing of the past.

Fast fashion, the making and selling of cheap clothes with short life-spans at mass volumes, has become a notorious modern-day phenomenon – so much so that in 2023, the European Union attempted to crack down on the “overproduction and overconsumption of clothes and footwear” to make clothing more sustainable and reduce worker exploitation.

Fast fashion might be cheap but its environmental costs are dear. The detrimental ecological effects of the consumer appetite for trend-driven disposable clothing – and the consequential impacts on human health – are well known. But toxic clothing is a comparatively under-reported danger of consumers’ continuing love affair with fast fashion.

Affordable, on-trend clothing is often made from synthetic materials that can irritate the skin. But throwaway fashion garments can also contain toxic chemicals including PFAS (synthetic chemicals used widely in consumer products from non-stick baking tins to clothes), azo dyes, phthalates and formaldehyde.

Approximately 8,000 synthetic chemicals are used in the fast fashion manufacturing process, with residues staying on the garments that we purchase. Alden Wicker’s 2023 book, To Dye For, reveals the unregulated use of potentially harmful chemicals and the impacts these can have on our health. Azo dyes, for example, which are restricted in the EU, can be absorbed causing a range of reported health issues.

And there are other, perhaps more surprising, potential dangers lurking in your wardrobe too.

Trainers and sneakers

Trainers have become the most popular shoe style of the 21st-century, transcending fashion boundaries of gender, race and age. The trend for athleisure – buoyed by brand collaborations with hip-hop and pop stars such as Beyoncé, Rihanna and the pre-scandal Kanye West’s ultra-successful Adidas Yeezy line – has increased consumer demand for footwear that’s both comfortable and has cult status.

This is a trend that shows no sign of going out of fashion: according to predictions, the global sneaker industry will be worth $100 billion by 2026. But how bad can it be to value comfort as well as style?

For example, wearing trainers too much can lead to poor foot posture and the widening of feet, a condition that’s impossible to reverse. The trend for platform trainers isn’t much better: this style can be a painful strain on the feet and gait. And sock sneakers – trainers that look like thick, usually colorful socks with rubber soles attached – is the style most likely to lead to a sprained ankle.

The best bet is to opt for athletic trainers that are designed to offer a supportive fit.

Waist trainers

Waist trainers, brought into vogue this century by Kim Kardashian, are similar to the corsets and girdles of the past. They are designed to pull the wearer’s waist in as tight as possible to achieve an eye-wateringly “snatched” look – TikTok speak for creating the illusion of a tiny, accentuated waist.

Endorsed by influential celebrities such as Nikki Minaj and Kylie Jenner, the waist trainer, if worn over a prolonged period, may help achieve a temporary hourglass figure. And like the corset, the waist trainer does seem to have some benefits – it may help improve posture, for example.

Waist trainers and similar shapewear can also give the appearance of significant weight loss. But any actual weight loss from wearing the item is most likely because of water loss through sweating and muscle atrophy – muscles in the core are used less while wearing waist-trainers, so long-term use can lead to muscle wastage.

Also, the pressure exerted on the waist and internal organs can cause appetite loss. Perhaps unsurprisingly, prolonged wearing of waist trainers can result in gastrointestinal issues such as acid reflux and, in more extreme cases, the pressure on the diaphragm can cause respiratory problems.

If that isn’t enough, wearers of waist trainers and corsets may be at risk of fainting due to reduced oxygen. There’s also a reported case of a woman who developed acute lower-limb ischemia (a serious condition usually caused by a blood clot) after wearing a waist trainer – although such extreme health outcomes are very rare.

And while the potential health risks of wearing waist trainers might seem overwhelming, a study in the International Journal of Gynaecology and Obsestrics found women who wore them following a cesarean delivery experienced less pain.

Heavy earrings

The emergence of the “mob wife” trend, with its aesthetic signifiers of fur coats, leopard prints and chunky gold jewellery, has also popularised weighty earrings. But the regular and prolonged wearing of heavy earrings can cause elongation and thinning of the earlobe, which in extreme cases can cause the lobe to split.

To correct the damage caused by wearing excessively heavy or large earrings, lobe surgery has become one of the most common plastic surgery trends.

But it is not just heavy earrings that you may need to be wary of. Large thin hoops, although seemingly lightweight, can get caught in hair and clothes. In 2023, a TikTok video of a woman showing the tear in her earlobe caused by a large hoop earring went viral, with over 1.3 million views.

Ill-fitting thongs

Love them or hate them, the thong is a fashion classic. From showgirls at the World Fair in the 1930s to 2023’s whale tail trend for wearing a thong peeking out from the waistband of clothing, these notorious items have been rubbing us the wrong way for almost a century.

Renowned for being uncomfortable, it’s perhaps unsurprising that ill-fitting thongs can cause intimate irritation and chafing, especially if made from synthetic fabrics.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. Research has shown that a well-fitting thong made from natural fibres, alongside regular washing of underwear and scrupulous personal hygiene, can ensure thong-wearers enjoy their whale tails in comfort.




Read more:
Health warning: five fashion trends that are terrible for you


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