In 2022, trends were quite literally living their lives in the fast lane. At the beginning of the year, most of us were stuck in the awkward phase between ditching our face masks in public spaces and embracing the return back to normal life post the COVID-19 pandemic.
While these habits infested into aesthetics like cleancore and 2020core, several other factors—including high-profile breakups, televised trials, Euphoria fever, the rise and fall of Wordle, a collective fascination for the multiverse, unparalleled hate for the metaverse, as well as the ban of controversial public figures from social media platforms—gripped Google searches for rest of the year.
Close to the end of 2022 however, there seemed to be a last-minute surge in year-defining events. As Argentina marked their historic win at the FIFA World Cup, conversations about nepotism babies rocked the entertainment industry—as passengers aboard the sinking ship that is Elon Musk-owned Twitter launched into a frenzy about their favourite celebrities. Meanwhile, the tech world was dominated by AI art generators and chatbots amid mass layoffs and crypto catastrophes.
All that being said, this is not a year-in-review article looking back at the numerous vibe shifts of 2022. If you’ve been following SCREENSHOT’s coverage of internet culture trends, you’ll know that—if there are two concepts which influence the cultural zeitgeist of a given year—it’s aesthetics and subcultures. In a way, all the aforementioned events have helped set the visual stage for 2023.
From weirdcore to a blatant rejection of the consciousness surrounding ‘cores’, here are three of the top aesthetics and subcultures that will help shape the year ahead.
Up until early 2022, the internet was obsessed with acknowledging everything under the sun and shelving them as either a hyper-specific aesthetic or subculture online. While grandpacore clowncore, and pearlcore went viral overnight, certain vibe shifts were termed along the lines of ‘goblin mode’, ‘feral girl summer’, and ‘horny girl autumn’. In fact, the practice was so rampant that it ironically garnered an entire subculture to its credit called ‘namecore’.
It was then that the broader internet started addressing its obsession with suffixes. While history gave us punks, hippies, grunge, and emos, the cultural lexicon later attached the ‘chic’ suffix to styles. Over time, this evolved into ‘prep’, ‘wave’, and ‘kei’—albeit being fronted by ‘core’.
Fast forward to late 2022 however, indie sleaze became the biggest macro trend birthed out of the Y2K revival. And, gradually, ‘sleaze’ began overthrowing ‘core’ at the helm of the internet culture lexicon. As an edgier and effortless version of core aesthetics and subcultures, sleaze plugged into our collective nostalgia, in turn, puppeteering us away from the sterilised bliss offered by the former.
While the movement is yet to peak in 2023, the year is also set to witness a rise in unhinged namecore takes. More specifically, aesthetics named after food with the ‘girl’ suffix. Enter vanilla girl, chocolate girl, caramel girl, matcha girl… baked beans girl, and hard boiled egg girl. If you think internet aesthetics are becoming oddly specific in terms of their tastes, wait until you meet mouldy cheese girl and medium roasted peanut girl. Cyberspace doesn’t get better than this, if you ask me.
Although the collation is rather unappetising to visualise, baked beans girl refers to an aesthetic with self-care, proper hydration, and a decent night time routine at the forefront. While the palette incorporates tints and tones of orange and nudes, visuals include candles, bathrobes, cosy settings, and airy styles. It symbolises everything and nothing—all together at once.
When it comes to hard boiled egg girls, things become a little more specific. The aesthetic incorporates pink pastels, whites, broderie Anglaise, and Hailey Bieber-approved glazed donut nails. Though it harbours parallels with princesscore and the coquette aesthetic, hard boiled egg girl is more like the silly, long-lost cousin of the two. At its core, it’s manufactured as a label enthusiasts can use to express themselves online. Physically however, the aesthetic holds little value. And that’s exactly what this new format of aesthetics and subcultures is all about.
Previously, the major difference between an aesthetic and a subculture was the presence of a dedicated community in the latter. While almost anyone could participate in an aesthetic just by making mood boards, curating playlists, and posting fan-made edits, subcultures came with the necessity of in-person meet-ups, forging social ties on Discord, and nursing inside jokes with the community.
Baked beans girl and hard boiled egg girl essentially eliminate this barrier of entry—in turn, rendering aesthetics a completely digital existence. So, be it as an Instagram caption or a gamer tag, the format in question is here to stay for the foreseeable future. Maybe we should’ve ended things with ‘corecore’ after all, huh?
First gaining traction over the pandemic, weirdcore seeks to trigger nostalgia for the unknown in enthusiasts. Featuring images and texts that are eerily familiar yet distant, it leaves people confused, disoriented, and reminiscent of the vague past. Although weirdcore works have evolved to include a list of fresh motifs and inspirations, the emotions behind the subculture remain the same. The only difference this time around is the application of these feelings.
“Weirdcore can trigger comfort in some because it probably reminds them of a nicer time in their life,” Gib, a moderator of r/weirdcore and co-administrator of the Discord server dedicated to the art movement, previously told SCREENSHOT. “But it can also trigger a bad memory or a phobia, leaving them confused and scared.” According to co-administrator Sanfor, the subculture can be triggering because, at its core, it is about exploring one’s emotions and experiences.
“It can be upsetting due to the way images sometimes contain elements that contradict one another: comforting visuals being paired up with upsetting ones, real with fake, and so on,” he added.
During the COVID-19 lockdowns, weirdcore’s amateur editing, primitive graphics, lo-fi photography, and image compression doubled as a beacon of hope in the synthetic underworld we call the internet. When harshly blended with images of liminal spaces, it then ironically evoked nostalgia for social gatherings. Essentially, delusional viewers only perceived what they wanted to at the time.
In a post-pandemic sphere however, enthusiasts have realised that the outside world is not all sunshine and roses either. As a result, in 2023, weirdcore and dreamcore edits are set to evoke an otherworldly feeling that nothing is real. As it turns out, there is no hope within the four walls we were once mandatorily confined to and there’s no sense of purpose out in the vast dimension beyond them.
The group of subcultures are instead hinged on highlighting humanity’s barren wasteland of an existence in the future.
This one might set off all the dystopiacore alarms in your head, but hear me out. Since November 2022, both social media and the tech industry alike have been floored by the power of AI chatbots—more specifically, ChatGPT.
What was once restricted to the corporate and customer service sector was essentially repurposed to cheat on written exams, generate 5,000-word essays mere minutes before their deadline, and bag remote job interviews as well as dates on Tinder. Heck, TikTokers have even used the tool to create everything from video games to powerlifting programmes and trending recipes. So why not aesthetics and subcultures?
It sounds radically unethical, I’ll give you that—but at the same time, it’s imperative to acknowledge the immense potential the tool provides in a world chock full of dynamic trends. In a bid to generate a brand new aesthetic from scratch, I took ChatGPT out for a little test run.
My first objective was to create an Aesthetics Wiki-esque page for an aesthetic based on the popular TV show Stranger Things—complete with a name, colour palette, key values, imagery, font, music, and fashion pointers. And it’s worryingly safe to state that ChatGPT didn’t disappoint.
Introducing ‘Hawkinsleaze’, a “retro supernatural” aesthetic that sports “neon pink, green, and purple” as its key colours. While its values surround “nostalgia, excess, and edginess,” visuals include “vintage cameras, old-fashioned phones, and cassette tapes.” Font? “Flashy and bold” typography. Music? “‘Walking on Sunshine’ by Katrina and the Waves, and ‘The Power of Love’ by Huey Lewis and the News.”
As for fashion tips: “Start with vintage or retro clothing items that capture the show’s 1980s setting, such as mom jeans, oversized t-shirts, corduroy jackets, and high-waisted roots,” ChatGPT advised. “Incorporate bold and flashy elements from the sleaze fashion style, such as leather jackets, studded belts, and fishnet tights. Consider incorporating elements that reflect the character’s personality or role in the show, such as Eleven’s pink dress or Will’s blue baseball cap.”
This year, the interplay between our digital future and cyber aesthetics is believed to have paved the way for sci-fi fits. In direct opposition to 2022’s dopamine dressing trend, the new style reflects our current times: dark, moody, and dystopian. And if you really think about it, AI-generated palettes—or neural visuals—fit right into this ethos.
Because what’s more apocalyptic than generating fully-fledged visual identities at the mercy of a bot in 2023, right?