If you are a woman who happens to be in a relationship with a man, and you can confidently say that the way he dresses changed for the better after meeting you, you may have done something to him that TikTok calls the ‘girlfriend effect’.
The new TikTok trend, currently sitting at over 118.6 million views on its hashtag, shows videos in which people share photos of their boyfriends before and after they met. Typically, the boyfriends look significantly more stylish and clean-cut in the ‘after’ photos, with the glow-ups being attributed to their girlfriends.
The trend began after TikToker Gabe Escobar posted a video where he shared his style progression from a month prior to meeting his girlfriend, to a year after, highlighting how his style gradually changed over time. He titled this the ‘girlfriend effect’, crediting his impressive transformation to his girlfriend.
“I don’t know what it is, I just look so much better. My clothes fit me more, they’re more stylish, they’re more in trend. Having a girlfriend has definitely made me glow up,” Escobar explains in his TikTok. He goes on to add that he asked his girlfriend for fashion advice, who then helped him by sharing Pinterest posts, with hair and outfit recommendations.
As you can imagine, other TikTok users quickly followed Escobar’s lead in sharing either their own transformation or their partner’s:
Because this is the internet, it goes without saying that some netizens found a problem with the girlfriend effect, and honestly, some of the critique is valid.
One TikToker left a comment under Escobar’s original post, saying that they hope he genuinely likes the way he looks now and didn’t just change himself because of his girlfriend. The user added that it is important to feel comfortable within yourself and your own style. In his response, Escobar explained that his girlfriend helped him feel much more confident. “It’s not about being changed, it’s about being shown a style. I am very happy with how I look now.”
Some people on the platform argue that the trend promotes the idea that you must change yourself and the way you look in order to please your partner and make yourself more appealing to them. Moreover, they critique that girlfriends partaking in the trend are ‘changing their boyfriends’, or ‘forcing’ them to wear specific clothing.
Others argue that all the outfits presented in the girlfriend effect glow-ups further fuel the TikTok micro-trend crisis, criticising that the concept promotes the death and suppression of individuality over more timely, ‘TikTok-able and Instagrammable’ looks—essentially making each guy look like they belong in a Bershka catalogue.
In a lot of the #girlfriendeffect videos, men are often seen wearing things like skinny jeans, tight shirts or polos, tight hoodies, and T-shirts with logos—all of which, by gen Z’s 2023 standards, are now notoriously considered to be ‘cheugy’, and essentially, no longer in style.
The ‘after’ photos tend to present most of them wearing pieces that are considered trendy nowadays, such as baggy shirts, vests, jewellery, and cargo trousers—essentially promoting the idea to men that they need to update their wardrobe with each trend that comes out in order to be stylish or good looking. Of course, it goes without saying that it is highly likely those exact outfits considered cool and trendy today, may end up being ‘cheugy’ a few years from now.
The girlfriend effect was actually created in response to the ‘boyfriend effect’, also known as ‘boyfriend air’. What is the boyfriend effect, you ask?
The boyfriend effect also shows photos of girls before and after they have entered their relationship with a man, only this time, it shows their ‘glow downs’. In some of these, girls just show how they become more comfortable over time and have stopped wearing make-up or worrying about how they look in certain situations. In others, girls show themselves happy and glowing while single, but crying, stressed, and with skin problems when they’re with their partner. It’s a pretty bizarre trend that’s now making other girlies question whether they actually even want a boyfriend.
Ultimately, if a relationship makes you change for the better, that is not a bad thing. Everyone deserves to feel good and confident in themselves, whether that starts with your wardrobe, or something deeper. So if the girlfriend effect works for you, kudos.