It can be difficult to quantify just how influential TikTok is on the Gen-Z/millennial population. Since its inception in 2016, the video-sharing app has charmed over one billion users and has been downloaded over 2.6 billion times globally. Something of a creative explosion, the app is home to viral dance routines and vignettes of youth culture.
And so naturally, TikTok influencers wield some tremendous power. Chances are, they have – or will – play a role in your closet, too, as the world of TikTok aesthetics has burst forth. Each aesthetic-themed, minute-long video on the app is like a chapter in the fashion bible of the digital age. Videos under #findmyaesthetic have taken over fashion TikTok, detailing the many Internet-inspired trends that have been formed. Many show influencers figuring out their definitive aesthetic for their audience, trialling various trends over days, before settling on a single choice. Viewers are clearly enamoured by the trend, which is essentially a new way to define yourself.
Emmanuela Agu, 21, says her personal style has, without a doubt, felt the effects of Internet culture. Her own social media captures the evolution of her sartorial choices, where she posts outfits belonging to both the Y2K and cottagecore genres. “I think it’s so cool that you can now pick an aesthetic or two and run with it,” she says. “Y2K, for example, really allowed me to add some colour into my style. I’ve also been loving the 70s aesthetic, with big trousers and hippy headbands”.
Like Agu, Giorgia Rose, 24, follows her favourite aesthetics on TikTok. “I go for cottagecore and the very niche Mamma Mia Core,” she says. “Then I’ll go onto Depop and find clothes for the right look.”
Agu and Rose are some of the many whose wardrobes have been transformed by social media. As a result of apps like TikTok, aesthetics are no longer simply “minimalist” or avant-garde. This is a new-wave artistic movement, full of possibility. Look no further than the Aesthetics Wiki, a compilation of around 600 visual movements that found their origins on the Internet. Widely-specific aesthetic sub-genres like coconut girl, acid pixie, and light academia have emerged. Of course, there’s also the “core” genre, an overarching category, which has fueled thousands of videos and think-pieces in every fashion-forward publication. The category encapsulates everything from “normcore” – decidedly plain or seemingly uncool pieces – to “fairycore” – literally inspired by the mythical creatures and featuring soft pastels, flowers, and nature-themed colour palettes.
Whilst aesthetics like Y2K have existed for decades, recent distinctive categories are cultivated by TikTok-ers and influencers, and they then seep into our collective cultural consciousness.
This is possibly the most culturally significant aesthetic at the moment. Characterised by rustic country living and femininity, the category finds its origins from historically simpler times. Alexander McQueen’s Fall 2020 campaign is a testament to this aesthetic fantasy: think dreamy, pastoral dresses and delicate bows.
The fairly recent birth of the Coconut Girl has already taken TikTok by storm, with the hashtag reportedly garnering over 500 million views. The subgenre is designated by hibiscus prints, sparkly temporary tattoos, bucket hats, and butterfly tops. Very 2000s.
It’s hard to imagine how this trend became as colossal as it did, but that’s the mystery of the Internet for you. Academia aesthetics are shaped by the atmosphere of idyllic Western universities. Dabblers in this category would wear pea coats, cigarette pants, and Gilmore Girl-esque cardigans. Its counterpart is Dark Academia, which is notably less bright and instead drawn from literary tragedy.
The E-girl (or “electronic girl”) is rooted in grunge. Its followers wear black cargo pants, gold or silver chains, and lace tights. This is usually accompanied with a pretty specific beauty look: soft pink eyeshadow, black winged eyeliner, and major fake lashes.
On the other side of the spectrum lies Angelcore, which covers everything that is baby-pink, celestial, glittery, and gauzy. Amongst the most typically “girly” aesthetics, Angelcore encourages the embracing of femininity.