Fad Fungi: Mushrooms are Trendy

Jess Watts
8 min readJun 7, 2021

For a changing America, mushrooms are new taste makers

Photo by Olya Kobruseva from Pexels

Move over succulents — there’s a new “It” plant in town.

Or rather, a new fungus.

The New York Times recently declared that the fungus is among us, and it’s hard to disagree. If the exaltation of the mushroom is news to you, it certainly won’t stay that way for long; the fleshy-skinned fungi is quickly sprouting up on consumer goods, beauty counters, shelves and runways. There are now over 9.5 million #mushroom posts on Instagram (#mileycyrus trails at 7 million). All of this sudden fame has many asking the same question as Strategist’s Sydney Gore: “Why are mushrooms taking over my social media feed, my medicine cabinet and my closet?”

As a cultural + consumer strategist — and an amateur mushroom forager — I set out to explore the forces propelling mushrooms out of the specialty section and into various reaches of pop-culture.

Let’s start, as one always should, with pies and psychedelic Judaism.

Escapist fantasies are making mushrooms vogue. Again.

Mushrooms seem to become trendy whenever society is uncomfortable with a rapidly changing world. In the Industrial Revolution, urban dwellers in soot-choked factories and slums snapped up fairy tales and pastoral fantasies, fawning over illustrations of toadstools and tales of enchanted mushrooms — like Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. In the turmoil of the Vietnam Era ‘60s and ‘70s, mushrooms once again became a widespread motif, appearing in the form of the art and music of counter-culture. You probably won’t need to Go Ask Alice as to why.

The escape that mushrooms provide — either allegorical or literal — have brought them to the forefront of America’s consciousness once more.

In 2018 the trend known as cottagecore began surfacing. For the uninitiated, Cottagecore is a rural fantasy aesthetic that speaks to a desire to live simpler lives closer to nature. Or, manic pixie girl goes screaming into the woods. This fantasy is lived through the taking and sharing of soapy images of thatched roofs, rustic pies and rambling English gardens, and, of course, mushrooms.

Jess Watts

Where culture & consumerism meet. Strategy Director, culture, pay equity and travel pro. Stalk me here: https://www.hellojesswatts.com