Tell me if you recognise any of these terms… Cottagecore, Dark Academia, Bimbocore, That Girl, E-boy, Soft Edges.
Unless your Tiktok feed has been perfectly curated, these fashion trends will have undoubtedly fallen under your radar. However, as social media algorithms learn to zone in even further on our every thought and desire, the term ‘niche aesthetics’ is on the rise.
We’ve spoken before about how subcultures are a thing of the past. It’s rare that you see anyone labelling themselves – or others – as a ‘mod’, an ’emo’, or even a ‘hipster’. Yet, we’re seeing more and more people adopting ‘niche aesthetics’ from social media.
They might not come with the same depth of a subculture, but they’re fuelling some of the biggest trends in fashion. So, what’s causing the shift?
The illusion of FOMO
The fear of missing out (FOMO) is one of the main driving factors behind online to offline action. When we see people enjoying something that we don’t have, part of us wants the experience for ourselves. It’s natural. We want to be part of the in-crowd.
So for example, let’s say every time you pick up your phone you see photos of people at Coachella; your favourite influencers are there, your favourite artists are there. Each social media post you stumble upon is either a perfectly curated Coachella outfit, group photo from attendees, or shaky footage from the crowd who appear to be having the time of their lives.
You’ll undoubtedly feel like you’re missing out and want to book tickets for next year.
It’s basic marketing 101.
In a similar fashion, our ultra-curated social media streams create a bubble of niche interests.
You may interact with foraging content, ‘Frogtok’ and homemaking; now you’re served up the cottagecore aesthetic.
You may interact with a few videos regarding street style, technical garments and urban fashion; suddenly you’ve fallen down the techwear rabbit hole.
Or perhaps you’ve found yourself in between feminist social commentary, Y2K nostalgia and clips of bubblegum styled, hyper-pop. Well done, you’ve made it to bimbocore.
A ‘niche aesthetic’ is a culmination of overlapping interests which create a community of people who are unknowingly sharing the same bubble. These people hold a false sense of FOMO because their social media of choice tricks them into thinking this bubble is the new normal. The more you interact with these overlapping subjects, the more focused your feed becomes. Scroll after scroll, you’re presented with a serotonin slot machine of content catered to the things you find interesting and filtering out everything else.
Is this good or bad?
Depending on your outlook, this is either brilliant or terrifying. Let us know which end of the spectrum you land on.
Some end users would argue that the way algorithms learn about their interests makes the experience better. There’s nothing worse than scrolling through social media only to find some random advertising and uninspiring posts from people you don’t know IRL (we’re looking at you Instagram).
However, some question how in-depth this data goes and how it could be potentially used.
From our perspective, the rise of hyper-niche trends could have an interesting impact on the fashion landscape – for better and for worse.
People discovering new styles and revelling in their own interests is always positive, but how this translates into the clothing industry is perhaps cause for concern. We already know that ‘fast’ fashion has earned that name for a reason. It’s reactive. One post can create a snowball effect that results in a plucky buyer gambling on thousands of pieces that will likely be flown half way across the world to keep up with the pace of these here-today-gone-tomorrow trends.
So if companies are now faced with a myriad of hyper-niche trends, how do you think they’ll play the game? The most likely outcome is to try and please all with flexi-ranges that offer key pieces from each core trend of the moment. This is a professional way of us saying they’ll probably throw mud at the wall and see what sticks.
The problem? Well, there are many. Firstly, if a trend seems more popular on social media due to the way that content is curated, it’s more likely that it won’t translate to a wider audience. This in turn increases the risk of wasted garments.
Moreover, the speed at which we are working to fuel the faux-demand often means that the garments created are of a lower quality, made up of more cost-effective materials. This sequentially leads to garments created in the name of hyper-niche trends to live a shorter life, with some not being fit for second-hand consumption.
So where do we go from here?
Being part of an in-crowd will always fuel fashion, but we need to look towards wardrobe staples and lasting materials over the instant gratification of hyper-niche trending items.
Don’t forget, trends often run in circles so if you’re tempted to delve into a new ‘niche aesthetic’ sites such as eBay may have second-hand clothes that fit the bill. Furthermore, there’s always the option of getting crafty with your current wardrobe to create something fresh and new.
We doubt we have to tell you this, but ultimately personal style trumps fad trends every time – and that’s certainly something an algorithm can’t provide.