︎︎︎episode 47

Those CraZy KidZ: The Gen Z Aesthetics (pt 2) - Rare Aesthetics, Y2K and 2014 Nostalgia, Skinny Jeans vs The Masochist Aesthetic, War of #Adulting and The Great Shunning of 😂

June 22nd, 2021

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Welcome back to this week’s episode on our two parter on GenZ trends!

Rare Aesthetics

So the first trend I am going to talk about this week is Rare Aesthetics. Aesthetics is a word that is popularized really by the GenZ generation as sorta an evolution from the world of Tumblr that infiltrates lifestyles and fashion choice. Last year we talked about various niche Aesthetics trends like Cottage Core and Dark Academia so I won’t go back into this in this episode - but if you haven't listened to it - it is Episode 4 one of the first ones we did! Aesthetics are just a highfalutin word for “visual style” since we are all creatures of our own personal brand and creative through social media - it is a concept that is very important particularly to the GenZ generation. There is a diffusion of the overarching Aesthetics trend Rare Aesthetics that is getting popular on TikTok.

Amanda, are you familiar with it at all?

Rare aesthetics are a nostalgia artform that champions something that is not widely obvious or available and are created to essentially Unlock a Memory that you might not realize has potential to create an emotional connection to your past.

One of the most popular examples and something I absolutely adore is Continental Breakfast at a chain hotel Rare Aesthetic. It is a series of elements - this one is photos clipped together with the soundtrack of a Crystal Castles song of all those Holiday Ins or the ilk Continental Breakfasts (like the little packs of frosted flakes and the trays of scrambled eggs, the white tablecloth table laden with grocery store variety bagels, muffins and light and fit yogurts) that were a constant on your family vacation that you took for granted - but seeing them it evokes the nostalgia and longing for a simpler time.

There are tons you can find on Tiktok if you search #rareaesthetic like - Going to your Grandparents house and playing with your mom’s old toys, Morning after a sleepover, Your Hometown Hippie Boutique.

Amanda do you have a Rare Aesthetic that you would love to see?

So Rare Aesthetics is so popular because Nostalgia is essentially comforting. I looked up online how Nostalgia effects the brain and why it is so important - especially now. On the website How Stuff Works there was a really cool breakdown - they say that neural activity which causes the release of all those “feel-good chemicals” in your brain is activated at a higher rate when you are 12-22 years old which imprints itself in a more impactful way then all the other years of your life. So if you are listening to one of your favorite songs during this time period you are experiencing an extra-intense reaction that associates itself with the time, place, events and emotions happening at that time. And the emotions are influenced by the high level of raging hormones occurring in the brain. So it is like this huge collision course that makes nostalgia feel greater when you are reminiscing back during this time frame of 12-22.

Why else is Nostalgia so incredibly important right now? Well, during a time of stress like a pandemic, social upheaval and environmental crises, Nostalgia can remind us that we are not alone, that we are loved and that our lives have meaning and let us relive that hormone instigated dopamine high of a certain time when we need a lift most.

How stuff works adds - “ Research shows that nostalgia promotes a laundry list of positive mental states and behaviors. After nostalgizing, people experience higher self-esteem and feel more socially connected [source: Routledge]. They're more optimistic, generous and creative [sources: Cheung et al. , Tierney, Van Tilburg et al. ]. They worry less about death [source: Wildschut et al.].

Nostalgia, then, can be a coping mechanism — a tool for picking us up when we're feeling lost, or bored, or lonely [sources: Routledge, Routledge].”

Dr. Alan R. Hirsch of the Smell and Taste Treatment and Research Foundation said this about nostalgia: "Nostalgia does not relate to a specific memory, but rather to an emotional state. This idealized emotional state is framed within a past era. Idealized past emotions become displaced onto inanimate objects, sounds, smells and tastes that were experienced concurrently with the emotions." So essentially nostalgia is really a longing for an emotion, not an event.

So Rare Aesthetics are trending because GenZ is looking to find comfort in small emotional experiences.

This takes me into the next Cool Trend….

Y2K Aesthetics

Another trend that can also ride alongside the ugly trend that we talked about last week is the Y2K aesthetic. With the ushering in of resale and vintage as a choice shopping destination for the GenZ consumer - 90’s style is blowing up with like real clothing from the 90’s as well as other brands that are picking up on what is called the Y2K aesthetic.  Think glitter, pink, Bratz dolls and reruns of The Nanny with very 90’s bold loud patterns, and Spice Girls fashion references, also think dresses over jeans, Skin-tight animal print tops, the works!

Y2K aesthetics are the full on REJECTION of normcore and minimalism they are also a rejection of fast fashion and the impact it has on the environment. The aesthetic came, of course, out of the nostalgia and cyclical nature of the fashion system as well as GenZ’s fascination with the 90’s -  but also because there is A TON of 90’s fashion available in the resale world. It hadn’t been popular because the style wasn’t mainstream - Millennials considered it - well “ugly” and as GenZ is wont to do - they gravitated toward anything the generation before them dislikes. Which is hilarious because Millenials are influenced by whatever is “cool” so now they are following GenZ and picking up on the Y2K and 90’s love affair as well.

2014 Nostalgia Fashion

In a similar regard 2014 is popping up as a throwback trend that GenZ are embracing in regards to their fashion aesthetics as a nostalgia for an early aughties time. The lines are a bit blurred on their trend timeline but the meaning is obvious - they are going back to the style they had embraced or aspired to based on their age and 2014 tiktoks are all the rage - Tumblr girls, American Apparel, fishnets, doc martens, liquid eyeliner and nose piercing.

Vice reports in an article GenZ Are Already Nostalgic for 2014 by Serna Smith :  “The hashtag #2014aesthetic has over 1.5 million views on TikTok: Users are posting POV videos of themselves in matte lipstick with an Arctic Monkeys soundtrack, 20-somethings are revisiting old Tumblr content (heavy on the ripped tights and finger tatts) and teenagers are imagining what it might have been like back then. Over on Depop, you’d be hard pushed to find a genuine American Apparel tennis skirt – the crowning jewel of 2014 culture, apparently – for under £20.”

Amanda how do you feel about this? 

I think this is funny because if you go back what 7 years - yeah - SKINNY JEANS where all the rage!

They talk about the younger generation is idealizing a version of the relatively near past because people are reminiscing about old photos, leaning into their closet and finding treasures from time not too long ago and looking to dip back to a time far but not too far from our current reality when we were naive and more self centered.

GenZ fashion icons -

Amanda when you think of Millennial fashion icons and trendsetters who do you think of?

Well GenZ loves Billie Eilish - she is considered their fashion role model. Which is so interesting - Billie mixes comfortwear, “ugly” looks and color favorts, to create this style that is individual and very much not sexualized. She is what GenZ current definition of what Cool looks like today - especially in consideration of the icons of the aughts and aughties.

Euphoria - the HBO series is considered a leading influence in fashion for GenZ. It is essentially the Sex in the City of the Gen Z set.

The Skinny on Skinny

So skinny jeans are decidedly NOT COOL. As of early this year there were 274,000 videos tagged “no skinny jeans” on TikTok with a war raging in a GenZ vs Millennials fight against jean silhouettes that is getting rather heated. But, what dominated the denim market for nearly two decades is now only ⅓ of all denim sales. Right now it is kinda a crapshoot between boyfriend and mom jeans.

But, while I was looking into the ugly trend something came up time and time again a few years ago that I just had to talk about.  This “ugly” trend has manifested itself in a few silhouettes of pants that a lot of editors have had a hard time wrapping their heads around - which might be while sweatpants became so popular during the pandemic. Rigid retro jeans that are arguably neither comfortable nor oftentimes flattering as well as this Sailor style made popular by Rachel Comey and Jesse Kamm have been literally everywhere for YEARS. Amanda have you ever worn these or even tried them on?”

They are so insanely popular - I haven’t tried them personally because I am wary of tight fitting 100% cotton pants. I always thought they looked great on the rail thin people i have seen them on - but never felt like I could pull them off.

There was an article from The Cut called Succumb to the Siren Song of Unflattering Pants

in 2017 where the writer Molly Fischer spent the whole article dissecting the trend in complete shock and awe saying:

“The hard facts: These pants embody a masochist aesthetic. They are ostensibly “chill” and yet they are not comfortable — high waist, no stretch, devious center seams. At their most extreme they have the potential to be punishing both physically (you don’t feel good) and visually (you don’t look so good, either), which seems like a remarkable achievement. We have arrived at wide-leg pants that are somehow more restrictive than the typical tight ones.”

Genz is so over their older generation the millennials

What’s Out?

So Skinny jeans are out - what else is OUT?

Face with tears of joy, the official name of the 😂

is apparently really pase. So if you use the laughing crying emoji it means you are old - GenZ reportedly saw everyone from all the older generations using it so much that they now refuse to use it. I heard about this earlier this year from the younger people I worked with. I asked them what you could use instead and apparently the Dead Skull face is an appropriate emoji swap which means “I’m Dead” or “I’m Dying” - which personally feels really off color insensitive especially in the middle of a pandemic.

Side parts

There is also a huge debate about Side parts in your hair that GenZ is trolling millennials about. Center part or bust essentially. Side parts means you are old as well.


The last uncool thing that GenZ is raging war against is #adulting. This idea that Millennials launched a million memes about is considered lame and the younger generation is calling Millennials out for not acting like grown ups.

I think this is such an interesting concept - the generation that rebelled against the older generations and created side hustles and girlboss and building your own path is also rather childish and selfish. And I can understand why GenZ is pissed. Millennialls are supposed to be the role models but (and this is a stereotype and clearly not all millennials) - and we talk about this on countless occasions in our podcast - but on their watch Millennial culture inadvertently and advertly perpetuated systemic classism, racism, sexism, etc   - and GenZ is pushing for accountability, equality, environmental change and conscious consumption

I think they are ultimately disappointed and resentful of the generation before them. Like they have been shafted.  GenX could be considered the more responsible adults to the younger Millennials. So Millennials are supposed to be the role models for GenZ and we just have legions of #Girlbosses Brosephs - drinking Wine and debating which Harry Potter house they are in - embracing the disposable economy and fast fashion - hurting the world that they should be working to make better for the generations after them. GenZ is like grow up!

We are going to be talking a little more about Home Ec or the modern day Family and Consumer sciences and the stigma against these classes that has lead to the disappearance in schools in an upcoming podcast. #Adulting has some roots in the loss of these essential life lessons that launched millennials and now Gen Z into the world without really knowing basic adult skills like cooking for yourself, sewing, personal financing and the struggle that is abundantly clear.