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A model of fashion: endogenous preferences in social interaction


  • Viviana Di Giovinazzo
  • Ahmad Naimzada


The aim of this paper is to investigate the dynamics of the fashion cycle as originally described by Simmel (1904). The theoretical models used in the more recent economic literature (Stigler & Becker 1977; Karni & Schmeidler 1990; Matsuyama 1992; Coelho & McCure 1993; Corneo & Jeanne 1997) have the undeniable advantage of making the cycle widely applicable, and consequently appropriate for the analysis of the most varied fields of consumption activity. However, in the process, the originality of Simmel's thought has been lost. Since they are built on the principles of standard economics, the above-mentioned models generally assume that preferences are exogenous and overlook the fact that individual tastes change in time, partly in line with choices previously made by the social group. This paper proposes a model of the fashion cycle in which conspicuous consumption 'snob' and 'bandwagon' preferences (Leibenstein 1950) are determined endogenously and depend on previous consumption experience, both personal and that of other consumers. Thus the particular contribution of this work in comparison to the preceding economic literature is dual in nature. By assuming preferences to be endogenous, it reflects more accurately the dynamics causing perpetual motion in the fashion cycle. By assuming preferences to be shaped through the social interaction of a heterogeneous community of individuals, the model manages to identify more closely the psycho-sociological nuances that, according to Simmel, give rise to the cycle.

Suggested Citation

  • Viviana Di Giovinazzo & Ahmad Naimzada, 2013. "A model of fashion: endogenous preferences in social interaction," Working Papers 235, University of Milano-Bicocca, Department of Economics, revised Feb 2013.
  • Handle: RePEc:mib:wpaper:235

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. H. Leibenstein, 1950. "Bandwagon, Snob, and Veblen Effects in the Theory of Consumers' Demand," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 64(2), pages 183-207.
    2. repec:hoo:wpaper:e-92-11 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Coelho, Philip R P & McClure, James E, 1993. "Toward an Economic Theory of Fashion," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 31(4), pages 595-608, October.
    4. Jess Benhabib & Richard H. Day, 1981. "Rational Choice and Erratic Behaviour," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 48(3), pages 459-471.
    5. Corneo, Giacomo & Jeanne, Olivier, 1997. "Conspicuous consumption, snobbism and conformism," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 66(1), pages 55-71, October.
    6. Di Giovinazzo, Viviana & Naimzada, Ahmad, 2012. "… Do as the Romans do. A model of conformity with the endogenous formation of preferences," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 41(5), pages 654-658.
    7. Karni, Edi & Schmeidler, David, 1990. "Fixed Preferences and Changing Tastes," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 80(2), pages 262-267, May.
    8. Stigler, George J & Becker, Gary S, 1977. "De Gustibus Non Est Disputandum," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 67(2), pages 76-90, March.
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    Cited by:

    1. repec:lrc:larjob:v:2:y:2017:i:3:p:1-13 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Fausto Cavalli & Ahmad Naimzada & Marina Pireddu, 2016. "Emergence of complex social behaviors from the canonical consumption model," Mind & Society: Cognitive Studies in Economics and Social Sciences, Springer;Fondazione Rosselli, vol. 15(1), pages 71-81, June.
    3. repec:imx:journl:v:11:y:2016:i:2:p:1-19 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Wei-Bin Zhang, 2016. "Fashion with Snobs and Bandwagoners in a Three-Type Households and Three-Sector Neoclassical Growth Model Representación del consumo: Modelo de Crecimiento Neoclásico con Tres Factores," Remef - The Mexican Journal of Economics and Finance, Instituto Mexicano de Ejecutivos de Finanzas. Remef, June.

    More about this item


    fashion cycles; endogenous preferences; snob and bandwagon effects; bifurcation; complex dynamics;

    JEL classification:

    • C61 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Mathematical Methods; Programming Models; Mathematical and Simulation Modeling - - - Optimization Techniques; Programming Models; Dynamic Analysis
    • D11 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Consumer Economics: Theory

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