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Meet honeycore, cottagecore’s beekeeping cousin all about embracing the warm hues of nature

If you ask anyone on the internet to name two subcultures today, chances are you’d end up with dark academia and cottagecore. While the former hit Tumblr around 2015, the latter was manifested on the platform in 2019—later gripping all social media channels in 2020 following the rise of pandemic-birthed activities like baking, gardening, crocheting, and Animal Crossing.

Although cottagecore has several subgenres like bloomcore, cabincore, goblincore, and even cottagegore, we’re here to address one which buzzes around the warmest hues of nature with a focus on both yearning and conservation. Welcome to the cosy little world of honeycore, an aesthetic you’re bound to stumble across for its visuals but stay for its values.

What is honeycore?

Also known as beecore, honeycore is an aesthetic centred around the production and consumption of goods like honey, sugar, syrup, bread and waffles. Although honeycore is similar to cottagecore in terms of its emphasis on rural living, agricultural imagery and philosophy, the aesthetic’s visuals are narrowed to feature a colour palette including yellow, gold, brown, beige, white and green. This is in contrast to the pastel tones that we’ve come to associate with cottagecore.

In terms of motifs, honeycore majorly sports bees, honeycombs, honey dippers, lemons, mason jars, teacups, and endless fields of sunflowers and daisies. While the shared use of both flowers and warm hues is a major reason why the aesthetic is linked to warmcore, honeycore is also the distant relative of witchcore—given their mutual appetite for herbs and natural remedies.

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Pop culture references are an essential guide for channelling both aesthetics and subcultures on the internet today. When it comes to honeycore, related media on the list are Winnie the Pooh (we’re not talking about the upcoming slasher film with the anthropomorphic teddy bear), Bee Movie, The Secret Life of Bees, Honeyland and Queen of the Sun. Some of the major activities that honeycorists enjoy also include beekeeping, planting flowers, attending honey tasting events and workshops, and researching the pollinators in their local library.

Now, where there’s an aesthetic, there’s a subgenre. For honeycore, the founding figure of its sub-aesthetic is none other than Minecraft YouTuber Xisumavoid. “His base on the popular server HermitCraft is largely centred around honey and honeycomb blocks, as well as a large industrialised honey farm,” Aesthetics Wiki noted. “This building style integrates honey into modern buildings and automation, resulting in a more mechanised honeycore.”

The wholesome tale of cute pollinators

For Casey Anne Grant, honeycore is a warm and cosy aesthetic that celebrates bees, baking, honey-sweetened tea, flowers and a cottage lifestyle. “I have always felt like honeycore is an offshoot of cottagecore, but with an emphasis on honey, bees, and beekeeping,” the Oregon-based artist told SCREENSHOT. “Likewise, it heavily emphasises a colour palette of warm yellows and browns to go with the theme!”

Anne Grant believes that honeycore, like cottagecore as an aesthetic, stems from the exhaustion we often feel in our fast-paced world—along with a desire to engage in simpler activities. “Sometimes it just feels so much more inviting to imagine beekeeping instead of worrying about politics and a pandemic,” she explained. At the same time, however, she highlighted how “the supposedly ‘simple’ rural imagery of aesthetics like cottagecore and honeycore have a danger of over-romanticising the realities and difficulties of agricultural life.”

Despite this potential threat, Anne Grant admitted that the interest of many enthusiasts comes from a pure place of essentially enjoying the visual and positive aspects of both the aesthetics. “Honeycore, in particular, also feels like it needs to celebrate and promote the conservation of our bees and other pollinators in an environment that can be unfriendly to them,” the artist continued. “For me, [the aesthetic] always reminds us that we should live in harmony with these creatures and maybe not pick too many of their flowers!”

The journey to celebrate honey in all its forms has led Anne Grant to create an entire collection of polymer clay animals—exclusively themed around cottagecore honey critters. Warning: you wouldn’t be able to take your eyes off of these cuties anytime soon.

“When cottagecore as an aesthetic went viral in the spring of 2020, I was immediately obsessed. I finally had a word to describe a style of art [that] I had been making for years!” Anne Grant said when asked about her motivation to create the honeycore critter collection, which the artist sells via her shop Narwhal Carousel Co. “Honeycore, in particular, spoke to me because I have had a growing love for honey-themed anything ever since I adopted my rescue dog, named Honey, in 2018.”

As a 10-pound chihuahua mix with honey-coloured fur and the sweetest personality, Anne Grant added how Honey is arguably honeycore, if the aesthetic was a dog. “Since then, honey as a motif has slipped into every aspect of my life. I even have clothes and home decor that are honey and bee themed because of my sweet little pup, and so it was only natural that I would make honey-themed art too!”

Slow living and bee-friendly fashion

For the uninitiated, honeycore fashion may sound synonymous with honeycomb prints and Etsy t-shirts that read ‘Bee kind’ or ‘To bee or not to be’. But there’s more to the aesthetic than what meets the eye.

“Defining any ‘core’ is difficult, I think, since it feels like there’s a ‘core’ for absolutely everything and they overlap with each other,” said Finland-based writer and visual merchandiser Ella Stranden. “Honeycore, for example, definitely overlaps with cottagecore and farmcore.” For Stranden, the aesthetic in question can be defined by the stages of honey-making in itself—from flower fields and cosy gardens to the colour of honey and all the sweet tidbits you can make using the natural product in the kitchen. “There’s also [an] overall vintage and nostalgia feel in honeycore,” she added.

In terms of the visual manifestation of honeycore, Stranden’s number one tip is to keep your eyes peeled in secondhand shops. “Preloved fashion fits into the idea of a more eco (bee) friendly lifestyle. Going through the clothes you own is a good start, you might already have a lot of items that fit the aesthetic. For example, if you own a nice simple dress, you can pair it with a yellow belt or a flower-patterned vest or whatever suitable you might find in your local charity shop.”

When buying new pieces for your wardrobe, Stranden also advises to favour slow fashion. “It’s not always easy because slow fashion isn’t cheap. But one carefully-selected item easily beats ten cheap and low-quality ones,” she said. “Fast fashion is tempting, especially if you’re diving into a new aesthetic, but it doesn’t suit the idea behind honeycore.”

When asked about the values the aesthetic seeks to push into the forefront, Stranden further admitted, “For me, honeycore (apart from the aesthetic) is about slow living [and] romanticising simple, everyday things. Big part of it—or at least should be—is a bee-friendly lifestyle.” The visual merchandiser further admitted that she’s actually scared of all the bugs that sting or bite, but find the conservation of bees of utmost importance.

Anne Grant echoed this belief when I quizzed her about the best-selling polymer clay animal from her honeycore critter collection. “Each of my pieces is one-of-a-kind, so it’s hard to define a best-seller,” the artist said. “All the honey pieces I’ve made have sold and the feedback from my audience about them has been really positive—which gives me the warm fuzzies since the honey pieces are so near and dear to my heart!”

According to Greenpeace International, the number of bee colonies per hectare has fallen a whopping 90 per cent since 1962 in the US. Meanwhile, climate change and dodgy agriculture have caused UK populations to drop by more than 50 per cent since 1985. If there’s one thing we know about aesthetics and subcultures, it’s that any form of media that doesn’t evolve ceases to exist. And given how honeycore already has a list of activities that require in-person meetups, it seems like the aesthetic might just be on its way to evolve into a full-blown subculture—undoubtedly capable of voicing gardens with hums of the busy bees again before it’s too late.

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Honey Bear! 💛 #polymerclay #clay #clayart #clayartist #kawaiiart #kawaiiartist #honey #honeybee #honeybear #honey🍯 #🍯

♬ Honeybee - The Head And The Heart

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

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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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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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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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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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?