From William Gibon's Pattern Recognition (2003 paperback edition):
Google Cayce [Pollard, the protagonist] and you will find "coolhunter," and if you look closely you may see it suggested that she is a "sensitive" of some kind, a dowser in the world of global marketing.
Though the truth... is closer to allergy, a morbid and sometimes violent reactivity to the semiotics of the marketplace.
Gibson's book is one of the better explorations of the idea that humans are evolving new mental capacities and/or diseases. Cayce's brand allergy walks that fine line between disabling medical condition and superpower. She can't walk into a Tommy Hilfiger store without having a minor psychotic episode, but it also makes her a highly sought-after marketing consultant, able to tell at a glance if a logo will succeed or not.
Cayce's ability seems to be about things, but it's really about people. "Coolness" is not an inherent property to an object, but a pattern of behaviour of people around an object, assigning it "coolness". It's related to novelty-seeking.
I see a parallel in fetishes.
Later in the novel, two men create a hypothetical Japanese girl, named Keiko but with the heavily photoshopped body of real world woman named Judy, to seduce some information Cayce wants out of a Japanese otaku.
Keiko/Judy is simultaneously pubescent and aggressively womanly, her shapely yet slender legs spilling out of a tiny tartan schoolgirl kilt, to vanish, mid-calf, into shoved-down, bunched-up cotton kneesocks of an unusually heavy knit. Cayce's cool-module, wherever it resides, has always proven remarkably good at registering the salient parameters of sexual fetishes she's never encountered before, and doesn't in the least respond to. She just knows now that these Big Sox are one of those, and probably culture-specific. There will be a magazine for Japanese guys into big socks, she's sure of it. The big socks go into retro faux-Converse canvas, but with platform soles to balance the very sizable bulk of sock-scrunch around the ankles, giving Keiko/Judy a knees-down look recalling a baby Clydesdale.
Keiko/Judy has pigtails, huge dark eyes, free-sized sweatshirt making her breasts a mystery, and something so determinedly carnal in her expression that Cayce finds it unnerving. ... childlike innocence and hardboiled come-on alternating at some frequency beyond perception.
This is the girl Taki's been looking for all his life, even though nature's never made one, and he'll know that as soon as he lays eyes on this image.
While some fetishes can be analyzed in terms of emphasizing or exaggerating physical traits emphasizing health and fertility (e.g. high heels create the illusion of greater height, smaller feet, and more pronounced hips and bust), at some point they become pure abstractions. A fetish doesn't exist anywhere except in the minds of the people who view it. If enough people fetishize something, it sometimes becomes fashion.
However, as David Kunzle pointed out, fetish operates on cycles vastly slower and older than fashion. Some fetishes are centuries old, and may even have acquired the status of cliche.
Cayce reacts badly to overused brands and styles, like Tommy Hilfiger, which gives her migraine-like hyperawareness and Tourette's syndrome verbal tics. Would Cayce see the classic fetish outfit of corset, garters, stockings and high heels as classics, like the black nylon flight jacket she wears, or just plain cliches, a simulacra removed several times from its origin point and drained off all soul?
In a roundabout way, what I'm asking is, if BDSM/fetish is based on archetypes, but are those archetypes classics or cliches? Both inspire immediate recogntion and familiarity, but one engenders satisfaction and pleasure, the other boredom and disdain. Maybe one person's classic is another's cliche.