Among the return of many 2000s fashion moments—think jelly shoes, low-rise jeans, phone charms, bicep bracelets, to name but a few—emerges another epithet of the Y2K revival. One that has been quietly trending next to the visceral palette of gen Z’s mainstream adaptation of the Y2K aesthetic. For many, it neighbours the Ed Hardy era (others disagree) but definitions of the name are divided. It’s a 2006 rocker chic, ‘Affliction McBling’ or ‘Afflictioncore’, Sons of Anarchy girlfriend, True Religion jeans, studs and stripes, Chrome Hearts amalgamation that is what many view as cyber grunge Y2K or cyberpunk Y2K.
Other names suggested for the aesthetic from avid fashion enthusiasts on TikTok include: ‘rockoflovecore’, ‘apocalyptic angel’—a reference to the saturation of cross and angel imagery—‘Urbling’ or simply ‘rocker chic’, which I personally find to be too generic of a term.
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While just surfacing in notoriety on the app recently, the aesthetic has been clawing its way into popularity over the past few years—a reemerging and flourishing trend that has us saying “Where the hell have you been, loca?” It was there at the nostalgic junction of the Twilight renaissance married with the rise of grunge fairycore, goblincore and cyber Y2K that this style may have begun its trajectory comeback.
While it may not seem like it, to many, the aesthetic shares core pillars with its iconic Y2K companions in what is more traditionally known as the ‘cyber look’ as well as the Paris Hilton-esque glam of McBling. But don’t get it twisted, it’s not cyber in a bright wild futuristic neon alien way but in a MySpace, grunge, rebellious way.
On top of that, the aforementioned ‘Affliction McBling’ also shares elements with its pink twin. The McBling era of the 2000s, if you’re old enough to remember, was, in a nutshell, everything extravagant, glamorous popstar. We’re talking: the stylings, drama and looks of Britney Spears, Hilton and Beyoncé, flip phones (we all wanted one), bedazzled everything, maximalism and jewellery. In one word, bling.
Where it deters from these is what cements this style in its own lane. A lover of this aesthetic would find themselves in dark, distressed colours—we’re talking Affliction and Cotty On here—skulls, angel wings, giant crosses (embellished with rhinestones, of course, for that McBling element) and accessorised with endless adornments from none other than Chrome Hearts. You’ll also find acid grey denim, gothic lettering, buckle galore, leather, stripes, daggers and a good pair of platform shoes. Other delicate touches that elevate the aesthetic appear to come in the form of fishnet and ripped tights as well as lower back tattoos—which have also had their own sex-positive, empowering comeback.
But not everyone has taken a fancy to these resurfacing trends, begging for the aesthetic to never make it back into the mainstream. Commenters on The Algorythm’s video put forward their own hilarious, mocking definitions for the clothing. To them, it’s a ‘WWE glam’, ‘youthpastorcore’, Tiger King, “tacky,” ‘christianrockcore’, “dating a guy that watches MMA,” ‘nickelbackcore’ style that should be left in the past.
People’s distaste for the fashion trend seems rooted in the issues that often came with the subculture when it first gained traction—a specific kind of “Republican” energy that one can only assume is not the most attractive trait. Let’s just hope that this time, it won’t be the same.
Though without a distinct definition just yet, it’s hard to say just how far this trend will find itself in the mainstream despite dominating social media platforms like Pinterest for about two years. If it does, it’s going to need a name, so we’re wondering, what would you call this aesthetic?
While the ever-elusive UK sun may have revived our souls for the past week—a gaslighting moment where I question if seasonal depression is even real—the fear of the world ending is as present as ever. But for gen Z, among the swelling rates of anxiety and depression as a result of such global issues, comes an irreplaceable insurgent humour that leans into that whole end-of-the-world ‘vibe’. Manifesting first as a fashion aesthetic, dystopiacore has, in my opinion, since morphed from its infamous grunge-inspired garms into a Wattpad-esque desire to fall into your dystopian backdrop of choice at your local gym and workout like your favourite teen hero. Hold on, I’ll explain.
Gen Z’s obsession with everything Y2K is no longer particularly noteworthy, it is quite plainly obvious to see—it has been a period that has revived the elements of our childhood we so clearly miss. And now, it seems us older gen Zers seem to be reliving our teenage-hood. The romanticisation and aestheticisation of the 2010s, think Tumblr girl era, has been clawing its way back into relevancy in 2022. However, a fundamental ingredient of that time quietly resurfacing—perhaps masked by Effy Stonem’s cigarette smoke and drowned out by the indie melodies of The Arctic Monkeys—is the young adult (YA) dystopian universe.
The Hunger Games, Divergent and The Maze Runner series paved an era of cinema like no other. It provided a strange sort of escapism into an alternate apocalyptic future reality for humanity that appealed to the teen masses—myself included. But what was it about such dangerous possibilities that birthed fanfiction desires to be in them too—to model yourself after Katniss, Tris or Thomas? Perhaps their resurgence is reflective of a real rage mounting against the oppressive forces found in the establishment, an internal frustration that has manifested into the idolisation of fictional revolution.
One I guess you’d need to be fit for… Hence this introduction to the dystopiacore workout.
In an article exploring the emergence of fashion’s dystopiacore, SCREENSHOT writer Francesca Johnson aptly illustrated the style: “Decked out in long black jackets, versatile trench coats and massive combat boots, gen Z are ditching stretchy waistbands and comfy loungewear […] joggers are out and cargos are in, people.” But now, it looks like gym wear is back in, as cargos are replaced with Lululemon leggings for the dystopia training you hopefully may never need.
At times coupled with ‘the feminine urge’ trend, users are utilising the soundtracks of their favourite dystopian movies into a motivational daydream as part of the universe. Most commonly, you’ll find the vibrant, fast-paced track of Divergent used to propel the gym-goer into the faction of Dauntless—one of the five groups in which the imaginary population is divided. Dauntless’ distinct, wild and challenging military-like training procedure—skills that become invaluable to heroine Tris as she navigates combat against the powers at be—seem to provide the perfect push for more reps, complete with Four as your imaginary personal trainer.
@lavendercashewmilklatte Imagine if divergent had more of a friends to enemies to lovers storyline 🖤 #OutlanderChallenge #divergent ♬ Run Boy Run – Woodkid
With one user writing, “The feminine urge to wear your black Lulu jacket and blast the Divergent soundtrack while you work out and imagine you’re a Dauntless born, training with Four in the pit because a war is coming and you were born for this, to fight and protect.” Maybe this shows such internalised anxieties of the future of humanity and whether or not we will be able to survive its changing structure—it could be we’re reading way too far into it though.
Perhaps, instead, this could be yet another epithet of ‘main character’ catharsis we so seem to need? Imagining ourselves as the physically capable hero—in any dystopian universe—may actually make its way into our reality, developing a much needed internal strength. Another TikToker said, “Preparing myself for either the zombie apocalypse, joining Dauntless, fighting in the Hunger Games, treasure hunting or getting out of the maze. The plot changes every time at the gym.”
It goes even further than just some silly little videos on the internet, with one fitness fanatic actually crafting a free Dauntless inspired workout plan. Becky, who runs a page dedicated to the Divergent series and one of its stars Theo James, noticed the trend surfacing on the app and cleverly created a workout plan inspired by the movie’s military marvels. “As someone on a fitness journey for the past seven months and a fangirl since I was 13, I’ve always wanted to workout with the Dauntless. So I present to you my Dauntless training manual,” she announced. With no less than one million views on the video, it’s safe to say the idea is popular.
Containing a foreword cautioning those following the programme that she is not a licensed trainer or affiliated with the official brand of Divergent, the five-week training instructions come complete with specially curated Dauntless inspired playlists, video codecs of clips featuring Four inducting you into Dauntless as well as audio files to accompany your fitness sessions.
It might not be everybody’s cup of tea but hey, if it gets you up and running and doesn’t involve the dangers of train hopping—then why not right? I’m saying that because I tried it, all for research of course.