The world was already heading this way, but the pandemic brought into clear focus exactly how much e-commerce and social media is shaping not only the buying habits of every generation, but also what is being purchased. According to a Digital 2022 Global Overview Report, published in January, it’s anticipated that by mid-2022, 60% of the world’s population will be on social platforms. That constant connectivity and sharing between users and brands is effectively eroding any slim barrier that was perceived to be standing between retail style and promo style.

In 2022 there are many social movements influencing important apparel trends. The culturally aware, connected customer of today is expecting brands to be as up-to-date on the nuances of society as they are personally. While this can seem daunting to brands, it can also be looked at as a huge opportunity.

With the incredible amount of sharing done by customers on platforms such as TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook, each generation is providing a clear roadmap as to what they like, how they want to have brand interaction, and even what fonts and colors they respond to within their favorite social app. Looking at a variety of influencers on the social platform a brand wants to engage with will quickly narrow down some key messaging and preferred communication styles for that group.

We are in a time when the dynamics of commerce have shifted from brand-led to consumer-led. In 2022 consumers want to be in on the stories behind the products they buy. They want to co-create and collaborate with the brands they love. Learning about your customers by joining them on their favorite social media platforms is one way to do that.

Here are six key trends to be aware of that are inspired by life as we know it in 2022.

Trend No. 1: Happiness, Fun, and Play

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A desire to celebrate life is translating to purchases of “dopamine brights” in everything from T-shirts to track suits. | Credit: Vicki Ostrom

There is an awakening of the senses as the pandemic wanes. A desire to celebrate and enjoy life is translating to purchases of “dopamine brights” in everything from T-shirts to track suits. Festivals, concerts, eating out with friends — all of these activities are on the table again.

Although a cautionary mindset still prevails, steadily, there is a gritty, optimistic trend taking shape.

What that looks like: Placement graphics like sentence slogans and a swing back to exuberant “logomania” brand expressions are seeing sharp growth according to WGSN trend service, increasing their “… share of the mix from 2% in S/S 21 to 19% in S/S 22.” High-energy brights inject #joyfulexpression and a #letsparty attitude into every part of the day.

Trend No. 2: The Great Outdoors and Holistic Healthy Vibes

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Rugged workwear is doubling as the perfect thing to wear for a hike. | Credit: Vicki Ostrom

Nurturing ourselves by enjoying and celebrating nature is a great escape and an effective way to take down our stress levels and get some good vibes flowing. Respecting and caring for outdoor spaces, plants, and creatures has data behind what we suspected all along: We gain holistic wellness through our experience of being in nature.

In the best way possible, caring about the planet has also become a kind of status symbol cross-generationally and across borders. Choosing eco-friendly products and buying from companies doing social good is becoming a major merchandising mandate for many businesses.

What that looks like: Rugged workwear is doubling as the perfect thing to wear for a hike. This includes classic plaid shirts, long-sleeve Ts, and hats to proactively protect from sun exposure; as well as rain gear, and reflective trims on hats, vests, and jackets as safety gear for urban walks. Colors that echo nature, such as tan, utility greens, warm yellows, and oranges are all growing in new-in volume growth according to retail data for the U.S.

Trend No. 3: Reuse, Regenerate, Repeat

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Sustainability is not a trend as much as a movement with momentum. | Credit: Vicki Ostrom

An acute awareness of the fragility of our planet and our finite resources has become a powerful engine fueling entire product lifecycles for everything from food to apparel to interiors to cars and every other product you can name. This is not a trend as much as a movement with momentum and it’s not going away anytime soon.

What that looks like: What this translates to in apparel choices especially is a determination to buy the best quality of an item that can be afforded, at every price level. A “value” is defined in new ways given the worries many have about climate change.

For example, a value to some may be an item with an eco-friendly qualification, such as recycled fibers or a certified carbonfree product. For others, a beefy style, which is slightly heavier in ounce weight, is perceived to stand the test of time. Simple, classic items that won’t go out of style are considered to be “smart” choices by an increasingly savvy buyer. The savviest often being those under the age of 24, or better known as Gen Z, who are cost-conscious and also value-minded.

Trend No. 4: Craft, Personal Storytelling, and Valuing the Beauty of Time

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Faded colors with a vintage story to tell showcase the craft trend. | Credit: Vicki Ostrom

2022 is all about rethinking what a “value” is and how long an item should last. The pandemic highlighted how connected we all are as a global community. This has shown a spotlight on myriad of cultures for whom mending is not just functional but has risen to an artform.

What that looks like: Patchwork patterns made of upcycled, salvaged fabrics have become popular. Special mending-made-beautiful or “visible mending” embroidery stitches give a hand-crafted, personalized, well-loved look to many items. Faded colors with a vintage story to tell and soft, worn-looking fabric surfaces also showcase this trend.

Trend No. 5: Learning, Books, and Upskilling

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Being part of a community that values knowledge and learning is a trend that is equal parts Americana and Preppy Academia. | Credit: Vicki Ostrom

Being part of a community that values knowledge and learning is a trend that is equal parts Americana and Preppy Academia. With the incredible wealth of knowledge that can be gained online between YouTube and TikTok, many people are becoming life-long learners and finding joy in their newfound skills.

What this looks like: This translates directly to relatable and wearable modern styles rooted firmly in school days nostalgia. #BookClub, #Newprep, #Academia, #Clubhouse, and #Heritage are all fun hashtags that conjure immediate visual images of this trend. Ringer neck Ts, collegiate-inspired graphics and fonts, letterman’s jackets, bomber-style jackets, retro-inspired varsity V-neck sweaters, vests, and cardigans all can be found under the umbrella of this trend.

Trend No. 6: Genderful, Inclusive, and Diverse

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Many customers prefer the versatility and practicality of roomier styles. | Credit: Vicki Ostrom

Brands are seeing outpourings of positive feedback as they begin to include a wider group of customers and customer images in their advertising. Authentically sharing their platforms with gender-inclusive, other-abled, racially diverse customers has naturally brought more voices to the table of many brands.

What that looks like: Many customers prefer the versatility and practicality of roomier styles that can work for their roommate, their sister, their brother, their boyfriend or girlfriend, as well as for themselves. Spring/summer 2022 catwalk analysis from WGSN is showing spring 2022 color shifts worth noting. Pastels are on the rise year over year, led by pastel greens (+112%), pinks (+109%), and purples (+85%). Increasingly it is not unusual to see a product description say “genderless” instead of “men’s” or “women’s.”