If you saw an increase in the amount of women wearing long skirts, you’d probably think nothing of it. Economic experts, however, may see this trend as an economic indicator. 

In 1926, George Taylor, an economist and professor at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, claimed that women wore shorter hemlines in good economic times. The reason? To show off their fancy stockings they could now afford. However, seeing women in long skirts was a sign of poor macroeconomic performance. This fashion choice meant they didn’t have the means to purchase stockings.


While Yifan Yu, a business and economics reporter for New York University, says this hemline index may or may not hold up, modern times have found fairly reliable indicators that can typically represent a change in the economy.

These indicators are statistics or trends that are relatively accurate barometers of economic health. However, many of the most reliable economic indicators are so unorthodox, you’d probably never think of them.

Trends in Retail

It makes sense that fluctuations in retail would mean a change in the economy. After all, your financial situation directly affects what and how much you buy. The changes economic analysts look for, however, are a bit more quirky.

Diaper Rash Cream Purchases

The amount of diapers a child can go through in a day is astounding. What’s even more shocking is how much the essentials can set you back.


Some business analysts believe an increase in diaper rash sales indicates a poor economy. The reason? Parents are leaving diapers on their children longer to save money, causing the ideal conditions for which a rash to occur.

Men’s Underwear

Want to know what men do when times are tough? They stop buying underwear.

Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan was known for his ability to predict future economic shakeups. One of his trusted indicators was the sale of men’s underwear.

Cardboard Box Quantities

At first glance, cardboard and the economy don’t seem to have a symbiotic relationship, but when you take a closer look, you find that they actually do.


Bizarrely, the Federal Reserve looks at the demand for cardboard boxes as an indicator of economic health. Companies typically send their merchandise to businesses in cardboard boxes. When product demand rises, the companies order additional boxes, which is a sign of increased consumer activity. 

Lipstick Sales

Is the lipstick wearer in your life debuting new shades or purchasing more of the product? If so, an economic slump could be near.


Consumers tend to skip making luxury purchases when times are tough and go for something cheaper when they want to indulge instead, says Time magazine. What’s a cost-effective way to make yourself feel like a million bucks? Some consumers believe that lipstick does the trick.

Fashion Indicators

In addition to how much couture people are donning, fashion choices are often able to indicate an economic slump or rise. In Japan, it is said that long hair on women is a sign of a booming economy. Seeing more short haircuts than usual? Then your stocks and bonds may be on the verge of taking a huge hit.


We’ve compiled a few other fashion trends that are believed to gauge the country’s financial situation.  

Clothes Colors

It’s been said that when you feel good, you look good—and vice versa. A person who feels good may want to reach for brighter colors or take more time with their appearance. A person who is depressed, stressed, or otherwise down might not want to stand out.


In keeping with that line of logic, when the market goes down, so does the creativity of clothing colorsIf you’re spotting an increase in the amount of drab and boring hues you’re viewing, it may be a sign that a negative economic change is in the works.

Tie Styles

If you’re wondering how the economy is doing, take a trip to the business district of your local city. The type of ties you spot can tell you something.


Bloomberg says that wide ties are a sign of positive economic change. Skinnier ties, however, are the mark of a struggling economy.

Tie sales can also provide a report of how things are going. An increase in purchases usually means workers are trying harder to impress their bosses, often because of financial woes.

Nail Polish Colors

If you really want to know how a person feels about their financial situation, take a look at their nails, says Forbes. The color choice often reflects how well their doing in the money department.


A rise in the use of dark nail polishes can mean the person is feeling low about their situation. Times are about to get tough if you notice the dark color on a large amount of people.

It’s important to keep in mind, however, that color preferences change with the seasons. Lighter colors are often worn during the summer, whereas dark tones are usually popular in the colder-weather months. If you spot lots of dark nails in the spring and summer, you may want to brace yourself (and your bank account).  

Trends at Home

What you experience in your everyday life could give you a hint as to how the economy is doing. For instance, if you notice the servers at your favorite restaurant have become much more attractive, the country’s bottom line is probably struggling, says Time magazine.

Blacked-Out Football Games

If you turn on the TV expecting to watch a football game but find it is blacked out, your local economy could be in the weeds (at least according to some economists).

Matt Miller/The World-Herald (via omaha.com)

Because of blackout rules, football teams risk unaired games if they don’t sell out all of their home matchups. When this happens, it’s usually a sign that people in your area aren’t able to purchase as many tickets as the team expected, which could mean a slow local economy.  

Prevalence of Mosquitoes

If you’re considering investing in a mosquito net for your home, the economy is probably in a slump.


Researchers at the University of California, Davis, found that mosquito populations (and West Nile virus cases) increase during financially tough times due to home foreclosures. When some homeowners lose their homes, they also lose their pools, which means significantly sized bodies of water are left unattended. When it comes to mosquitoes, that’s the perfect breeding ground.

Even if the pools are drained before the homeowners move, they will still likely collect rainwater and attract mosquitos.  

Divorce Rates

The good news is looking at divorce rates can give you an idea as to how the economy is. The bad news (depending on how you look at it) is that more ended marriages mean better economic times. According to Jessamyn Schaller from the University of Arizona, “increased unemployment rates are associated with reductions” in “flows … out of marriage.”


A rise in divorce rates indicates that more couples have the money to finalize their divorces. During a recession, paying the high costs of a divorce is often difficult, which results in a lull in divorce rates.

Online Dating Site Memberships

When financial stress has you down, one way to get your mind off of it is with romance. Some analysts believe that a rise in people signing up for online dating site indicates a struggling economy. People are looking for ways to make themselves feel better, and finding companionship is often it.

Biking Fatalities

It’s not a secret that gas and vehicle maintenance are expensive. Those trying to save money may leave their vehicles in the garage and rely on their bicycles for transportation, instead. This often means an increase in the number of bikes on the road. Unfortunately, more cyclists out and about often results in a rise in fatal bicycle crashes.


One example is how bike fatality rates in the UK rose by 58 percent between 1930 and 1935, the hardest years of the Great Depression.