The Anatomy Of 2016's Teen Cliques

Illustrated by Ada Buchholc.
For the etymology nerds out there, the word “clique” is, perhaps unsurprisingly, of French origin. It’s derived from the French claque, which in modern times basically translates to “a band of political followers." Cliques can arise as a result of racial, ethnic, socioeconomic, and physical commonalities, in addition to many others, but here at Refinery29 Fashion, we’re talking about clothes.

Generation Z is the very first to redefine the clique through the medium of the web. We’re always aware of differences in fashion, but also the social and political differences that generate so much personal and national anxiety in modern America. It is much easier for us to listen, respond, and connect to those who are not physically present, and seek out likeminded people in our communities whom we otherwise would never have known.

The eight modern-day cliques ahead (think 2016's version of the Mean Girls lunchroom) are less geographically defined than ever before: They connect around wearing whatever they like, however they like it, whether it's wacky Vetements hoodies that have them looking like space aliens or boatloads of Ivy Park merch. Click through to see what we mean.

Fighting for inclusivity, diversity, and gender-neutrality, Generation Z is poised to turn the fashion world on its head. Get to know today's most influential teenagers with #TheZList, our week-long celebration of under-20 visionaries changing how we think about style.

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Illustrated by Ada Buchholc.
The Contour Club
There is something we have that Cher Horowitz didn’t, and that’s the internet. Would we consider trading it all for her closet technology? Maybe. But in 1995, the only person who really knew what contouring was was Kevyn Aucoin, and his sessions were $6,000 a pop at the height of his career; countless hours watching beauty gurus on our laptops, however, is 100% free.

Members of the Contour Club sit around lunch tables like the Heathers, armed with their updated weapon of choice: liner so sharp it could kill. Their idols are Kylie Jenner, Donatella Versace, and Rose McGowan circa 1998. They refuse to leave the house without at least sunscreen, brows, a full face, a swipe of tinted balm, and a quick curl of their lash extensions, and they’re not ashamed to admit it. Bethany Mota, JuicyStar07, and a healthy 10+ seasons of The Bachelor taught them all they know, but they’ve graduated to bigger and better things (the Hadid sisters) and are trying to reach 10k by the end of the summer. Call them “fake” all you want; they’ll use it as a hashtag while they rake it in as brand ambassadors.
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Illustrated by Ada Buchholc.
The Manic Pixie Woke Girls
Whether their aesthetic is Mitski soft or Bikini Kill gritty, teens who fall under the umbrella of Manic Pixie Woke Girl are proud to call themselves Social Justice Warriors.

Like Julia Stiles in 10 Things I Hate About You before she ends up caring about Heath Ledger, their ethos is built on the radically un-high school proposition to just…not care about guys. (So when they’re bored in class, you’ll find them rolling their eyes beneath floral Snapchat filters way before you’ll ever see them tossing a note to the boy in the back row.) But until Drake proposes, they’re content with reinforcing their girl gang, united by unbridled love of Arvida Bystrom, Petra Collins, Jenny Holzer, Amandla Stenberg, and similar female company.

Pick one out of a crowd and you’re sure to find space buns, pins and patches, bralettes, boyfriend jeans, and lots of silk — with a fruit emoji thrown in for good measure.
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Illustrated by Ada Buchholc.
The Cybergoths
Cybergoths are a curious bunch; consider them the birth child of Vaporwave and the hardcore punks of years past. All the glitch art and references to classical sculpture, undying love for Adidas, and devotion to Soundcloud remain, but with a dark and grungy dose of recreational tattoos, thick silver piercings, and huge, alien-esque sunglasses, often worn under a tightened hoodie.

Their general attitude doesn’t stray too far from the norm in goth mythology: They still lean toward all-black everything and maintain a philosophy that life is meaningless, but will occasionally let another color sneak in or laugh in the face of their nihilism, which is weirdly even scarier.

They present a mix of high and low culture — of fashion and the internet, respectively. The untrained eye would have no idea that they’re quite possibly the most style-savvy clique out there, as they frequently sport sweatshirts and baggy pants. But they flaunt the big names: Hood by Air, Vetements, Comme des Garçons. Catch them confidently sulking in the corner, reading the latest issue of Thrasher or K-Hole, draped in sheer, decaying layers.
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Illustrated by Ada Buchholc.
The Memesters
The Gen Z version of the old-school nerd, Memesters don’t wear pocket protectors or plot doodles on graphing calculators: A minute disconnected from Wi-Fi is enough to miss out on the next big thing.

They’re obsessed with pop culture, but, ironically enough, the endless tunnels of Reddit, Tumblr, and YouTube gamers provide them with way more information about the world than they’d ever get by actually stepping foot in it. Used to public criticism about their habits and not particularly caring, they often self-identify as “meme trash." Some even publicize their shame: When they get bored, the first thing they do is enter their endless clickhole of choice, and soon enough it’s 5:00 a.m.! They know it’s a waste of time, but they just can’t stop, and the camaraderie they feel, combined with the quality of Pokémon trades, is enough to numb the pain of soul decay for a little while.

They generally believe that fashion trends are just clothing memes, so they don’t spend too much time worrying about what they wear. But every Memester’s wardrobe does feature a few novelty fan items they bought on Etsy from the comfort of their own homes. Peek inside their closets, and you might find a corner of old cosplay outfits and some good old Manic Panic.
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Illustrated by Ada Buchholc.
The "Good Vibes Only" Crowd
They’re popular girls, sure, but proudly less “diva” than members of the Contour Club. The signature Good Vibes Girl typically hails from California, but as long as there’s a Brandy Melville within 50 miles and Frank Body still delivers, anyone can make it work.

They’re Instagram queens but make it look totally effortless, and they probably go makeup-free, save for the occasional coat of waterproof mascara and a mysterious glow that may or may not be Glossier Haloscope. It’s hard to discern one from the other, because at least one member of every pack owns a GoPro or DSLR, which chronicles their frequent and alarmingly cute girl-gang outings down the coast of Big Sur, resulting in images of 10 wavy-haired, glistening goddesses holding brightly polished hands.

They’re professionals at wearing leggings as pants, usually paired with a quippy tank encouraging “Less Drama, More Karma.” Though they're pioneers of athleisure, it’s undetermined whether they actually do yoga or just like looking like they do it — but the yoga-pant effect is just too good for anyone to argue with. Other favorite brands include Free People, Lululemon, and Wildfox — but after they get their first paycheck, it’s For Love & Lemons all the way. They somehow manage to look good in their boyfriends’ flannels, make it to Coachella every year, and live solely off of avocado and sunshine.
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Illustrated by Ada Buchholc.
After the bizarre 2015 worship of the dad bod, feminists rightfully protested against the double standard.

Rookie girl Gabby Noone tweeted frankly: “Dads tell mediocre jokes & get praised for it, dads wear mediocre clothes & get praised for it, dads have mediocre bodies and get praised for it…” Moms, however, are hardly permitted to step out in public after acquiring the post-pregnancy “mom bod,” and are praised in accordance with how quickly they lose it.

Enter Momcore, a femme counterattack to dad acceptance. Like many cliques, this one is just as much attitude as it is look, requiring a Manic Pixie Woke Girl-esque intolerance of dudes, topped with a more general cynicism symbolized by the wine glass. Subscribers to Momcore feel just as exasperated by the unrelenting demands of life as soccer moms screaming out of SUV windows, so why not start now? The moment Kendall Jenner was captured off duty in light-wash, high-waisted jeans, motherhood became cool for the first time since Mean Girls. Top off the jeans with a baseball cap, colored polo, Lacoste anything, and stark white socks with New Balance sneakers or thick-soled sandals, and you’re in with the in-crowd.
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Illustrated by Ada Buchholc.
The Sadgirlz
Hailing artist and Insta-star Audrey Wollen as their patron goddess, Sadgirlz hardly ever leave their bedrooms, and when they do, they’ll let you know they’re not happy about it. Consider them a Lana Del Rey Bacchae, caught up in the aesthetic rapture of, well, sadness.

Often feeling as though they’d been born in the wrong era, they spend their time reading Kafka, crossing off a laundry list of French cinema, and watching their Crosleys spin over and over and over. You’d think that this kind of loneliness would result in a total lack of fashion consciousness, but the reality is much to the contrary. Living in a room of one’s own requires meticulous, detailed adornment of every surface — including oneself.

Sadgirlz fashion tends toward a hyper-feminine punk, privileging juvenile details like ruffled socks, plaid and pleated skirts, and modern takes on the Mary Jane, while always taking care to add provocative pieces like lacy lingerie, furs, lace-up boots, slip dresses, and chokers. Stores like Topshop, Nasty Gal, ASOS, and their local musty thrift store usually offer the ideal combination of minimal-classic and absurdly trendy. Sadgirl's ideal Friday night? Bumming a Camel straight off of Hope Sandoval, Alexa Chung, or a reincarnated Ophelia.
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Illustrated by Ada Buchholc.
Sporty Spice 2.0
As genuine members of the boys’ club, they self-identified as anti-fashion until everyone started telling them how good they looked. They’re J. Cole’s fantasy of the Queens girl — getting up early to play ball before school, staring out the subway window listening to Biggie, lifting heavy when they think nobody’s watching. Though softer-edged and more put-together than the old-school jock, this girl is every bit as tough.

Her look is just as easy as it was when she was a kid, but just a tad more grown-up. Mostly neutral-toned, practical, and never showy, it’s athleisure at its best: Outdoor Voices and Ivy Park. In the rare moment she’s not in workout clothes, she’s probably wearing a bodysuit with sweats or cropped jeans and sneakers, which is undoubtedly where she invests most of her money. Whether she’s a Nike or Adidas girl is crucial, but whatever her allegiance, her main pair will be super worn down. But just for the fun of it, she breaks out her pair of pastel trainers from time to time and proudly flaunts platform sneakers or creepers when she’s going out. Her fantasy friend group includes Rihanna, Amina Blue, Princess Nokia, and FKA Twigs — the perfect combination of badass, and the kind of effortless Gwyneth Paltrow wishes she were.

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