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What is goblincore? Instagram’s fairycore icon @hollowfae explains the aesthetic

By Monica Athnasious

Jul 10, 2021

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We’ve all heard of cottagecore, right? If you haven’t, you’ve probably been living under a rock or you most likely still haven’t downloaded TikTok. Come on, it’s time. The hashtag has amassed nearly 7 billion views on the app—yes, billion. It was during the first COVID-19 lockdown that cottagecore exploded on the internet which sparked the desire to escape the once normality of our capitalist world for a simpler, slower one in the country. Cottagecore’s popularity has since opened up the doors for a variety of new aesthetics to become viral.

Well, if you haven’t heard of cottagecore then no doubt  you haven’t heard of fairycore or goblincore. Hollowfae, as they are known on Instagram—real name Sunday—sat down with us to talk about everything fairy and goblincore. The law student’s fantasy-themed fashion content and beautifully magical aesthetic has attracted over 20,000 followers, so it’s safe to say they’re a successful fairy.

 

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A post shared by ✧༻ sunday ༺✧ (@hollowfae)

The path to these aesthetics was the same for Hollowfae, “I discovered all these little aesthetic-based communities just over a year ago at the beginning of the first UK lockdown. I actually discovered cottagecore first, my partner and I moved from our uni accommodations into their family home in the countryside. Cottagecore was becoming popular on TikTok at the time, so because of where I lived, taking part in the trend was really accessible.”

Goblincore has become an adjacent branch to cottagecore and is also often referred to as gremlincore or cottagegoth, among others. Its name has left many wanting a change in title. Morgan Sung writes in Mashable that “given the discourse over J.K. Rowling’s problematic depiction of goblins as greedy bankers in the Harry Potter franchise, at least one Tumblr user is pushing to call the aesthetic by one of its other names, so it’s not associated in any way with anti-semitism.”

From cottagecore to fairycore and goblincore—what’s the difference? Hollowfae explains that “they have some similarities—they both explore and celebrate nature and fantasy themed imagery. I’d say fairycore is ‘lighter’. If you compare the image in your head of a fairy to that of a goblin, the fairy has more of a conventionally ‘pretty’ look.”

Adjacent to other movements like cottagecore, fairycore and dragoncore, goblincore is defined as an aesthetic that aims to celebrate the elements of nature that are not typically seen as ‘pretty’. “From my perspective, I think fairycore celebrates the aspects of fantasy and nature that are deemed by most to be attractive (flowers, butterflies, pastel and bright colours), whereas goblincore seeks to celebrate the aspects that are not so perfectly curated or pristine and perhaps under-appreciated (bugs, toads, swamps, fungi),” Hollowfae explains. Think of it as cottagecore and fairycore’s dark academic cousin. Oh, you haven’t heard of dark academia either? You really need to download TikTok.

 

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A post shared by ✧༻ sunday ༺✧ (@hollowfae)

It is because of this love for the typically unappreciated that goblincore’s culture opens its doors wide open to everyone and anyone. There is a noticeable freeing spirit in the community—one that celebrates nonconformity to society’s heternormative, binary beauty standards. It’s a fantastic fantasy-like escape from the real world and has become a safe habitat for the LGBTQIA+ community—especially for those who identify beyond the gender binary. At its core (pun intended) it’s a realm of escapism, whose members want to flee the barriers of capitalism and its norms for the freedom of the woods. Honestly, sign me up.

Hollowfae—who identifies as they/them—explains how this evolution into the “dark faircore” aesthetic makes them feel at ease. They explain that “it feels comfortable. It’s a lot less pressure for me because I don’t have to look perfect, my hair doesn’t need to be in place, my shoes can be muddy and my clothes can be ripped and it all just adds to the appeal.”

The goblincore culture merges this carefree vibe with the desire to collect unique objects. “The goal is to look like a little magical forest creature that has foraged a bunch of mismatched pieces and stitched together an outfit. I feel better about myself from this perspective, there’s less pressure to conform to normal ‘human’ beauty standards if your goal is to look like a magical, fantasy creature.”

 

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A post shared by ✧༻ sunday ༺✧ (@hollowfae)

So, you want to cop the look? Hollowfae states that the absolute staples you need to get your fairycore or goblincore wardrobe started are: “arm warmers, knee-high socks, earth-tones, ripped tights and layer-able pieces like corsets, waistcoats and necklaces.” Once you have these, you can build on them. Another wonderful aspect of the community that I’ve noticed is that craftsmanship and sustainability is at the heart of acquiring their aesthetical pieces. Hollowfae aligns with this too.

They suggest purchasing items from places like Vinted, “I used to love charity shopping before lockdown but now that I shop mostly online, Vinted and eBay are definitely where I get a majority of my clothing pieces. My accessories are pretty much all from small businesses on Instagram and Depop—some have been kindly gifted to me but there’s loads of little shops making jewellery specifically for people who are interested in fairycore,” or goblincore.

 

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A post shared by ✧༻ sunday ༺✧ (@hollowfae)

Of course, it’s not just about the aesthetic—it’s about the community. To really immerse yourself into goblincore or fairycore, you can find comfort in finding those like-minded to you. Hollowfae recommends finding users and following hashtags on social media like Instagram, Tumblr and TikTok. See, I told you. What are you still doing without TikTok downloaded on your phone?

They also state that “you can start posting your own content, but even just interacting with other accounts will really help to meet and connect with people who share the same interests as you. Once you immerse and surround yourself with similar people it’s a lot easier to just be yourself and express yourself freely.”

Hollowfae seems to have created a community like that—their dialogue with their followers and positive messaging has created a little pocket of safety on the internet. They humbly responded saying, “Thank you [but] I don’t see my account in that way, it’s a very personal space and outlet. The conversations I have are very important to me, and I try my best to hold open public conversations when I can.” It’s all about the community for goblincore.

Commenting on their distaste for Instagram’s ever-changing design and layout—don’t we all hate it?—Hollowfae would “prefer a dynamic where everyone can share and swap ideas and opinions on an equal playing field. […] I’m constantly learning from my peers and the wonderful people I follow, which is why I think community spaces are so much richer. We can all learn and improve together.”

I would love to be a part of this community, wouldn’t you?