There are 589 internet aesthetics till date on Aesthetics Wiki. After dark academia, softboys and egirls, we at Screen Shot believe it’s time to strike another one off the list: kidcore.
Kidcore is an aesthetic targeting 90s childhood nostalgia. It includes the use of highly saturated primary colours like red, blue and yellow along with childish themes derived from cartoons like Rugrats and Hello Kitty. Glitters, rainbows, stuffed toys, slinkys and stickers are commonly sported by kidcorists who channel the aesthetic.
Kidcore involves the heavy use of nostalgic patterns and graphics ranging from retro flowers, checkerboards and smiley faces to brand logos of Mattel, Hasbro and Skittles. Lisa Frank is one of the most popular brands for this aesthetic. Apart from primary colours, kidcore can also include pastels and rainbow colours.
As for the fashion aspect of kidcore, preferred clothing includes graphic t-shirts, denim overalls, suspenders, puffy sleeves, sticker-adorned jeans, high-tops and knee-high striped socks. Pair these with some friendship bracelets, chunky Crocs charms, butterfly hair clips and stuffed toys to nail the ultimate kidcore look.
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Google searches for ‘kidcore’ have hit an all-time high. Nylon notes a 2,439 per cent jump in searches for the term on Etsy in just three months ending September 2020. With Pinterest reporting 9 times increase in year-on-year searches for ‘smiley face nails’ and 6 times increase for ‘butterfly eye makeup’, the aesthetic now has thousands of items and sellers on Depop.
Labelled the ‘extreme extension of normcore’, kidcore is an intriguing cultural shift, stemming from age-regression. A report by Trend Hunter notes the shift as a response to the hypersexualisation of the fashion world and the embracement of youth culture by older generations, forcing millennials to dive deeper into the realm of comfort, function and simple design.
The aesthetic, however, is not all about its style and clothing. Sure, the clothing targets comfort as a nostalgia for simpler times, but it’s also about channeling our 8-year-old carefree mindsets. Kidore hence emphasis on ease, both physically and psychologically.
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Kidcore is often confused with other aesthetics like indie, babycore, cartooncore and nostalgiacore. Though these aesthetics have overlapping elements, they are distinct with their motifs and values. Indie, for example, includes the use of bright, saturated colours and filters similar to kidcore but the aesthetic differentiates itself with a focus on individualism, music and skater culture. Now that we’ve established that, let’s look at some sub-genres within kidcore:
Spooky kidcore is a Halloween take on kidcore. Bright, pastel and rainbow colours along with cute cartoon characters of kidcore are mixed with witches, skeletons and jack-o’-lanterns to get this aesthetic.
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Loudcore revolves around loud, noisy toys and objects that trigger childhood nostalgia. Key motifs of this sub-genre include bells, fireworks, birthday party or treasure box related items and musical instruments like kazoos.
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Do you recall trying out one of those Instagram and Snapchat filters with face stickers? Candies, CareBears, My Little Pony, Sanrio and Lisa Frank’s artworks are commonly featured in stickercore. The sub-genre involves placing these stickers on faces and objects.
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It’s 2021 and you happen to have a tremendous amount of free time holed up in your apartment, thanks to an endless pandemic. So you decide to ditch your pursuit of meta selfies and whip up a new subculture from scratch instead. The subculture then moves on to gather a cult-like following with its own Wikipedia page and sellers on Depop, which you didn’t really expect.
This has been the typical itinerary for viral TikTok trends as of late. Phenomena like uwu girls and weirdcore have become the app’s pandemic-born excuse to keep viewers engaged within the confines of their own home. So what’s up with TikTok’s booming obsession with boarding schools, tweed jackets and Vivaldi? Let’s start by breaking down various realms of the brooding aesthetic.
Dark academia, also watered down as the ‘fall aesthetic’, romanticises classic literature with a specific passion for self-discovery, knowledge and learning. Stemmed from upper-class European culture, it targets nostalgia for the 19th and early 20th century private schools in England—featuring overlaps with both gothicism and American prep. Followers of dark academia are drawn to gothic, Beaux-Arts and neoclassical architecture, marble sculptures, calligraphy, journalling and boarding school imagery.
The aesthetic was first picked up by TikTok users between the age of 15 and 25 as a response to the physical shutdown of schools and colleges during the pandemic. The trend, which is credited with over 1.7 billion views on TikTok and 1.2 million posts on Instagram, brings students attending classes from home a sense of community that they once developed back in school.
While the aesthetic is not inherently negative, it has come under scrutiny for its alleged encouragement of nihilism, classist attitudes, caffeine addiction and insomnia. However, dark academia—which initially stemmed from Tumblr—has now evolved into a full-blown subculture where followers meet up physically, suggest books, movies and music along with study tips and fashion inspiration.
Dark academia fashion hinges on elite and vintage dressing as a montage of different historical periods. Majorly inspired by American prep, the aesthetic centres around school uniforms from the 1940s featuring blazers, pleated skirts and regimental striped ties. While cashmere, wool and tweed are recommended fabrics, patterns are kept minimal—with plaids and argyle being the most preferred ones.
Autumn or fall is the favourite season of dark academists. The essence of the subculture goes hand-in-hand with this time of year as the aesthetic involves the layering of pieces over each other. Tweed blazers with elbow patches are a must-have, while sweaters, professional button-ups and ornate blouses add to the autumnal and bookish character of the enthusiast. Pair these up with formal dress pants, pencil skirts, pinafores dresses or structured cardigans to nail the coveted look.
In terms of accessories, dark academists often express their love for gender-neutral leather messenger bags and totes with art prints. Remember, frills douse the literary thrills of the aesthetic. Instead opt for ornate details like ties, pocket squares, cufflinks, tortoise shell-rimmed glasses and timeless brooches. The basic colour palette one should keep in mind further include black, beige, dark brown, forest green, dark orange, cream, gold and burgundy.
While the trend relies heavily on thrift stores and second-hand finds, dark academics on Tumblr often recommend brands like Ralph Lauren, Brandy Melville, COS, Aritzia, Madewell and UNIQLO to find some of the ultimate pieces channelling the look.
Think about what teens at Ivy League did during their free time in the 19th century. Now switch that up with modern-day video games, social networking, digital book clubs and crafts.
Apart from chess and rummy, dark academics adore video games like The Last Door, Bully and Hitman. They are self-taught knitters, painters and gardeners. An ideal outing for them includes museums, art galleries, churches, libraries and graveyards—remember: they’re intellectuals but also edgy. They love writing poems, binding books, reading philosophy, playing instruments and practising calligraphy as well as embroidery. Picnics in forests accompanied with wine, bread, cheese and upscale traditional dishes are also in the mix. A necessary sight in a dark academic’s room additionally consists of stacked books, cups of tea and antique postcards written with ink.
You can probably guess some of the authors and directors dark academics love. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë, A Study In Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle, The Shakespeare Secret by Jennifer Lee Carrell and, of course, Dead Poets Society by NH Kleinbaum are some must-reads before one’s initiation into the subculture. The works of Scott F Fitzgerald, Maya Angelou and Edgar Allan Poe are also well appreciated along with other authors of classic literature like Nikolai Gogol, Alexander Pushkin and Donna Tartt.
Good Will Hunting, Pride and Prejudice, Mona Lisa Smile, Hugo, and The Great Gatsby list among the top five movies to watch while TV shows include Mindhunter, Brideshead Revisited, Sherlock, A Series of Unfortunate Events and The Queen’s Gambit.
Light academia is an aesthetic that is the emotional opposite of dark academia. Consisting of lighter themes and visuals, the aesthetic centres around optimism, joy, gratitude, friendship and happy endings. Keeping the love for classic literature, art and history of dark academia intact, this subgenre focuses on enjoying all the little things in life—with key colours including beige, cream, light brown and white.
Art academia revolves around the love for—you guessed it—art. Including sculptures, paintings, sketching, doodling, photography and calligraphy. It has similar roots in learning and interests as both dark and light academia but is unique for its focus on visual arts. Think of it as the rebellious art school cousin of the academia aesthetics if you will. Key colours in art academia include cadmium yellow, dark browns, whites and pretty much the entire rainbow, as long as it’s incorporated into a type of art.
This academic movement intends to normalise haphazard routines, messy habits and banned literature. In comparison to other subgenres, chaotic academia primarily focuses on learning without any considerations for fashion and appearance—all the while normalising the acceptance of messy or seemingly uncomposed traits some students may have in their school life.
Also known as gothic academia, the subgenre is a more serious and mature take on dark academia. Aiming to find beauty in the darkest of places, it focuses on gothic studies, literature, poetry, arts, architecture and music. Key values of the aesthetic include seriousness, maturity, despair and existentialism manifested—in colours like black and dark brown.
Considered as a more recent spinoff of the academia aesthetics, cryptid academia hinges on its sister aesthetic cryptidcore. It’s all about the fascination for weird and wonderful—with an exclusive emphasis on cryptid journalism, books and dedicated libraries. Key colours include sepia, brown, black, tan and glow-in-the-dark shades with values of mystery, curiosity and adventure.
Dubbed as the more feminine, otherworldly offshoot of dark academia, fairy academia is inspired by the aesthetics of Victorian and Edwardian childhood. Here, enthusiasts enjoy learning and education, as well as trickery and scheming. What a fairy thing to do indeed. Featuring overlaps with bloomcore and fairycore, key motifs in the aesthetic include fairy ephemera, ribbons, books and butterflies in pretty pastels, blacks and whites.
All that being said, if you’re looking to date a dark academist, Tumblr has some lovely advice for you: “Write them letters and seal the envelopes with fancy wax seals,” writes one user. “Quote Shakespeare, listen to their 3am rants on how we could’ve heard Oscar Wilde’s voice if he’d had lived just a tad longer,” a second one commented—while another silenced the thread with “just tell them you’ll get your own little library if you move in together.” Who’s that Pokémon? It’s a dark academist with an evergreen love for literature and learning!