Indulge us for just one moment and cast your mind back to the early 2010s. You’re heading to HMV to purchase 500 Days Of Summer on DVD, bopping away to Feist on a pair of knotted, wired headphones. Your outfit? A polka dot dress, burgundy tights, an owl necklace and a pair of ballet flats. Life is good.
For those unfamiliar with this point in time, from c2007 to 2012, let us walk you down memory lane. Known on Tumblr as 'twee', the indie-adjacent aesthetic was defined by a love of 'quirky' movies, music and fashion – the likes of Juno, Kate Nash and Peter Pan collars. Commodifying the idea of the hot nerd, twee was all about girls in big glasses, riding pastel-coloured bikes and being 'adorkable'.
Icons of the aesthetic included Zooey Deschanel and Taylor Swift but twee was truly an internet phenomenon, with YouTuber Zoella rarely seen on the platform without her uniform of skater skirt and stripes. Like core hipster culture, twee fashion signified the type of person you were and what exactly you liked. More often than not, this included reading, folk songs and being kind to others.
There were, of course, downsides to the aesthetic, which became synonymous with the manic pixie dream girl character trope. Problematic personality traits included a focus on virginal innocence, while at the fashion end of the spectrum things often centred around wifey thinness and whiteness. Happily, the recent resurgence of the trend on Tiktok seems to be taking a big step away from these elements, offering up a more inclusive version of twee for the 2020s.
The re-emergence of twee has prompted mixed reactions from millennials, with many thrilled about the return and others visibly horrified. By and large, interest in the trend has been fuelled by Gen Z, who were too young to partake in the aesthetic the first time around. While many Tiktok videos are indulging in the trend's heyday, plenty of users are presenting their hopes for the look in 2022. The modernisation of the trend calls for a return to twee’s original 1960s inspiration and steering well clear of the obsession with ill-fitting playsuits.
Tiktok’s microtrends often face criticism due to their short digital shelf life but the twee revival appears to occupy a different space from the internet’s love of fast fashion. With the potential to slot easily into an existing capsule wardrobe, new-age twee pieces are everywhere thanks to Instagram-approved brands like Rixo, Shrimps and Ganni. Read on to find out which twee elements we're updating for 2022.
Ballet Flats Loafers
The ballet flats of the twee era were a cute idea in theory but two minutes into walking you could feel every pebble on the ground. Offering zero arch support, it essentially felt like you were walking barefoot (and often ended up that way once the heel wore out, two weeks after purchasing). For 2022 we’re embracing a meatier sole and sturdier shell in the form of an embellished loafer. Holding onto its twee origins with accent brooches and decorative detailing, the shoe fits well within the English teacher vibe while still looking classically cool.
Peter Pan Collars Maximalist Collars
Whether it was peeking over a batwing jumper or the main feature of a cap-sleeve skater dress, the Peter Pan collar ruled the twee era. Characterised by its small size and rounded detailing, the collar was a cute addition to any outfit, allowing millennials to live out their Disney-esque fantasies. As we head into the new year, we’re taking the essence of an accent collar and dialling it up a notch. Ranging from gingham print to doily detailing and sweet ruffles, the XXL collars on the market right now fit the twee aesthetic perfectly, plus the plethora of detachable designs means you can make the look go even further.
Hair Bows Berets
Now, we’re not going to say that berets weren’t around during the core twee years but there was a distinct preference for hair bows that cannot go ignored. From clip-ins to scrunchies and self-tied headbands, the obsession with bows was strong in the Tumblr universe. This season we’re swapping the Minnie Mouse-inspired headwear for a sweet and simple beret for a more mature take on hair accessories. Emily In Paris may have earned the hat a certain 'Brit abroad' connotation in recent years but in 2022 we’re taking our cue from Prince and adding a raspberry (or similarly sweet colour) beret to our favourite winter 'fits.
Coloured Tights Tube Socks
Tights are undeniably practical: they keep your legs warm and hide the patches of hair you missed when shaving. That being said, the twee tights of the early 2010s were often painfully bright or just too busy for everyday wear. You could swap them out for the frilly socks of the creeper-Tumblr era but here at Refinery29 we’re going for the trendy tube sock. Reminiscent of Princess Di's iconic athleisure, the slouchy sock is the perfect partner for a patent loafer, striking a balance between laid-back luxury and an oh-so studious vibe.