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Dive deep into TikTok’s fashion division, and you’re bound to stumble upon the weird, wild and wonderful world of ‘core’ aesthetics.
The thing with ‘cores’ is that they flip the traditional ideas of trends upside down. While the usual 'It' pieces are shared en masse and widely understood as being of-the-moment, core aesthetics are far more niche. They extend beyond a few key pieces, often encompassing an entire mood that can dictate a particular way of living.
At the softer end of the spectrum, you have aesthetics like 'VSCO Girl' that vaguely capture the mood of popular Instagram pages; on the other end, there's the prolific ‘cottagecore’ trend that saw many of us adopt entirely new lifestyles (some of us more briefly than others), during last year’s lockdown.
In many ways, fashion is just one thread in the tapestries that make up these movements, with mood boards, images and music playing an equally important role in the core’s ‘vibes’. And though it may seem like a blatant pursuit for meaning via materialism in a world gone sideways, one scroll through the hashtags of these subcultures will have you find not just endless outfit inspiration, but a wealth of critical views on the aesthetic, as well as uplifting content and a heartwarming sense of community.
I’m intrigued by the ways that these fun aesthetics can be incorporated into real life. So, after clawing my way out of the pits of TikTok subcultures and life hacks, I’ve put together a guide to the most street-friendly ones to try your hand at. From intentionally dressing like a hiker to taking style cues from Jerry Seinfeld, here's the edit of the best TikTok aesthetics and how you can introduce their charm into your everyday wardrobe.
If you were lucky enough to go on a beach vacation at some point in your early teens, chances are you donned the same old suspects: shell necklaces, tie-dye, sarongs, and anything with a wholesome dolphin motif.
In an unexpected twist, this nostalgia-inducing aesthetic is back and ready to replace your neutral summer looks with louder, cheerier pieces that borrow their style from movies like Aquamarine, Blue Crush and Holiday In The Sun.
To tap into these carefree vibes as an adult that won’t be going on a tropical vacation for a long, long time, keep to floral prints like frangipanis and hibiscuses, as well as thong sandals and grown-up iterations of shell jewellery that are less novelty and more wearable.
If you’ve never read a Donna Tartt novel, then you might not fully grasp the ominous allure of heritage American universities. That's really what this aesthetic is about — think classic literature and music, candles and typewriters. For clothes, preppy looks are given a slightly gothic twist using autumnal tones and prints like plaid and argyle in darker shades.
This one’s a great look to try out in winter, as it calls for cosy knits, trousers, and shoes like loafers and brogues that are reminiscent of school uniforms — perfect for stepping out in the current cold. But you don’t have to go full Camilla Macaulay to channel this vibe. Opt for slightly oversized pieces to layer and interesting details like frilled or scalloped collars and vintage-style belts to make it modern.
An enduring aesthetic that transcends time, the E-Girl is the answer to wearable club kid style in the 2020s. Equal parts futuristic and reminiscent of ‘00s style, the look is edgy and over-the-top, but actually rooted in grunge.
You can usually find an E-Girl in mesh, neon tones, graphic prints, leather, chunky boots and lots of cutout shapes — with chain accessories, of course. For a milder interpretation, reach for a statement belt that you can wear with some jeans, a ribbed singlet and an oversized blazer. Or, if you’re feeling a little bolder, get into the statement long sleeves that pair perfectly with black trousers and boots.
Born in lockdown, cottagecore quickly progressed from an aesthetic to a way of life. Purveyors of the look not only dress in voluminous nap dresses, gingham prints and straw accessories, but bake their own bread, lounge around in fields of grass, and tend to animals — all with a camera in tow, of course.
This serotonin-boosting aesthetic demands breezy, natural fabrics like cotton and linen. Its colour palette lends itself better to pastels and washed neutrals, but there aren’t too many rules here except avoiding super-saturated colours and prints. Chunky knitwear, wellington boots and hair scarves are a great way to bring this look into the cooler months. And though not mandatory, the bread-baking element is highly recommended.
One of the better-known aesthetics, this is likely already part of your everyday style. Characterised by oversized sweatshirts and outerwear, mom jeans paired with sneakers, and button-down shirts with singlets and t-shirts layered underneath, this look pays homage to ‘90s casualwear. Draw inspiration from the cast of sitcoms during that time — Seinfeld, Friends, and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air will prove particularly rich with outfit ideas worth a steal.
The word ‘Gorp’ stands for Good Old Raisins and Peanuts — i.e. trail mix, and this aesthetic draws on exactly what you’d think: outdoor wear! The fashion industry has long been influenced by streetwear, but in recent years we’ve seen a boom of outdoorsy-style looks hit the runways, with puffer jackets, hiking boots and water bottle bags making their way into even the most fitness-averse person’s wardrobe for the sake of getting onboard a trend.
Though it goes without saying, this look is inherently about embracing comfortable, weather-proof pieces like windbreakers and cargo pants. It’s worth noting that incorporating only a few of these highly functional pieces can still achieve the look in a way that doesn’t compromise your sedentary lifestyle. Shop our picks below.