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TikTok-Core Subcultures: The Fashion World of Today

By Shannon Correia on 8 September 2023

The emergence of TikTok and Gen Zs in the consumer market and the rapidly changing trend cycle has led to a flurry of styles being present all at once. While previous decades have had distinctive aesthetics, today’s fashion world is trickier to categorise, and instead consists of clusters of ‘cores’. Let’s explore what this means.

Defining Core Trends 

Subcultures have always been around, albeit more firmly defined. For instance, the punk era had a distinctive look that reflected their rebellious attitude, DIY ethos, and a desire to challenge the status quo. There are also groups of people influenced by their interests and lifestyles, like skater girls and boys. Core trends are a natural extension of this, although the categories have become far more niche. 

For some, these core trends are something to try on and play with, and for others, it reflects the essence of their being. Many of the new core trends are based on old trends, but they have a new name. For example, the popular 90s layers hairstyle is called the ‘butterfly cut’ and a smokey brown eye is called ‘latte makeup.’ While these new terms may be the way to capture and resonate with younger audiences, there are years of influence driving them.

The term ‘normcore’ was first used back in 2008, and by 2013 it was used by K-Hole, the trend forecasting group in their “Youth Mode: A Report on Freedom.” The concept described how people could move from one aesthetic one day to another next. It was meant to be a term which spoke of moving with flexibility as it were the norm. It was about personalities more than it was about fashion. 

By definition, the core is the innermost part of something which is central to its existence. The TikTok community has taken this concept and developed it, making just about anything a ‘core trend.’ You could put almost any word together with core – in all seriousness, there is even a sect on TikTok who ascribe to “clown-core.” There are also many other micro-trends which have emerged over the years, from VSCO Girls to Coastal Grandmas, Y2K nostalgia, and Clean Girls. 

TikTok’s Core Trends Today

That brings us to today, where some TikTokers belong to a certain core, and others who float between multiple cores. This has therefore become more of an entrenched ‘trend.’ Each core opens the door to a world of other content and popular videos, from #ootd’s to #grwm’s.

Here are some popular TikTok cores. There is one notable new-comer, and that is “Corecore,” the latest aesthetic to become popular on TikTok.

Popular TikTok Cores

Let’s take a look at some of TikTok’s most popular sub-cultures.

#Cottagecore (15.1B views)

Think day dresses and living in a cottage with flower fields on your doorstep.

@alltheferalfawns Waking up slow☕️ #cottagecore#fairycore#fyp#faerie#aesthetic#coquette#morning♬ Choking on Flowers - Fox Academy

#Fairycore (4.5B views)

A fantasy aesthetic based on fairy and elf mythology with butterflies, flowers, and magic. 

@aclotheshorse last time using this audio😅🌸🌸🌸 fairy wings by @stonehartjewelry use code cottagecore for 11% off! #fairycore#fairyaesthetics#cottagecore#coquette♬ original sound - Sarah Cothran

#Goblincore (1.7B views)

A celebration of the less romantacised natural ecosystems inspired by goblin folklore.

#Gorpcore (1.2B views)

An outdoor aesthetic for those who hike, and trek their way through nature. 

@hannaroslan0 Never too many options ☝🏽 #FlexEveryAngle#ootd#foryou#fyp#gorpcore#techwear♬ Them Changes (Sped Up) - Thundercat

#Barbiecore (977M views)

An aesthetic inspired by the doll, which is often a whimsical world of pink celebrating girlhood. 

#Cybercore (332M views)

A revisit of the Matrix with tech-led aesthetic with influences from the 2000s and cyber-punk style. 

@pitayaq#cybercore♬ Palace (Sped Up) - ADTurnUp

#Indiesleaze (137M views)

The Tumblr aesthetic from a decade ago has resurfaced where epicycles clothing meets grunge appeal. 

#Regencycore (80M views)

The reemergence of royal style with period costumes which have become popularised with shows like Bridgerton. 

@sarakubler Mr. Darcy who?? #janeausten#janeaustentiktok#prideandprejudice#prideandprejudicetok#regencyera#regencycore#bridgerton#bridgertontiktok#teaparty#teapartytheme#birthdaypartyideas♬ these videos are adorable - 🪶starling

#Lolitacore (3.2M views)

Also referred to as coquette style, this subculture is dainty and feminine, with pinks and whites seen on lace stockings, corsets, and pearls. 

#Corecore (6B views)

A style of video editing featuring a combination of seemingly random clips and various speeds, overlaid with music. It is meant to be anti-trend and designed to evoke emotion. Often, these emotions are sadness, depression, and loneliness, with imagery relating to oversaturated media, social change and global concerns. It’s about creating something that can’t be tainted with consumerism or easily categorised. However, this is inevitably changed over time, with some of these videos simply being a recreated style rather than a statement about the reality of a disconnected world. 

Aesthetics are a form of expression. Whether you belong to a particular core or dabble in a few of them, these styles present a way to connect with others and establish yourself among them. Consider which core(s) your audience belongs to, and the true essence of what that means.

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