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Out with the ‘core’, in with the ‘sleaze’: the psychology behind the resurgence of indie sleaze

It’s out with the ‘core’ and in with the ‘sleaze’. We’re witnessing a TikTok tidal wave, where explosive fashion trends such clowncore and princesscore are already fading into the abyss, overshadowed by a much punkier, and shall we say, cool but effortless look: indie sleaze. Characterised by its participants as grunge aesthetic meets naughties glam, this new subculture is dominating netizens’ screens, and we’re here for it.

What is indie sleaze?

SCREENSHOT sat down with fashion and beauty aficionado Carol Carlovich to chat about curating an indie sleaze starter pack. According to the blogger, you’ll need “an indie band T-shirt, a plaid flannel shirt, knit beanie, pair of Dr. Martens, a vintage denim jacket, thick reading glasses, and a handful of polaroids.” Beauty-wise, she recommends a “smudged black eye, strong, well-drawn eyebrows, cat-eye black eyeliner, strong and cool-toned face contour, dark matte lips (MAC’s matte lipstick on the colour ‘Diva’, for example).”

@snoopdiamond

As Kesha would say: get sleazy! #indiesleaze #greenscreen

♬ BRAND NEW BITCH - COBRAH

Carlovich perceives this reemerging subculture as “controlled rebellion” and describes it as “meticulously degraded and cool in just the right measure.” Like so many of our favourite fashion trends, indie sleaze was born in the late noughties.

Going into further detail, she explained: “It was an aesthetic popularised mostly around the 2010s by millennials and brings together the main elements of hipster culture like indie bands, lots of grunge and punk references mixed with glam, bubble gum pop. The party candids, the American Apparel ad photography, the adoration of anything vintage, the underground, and so on.”

@90sbaby2000s_teen

#indiesleaze #indiesleazeaesthetic #indiesleazeinspo 😝🖤🫶✨💋

♬ i bet you look good on the dancefloor part 3 - carla

“Aesthetically, a lot of people see indie sleaze as a response to the 2009 recession, much guided by the deterioration of capitalism as viewed by the millennial teenagers who strived to have the purchasing power to identify with advertisements, but at the same time did not have any capital to do so,” she continued.

Ultimately, indie sleaze represents a rejection of hyper-femininity and instead opts for something that, while it may appear effortless, is, in reality, a detailed recreation of what we’d imagine a young millennial would wear to The 1975’s concert in 2014.

Of course, there are a number of variations of this aesthetic to play around with. For starters, there’s mermaid sleaze—a seaweed-entangled fantasy, most likely taking inspiration from the likes of Ursula and The Little Mermaid Disney film due to hit screens in 2023.

Oh, and don’t forget about ballet sleaze, a fashion aesthetic that resembles the chaos and calamity of Natalie Portman’s character in Black Swan. Imagine a room full of ballerinas wearing shredded leg warmers, distorted lace, and pink fingerless gloves.

@oldloserinbrooklyn

2022 insights - Parisian ballet #fashiontiktok #ballet #twee #fashiontrends2022 #tulle #indiesleaze

♬ Mozart Eine Kleine Nachtmusik - Violin

However, if you are ever confused about how to nail this fashion statement in question, look no further than the iconic Instagram account, @indiesleaze. From grunge dudes to seemingly nonchalant chicks, this page exemplifies everything the aesthetic stands for. Naturally, Alexa Chung is the primary inspiration, leader, saviour and godmother.

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A post shared by Indie Sleaze (@indiesleaze)

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Indie Sleaze (@indiesleaze)

Why has ‘sleaze’ taken over ‘core’ aesthetics?

There has been an obvious shift among popular fashion TikTokers who are often now choosing to pick elements from the slightly more laid-back and effortlessly cool energy of sleaze, over the inherently preppy and potentially-rigid aspects of a number of core aesthetics.

On 14 October, the Digital Fairy—resident trend forecasters and marketing agency—posted a video letting netizens know that the masses were ditching their tutus for ripped tights and oversized tees.

@thedigifairy

chic ➡️ core ➡️ sleaze ➡️ ? #indiesleaze #microtrends #trendcycle #balletsleaze #ballerinasleaze #balletcore #cottagecore #fairycore #gorpcore #blokecore #fashiontok #fashiontiktok #trendforecasting #2023trends #wintertrends #cabinsleaze #fyp #foryoupage #MakeNightsEpic

♬ fashion show(256764) - TimTaj

Eager to learn more about the growing popularity, SCREENSHOT reached out to the Digi Fairy to gain some more insider perspective into why it believes this naughties revival is upon us. Culture specialist Rukiat Ashawe explained: “The trend cycle is impacted by cultural shifts in conjunction with the fast-paced nature of the internet.”

“Trends are circulating faster and wider as a result of fashion’s quickened dispersion via social media. Back in the day, it could take a trend that started in New York one year or more to reach the UK, but now a viral trend can cause an aesthetic to show up across different places across the world simultaneously,” she continued.

Confusingly enough, creative agencies and trend experts alike are slightly unsure as to why we’ve reached the naughties renaissance quite so quickly. Carlovich considered this in our chat and stipulated that indie sleaze is crawling its way back into our lives much earlier than initially predicted by fashion analysts.

“In fashion and beauty, there’s always a resurgence of past trends, usually recurring every 20 years or so. After we’ve seen the 90s and Y2K come back, it was evident that eventually, the 2010s aesthetic would follow right after. What’s interesting, though, is that we seem to be ten years too early, considering we’re only in 2022. Some people are arguing the reason for that is the fast-paced trend cycle induced by heavy social media usage added to, of course, TikTok’s impact on the music industry,” the creator noted.

Maybe another contributing factor to its online popularity is the fact that sleaze aesthetics inherently have a way of taking us down memory lane. Unlike many of the core looks which spawn online and come from in-the-moment, fresh ideas, sleaze has direct roots in nostalgia—it reminds us of all things Tumblr, alternative, darker, and moody. It harks back to a time when Meta didn’t exist, and the only AI we knew of came out of a Will Smith movie.

We all know the rapid speed in which trends appear and purge online. One minute, Elon Musk is getting slated for his perpetual pettiness, and the next, Jimmy Fallon has passed—it’s all very difficult to keep track of. Nevertheless, sleaze seems as though it’s here to stay.

Gen Zers are at the helm of sleaze aesthetics

From what we can see, gen Z is running the show when it comes to these burgeoning subcultures. Ashawe delved into why this might be: “Gen Z is looking at the hipster movement, Tumblr culture, and all those behaviours and aesthetics and is identifying with the feeling those millennial teenagers shared before them—of wanting to let go and create an effortlessly cool and unique image for themselves; of wanting to find an identity in their likings—a band, a show, their own personal style—of wanting to belong, in spite of what’s going on in the world.”

It’s true, while generation Alpha may reflect the future, gen Z reminds us of the recent past and the subsequent geopolitical, humanitarian, and climate crises we’ve faced over the past two decades. Young people often turn to creative expressions such as fashion to find comfort when they feel overwhelmed or distressed by the environment surrounding them.

Will indie sleaze stay relevant?

At the end of 2021, trend forecaster and analyst Mandy Lee, known online as @oldloserinbrooklyn, posted a TikTok declaring indie sleaze as the aesthetic of 2022. Her reasoning? The fact that, after the COVID-19 pandemic, people were craving creative expression and community.

The creator stated: “I feel like with the indie sleaze subculture, 15 years ago, community, art, and music were so powerful—that’s what brought people together. I think that specific elements, more so than the fashion, will become prevalent, as well as the style of photography, of course.”

@oldloserinbrooklyn

Trend forecast: indie sleaze revival #trendcycle #nostalgia #tumblrfashion #indiekid

♬ Sex and the City (Main Theme) - TV Sounds Unlimited

What we want to avoid however, is indie sleaze becoming subverted online alongside the recent resurgence of heroin chic—a highly toxic trend which, during the 90s and early 2000s, celebrated extreme weight loss and fetishised eating disorders. With this current topic of conversation circulating online, concerns have begun to grow that soon, we’ll once again be fed videos and images on our social media pages promising ‘thinspiration’, while fashion brands reject body inclusivity in favour of what they consider to be a ‘model’ size.

Speaking with VICE about the rise of sleaze trends, Lee went on to clarify that these cyclical fashion aesthetics aren’t always an exact science. “It’s also worth mentioning that a prediction is just that: a prediction. You wait to see how and when and if it manifests. I think it’s ridiculous to think that a trend will copy and paste itself exactly,” she shared.

So, there we have it. Unlike Y2K which evokes a far more colourful, happier, and brighter emotion, indie sleaze is repping it for all of those who might be yearning to unleash their inner rebel—and with the current state of the world, we don’t really blame them.

Gothcore: the illegitimate child of the goth and metalcore aesthetics

Wanna know what happens when you mix goth, punk and metal together? Well, we have the answer for you—you end up with gothcore, the latest aesthetic inundating TikTok with some seriously spooky vibes. And since we’re already celebrating Halloween today, it seems to be the perfect time to discuss the resurrected mania surrounding gothcore.

Now, you might think you’ve seen it all when it comes to TikTok trends—you may even think you know all the ‘cores’ there can be by now. But don’t be easily tricked, known for its dark allure and signature all-black fits, the trend is often confused with similar aesthetics like punkcore for example. Gothcore also dabbles within the realm of fantasy at times, which brings in comparisons to dark naturalism, dark paradise, and even dark academia; a subculture known for its romanticisation of classical eccentric styles.

But gothcore isn’t just a fashion aesthetic, it’s an entire lifestyle. Think goth but make it modern, this trend meshes all the best parts of goth fashionwear, music and makeup with an added touch of modern flare. So, before you decide to drag out your crumpled cat ears from your attic for a last-minute Halloween fit, why not learn more about this online subculture sensation first?

Strap on your platform boots and bring out the black kohl liner—we’re going to tell you everything you need to know about gothcore, and how you can take part in it too.

What exactly is gothcore?

To put it simply, gothcore is a subculture that takes inspiration primarily from gothic aesthetics in fashion, makeup and even different media with certain movies being considered part of it. The trend also has a firm and specific music style to go with it. Wonder describes it as an “anti-softcore” movement. According to the aesthetic’s own Wiki page, it is a fusion of gothic rock and hardcore punk which has its own array of whacky subcultures like folk punk and metalcore.

When it comes to gothcore, there isn’t much information on the trend since it mainly consists of a mix of many contrasting aesthetics. Any number of things can be classed within it, from strictly emo bands to those who like to dip their toe in traditional gothic fashion donning outfits Morticia Addams would die for.

Comparatively smaller in the world of cores—just look at cottagecore which has amassed 7 billion views on TikTok and growing, or even goblincore and fairycore which are not too far behind either. That being said, the gothcore community is anything but quiet and more on par with the likes of scenecore—with most members having a liking for metal music and loud punk rock, there’s no shortage of screaming.

Megan Fox and Kourtney Kardashian: gothcore fashion 2.0

@evdeangelis

gothcore #fashion #foryou #foryoupage #fyp #clothes #fancy #pinterest #fashiontiktok #goth #gothcore #gothgirl

♬ Homage x Diamante azul nerea.riddle - ;)

Firmly at the intersection where goth meets glam, gothcore takes elements from the emo and gothic fashion trends that ruled the late 2010s and mixes it with runway haute couture. InStyle has reported on celebrities like Megan Fox, Olivia Rodrigo and Kourtney Kardashian who have been spotted sporting the look.

There’s also a recurring theme that can easily be spotted when it comes down to the makeup members of the gothcore community tend to use. Melt Cosmetics is a pretty on-point example, as its Mary Jane eye palette perfectly channels the smoky and dark allure of the aesthetic.

Online, many have also taken to anime inspirations such as Misa Amane, a protagonist from the anime Death Note, for their look. Amane sports heavy gothic wear in a modern way, with frilly black corsets combined with leather black boots, short leather skirts, and her arms graced in a cut-out fishnet material. She usually adds patterned tights and fingerless gloves to complete her look. This playful mix of old and new is one of the main aspects of gothcore fashion.

@leznhartmoved

ur seriously gonna date other girls ?? #misaamane#deathnote#edit#aftereffects#BeautyTips#ACupgrade watch w headphones 👍👍

♬ no where to run by stegosaurus rex - emily

In fact, a lot of the gothcore videos on TikTok use audio of Amane speaking from the dubbed version of the show, with numerous gothcore fit checks also using the sound uploaded from an edit with over 5 million views by user @leznhartmoved. The character is clearly popular and fits perfectly into the definition of gothcore as ‘modern meets goth’.

For men who also take part in the aesthetic, Death Note is again an important inspiration with the character of the Shinigami Ryuk—the demon antagonist of the show. Ryuk has a fashion-forward look, donning distressed black trousers and a large chain looped through his belt. He might be scary but you’ve gotta hand it to him—that demon’s got style.

Gothcore music

Like most subcultures, gothcore has a very specific sound that draws influences from “goth bands such as Bauhaus, Siouxsie & The Banshees, and Christian Death with the hardcore punk bands like Black Flag, The Germs, Extreme Noise Terror, as well as metalcore bands like Bleeding Through and It Dies Today,” as its Wiki page states. “The sounds of the music is a crossover of dark post punk, dark post hardcore and dark metal. Some bands incorporate darkwave and industrial influences as well. Key structures of the songs incorporate breakdowns to the structure of the Gothic Metal influenced sounds. The simple concept is Goth(ic)-(Metal)-Core,” the page continues. Bands like Samhain—named interestingly after the Gaelic festival for the ‘darker half’ of the year’s harvest season—and Rx27 have considerably influenced the sounds of gothcore.

Gothcore influencers

Like many trends, this aesthetic has its own designated corner of the internet, thriving in places like TikTok and Tumblr, with many accounts displaying their OOTDs and style inspo. Gothcore content can often be found on the hashtags #mallgoth, #gothaesthetic and #romaticgoth. Creators like @cherubchelsea go viral for making additions to the style like bimbo-gothcore, and @hekate_moon’s modernisation of vintage goth in her videos.

@_brideofdracula_

🦇🍄🥀🌺 #goth #gothic #vampiregoth #cottagecore #bisexual #alttok #lgbt

♬ MIRROR ON THE WALL - ★Sylveon/Mozart★

TikTokers like @_brideofdracula_ have garnered thousands of followers on the platform by posting videos talking about how tricky it is to label yourself in communities with overlapping subcultures. Broad terms like ‘goth’ incite a questionable stare when added to a list of seemingly opposite aesthetic styles like cottagecore. But people—like the wonderful multifaceted beings we are—exist and can be more than one thing, duh.

As a subculture, gothcore remains small for now although it already encompasses a whole lot—and that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for people not already in the know to squeeze in too.