My answer to the question “How do social factors determine which music, fashions, trends, films etc become pop culture phenomena and which don’t?” on the website TheQuestion UK
According to one sociological approach, music, films, books, clothes, and other cultural goods become popular among mass audiences through the mechanism of competitive struggle between various social groups.
The social groups that are important in the fields of fashion and culture production are those that possess a large amount of capital (in terms of Pierre Bourdieu),e.g.: economic capital, cultural capital, symbolic capital, etc.
These resource groups are made up of:
a) dominating classes (the elite, bourgeoisie),
b) producers of cultural products (designers, couturiers),
c) staff of fashion-papers (editors, journalists), and
d) other collective agents who set the fashionable styles.
Thus, popular culture is the result of the interplay between many agents and conventional consumers who are mostly represented by middle-class buyers, who in turn try to perform upward social mobility with the help of improving the appearance, consuming fashionable goods, reading popular literature, watching new films, etc.
However, through the exercise of these imitative practices, conventional consumers are only engaged in symbolic mobility, while their actual social positions remain the same. This means that in societies with a well-defined class structure, dominating classes, as well as agents with specific competencies from fashion and mass media industries, set the trends that are accepted by the ordinary public.