Some of the subcultures that exist and thrive on the internet—from gothcore to dystopiacore—are intrinsically tied to their aesthetics and often birth the emerging fashion trends of our time. It goes without saying that trends such as gorpcore or ‘hiker chic’ have taken centre stage to dominate high fashion—with brands like Arc’teryx skyrocketing in popularity, not for its outdoor functionality but for the fit, duh. Among this, we’ve noticed another little budding trend that seems to be simmering its way through the collective. In fact, if you’re keeping up, you might even have an item or two that fits the vibe. Say hello to the cool, effortless stylings of grandpacore.
Born out of a body of Gen Zers who seem to have developed a burgeoning relationship with vintage, second-hand and repurposed clothing (let’s not forget our generation’s micro-trend crisis) comes a classic, dark academia-like, sweater-wearing, cigar-smoking elderly gentlemen aesthetic that strangely seems to also simultaneously surface right alongside our recent zaddy obsession. Coincidence? I think not. With #grandpacore reaching over 12 million views on TikTok, the aesthetic seems to be slowly clawing its way into the notoriety that its female-gendered opposite grandmacore won in the past year.
Grandpacore has many sides to it; it’s not just an emulation of one kind of grandpa. In it, you’ll find your gorpcore grandpa wearing a windbreaker, shorts and beat-up sneakers finished with, of course, a baseball cap. You’ll also see your book-reading, vintage grandpa elements: printed sweaters, cardigans, tweed blazers—yep, the ones with suede elbow patches—and high-rise brown professor-looking trousers kept in place with a leather belt. There are also more ‘elevated’ renditions out there, ones featuring classic black loafers, pinstripes and sleeker, more dressed up variations—there’s even more fun ones that include loose and open floral shirts (Miami-like ones) and flowing wide-leg bottoms. These components are not isolated to each personality of grandpa but rather work and are utilised interchangeably. Basically, if you can picture a grandpa wearing it, then you’ve mastered the look.
Though it may just appear as a small and trivial trend to many, its impact can already be seen trickling its way into the mainstream fashion world. We’ve seen it appear alongside the recent obsession with sweater vests, the wide-leg pant craze and obviously the loafer fad. Interestingly, another ‘dad’ shoe that defined 2021 was the Clarks classic Wallabee shoe—a shoe saturated with legacy and important history. We see this ‘older’ essence in the recent crochet mania too.
Maybe it’s all down to good-old Bernie Sanders who stole our hearts with his politics and his iconic mitten moment—a 2021 article for The Guardian written by Poppy Noor put it best: Vermont dadcore: does Bernie Sanders caring so little about fashion make him chic? Or perhaps it is this argued effortlessness that draws people to the aesthetic as a whole and Bernie is just the perfect example of someone who wears it perfectly. A winter jacket? Check. Patterned mittens? Check. Brown shoes? Check, and we can’t forget his glasses of course. Hilarious mock-ups of how to ‘steal his look’ made their way across the internet back in January 2021 and it looks like the grandpa fever never died down since then.
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Grandpacore is part of this wave of fashion that prioritises a level of comfort, ease and naturalness to it—a-thrown-together-but-still-perfect kind of look. As mentioned, it happily fits into the vintage world—after all, we’ve all stolen something from our grandparents or parents’ wardrobes. Not to mention, grandads have been wearing hiking jackets, ‘ugly’ trainers, sweaters, baseball caps and loafers forever. They’re quite literally the fashion blueprint of the moment. Grandpacore reaches across so many avenues and aesthetics that it’s surprising it hasn’t yet been given its flowers. Well now, we are.
Grace Kelly called it the “queen of gems and the gem of queens,” Lady Sarah Churchill believed the precious jewel to be her “security blanket,” while fellow vampire Machine Gun Kelly embellished his face with strips of the shimmery beads for the MTV Video Music Awards 2021. Pearls are back with a bang. But this time around, gen Z connoisseurs are manifesting fresh takes on the timeless accessory to extend its lifespan well beyond 2022.
Introducing pearlcore, an aesthetic all about embracing iridescent accents into your lifestyle—all the while believing that the world is your oyster.
Wildly versatile, pearlcore can be considered as the understated cousin of Y2K maximalism being preached by Euphoria at the moment. Think pearls—or their visual properties—incorporated into everything from jewellery, hair, makeup and nails to skincare, cutlery and even home decor. In 2021, the precious gem had become a staple of craftcore, a DIY movement themed around hand-crafted items where enthusiasts are seen reviving visual activities like embroidery, crochet and homemade jewellery that radiate nostalgic joy. A year later, the feature has now evolved into a full-fledged aesthetic with a ‘core’ suffix.
Amid the shift, pearlcore has even managed to develop a poster child for itself. Lo and behold Harry Styles, the OG pearlcorist rocking solo pearl earrings at Met Galas and encrusted necklaces on talk shows, parties and public appearances. Who can forget the Pearlescent Illuminating Serum that Styles dropped with the announcement of his skincare brand Pleasing? Inspired by the natural radiance of the gems in question, the serum gripped the internet as fans scrambled to find their own pearl-encapsulated pleasing.
Other pop royalties like Jaden Smith, A$AP Rocky, Shawn Mendes, Pharrell Williams and the Jonas Brothers have also been pushing the gender-inclusivity of pearlcore into the forefront as of late. Then waltzed in Barbie Ferreira with her iconic Met Gala number which landed the Euphoria star on several best-dressed lists in 2021. Sporting a Jonathan Simakhai gown decked in pearls, she paid homage to old Hollywood glamour in the most Art Deco style on the red carpet.
One of the most acclaimed designers who has also embraced her love for all things pearlescent is none other than Simone Rocha. Known for her whimsical preferences, her Autumn/Winter 2021 and Spring/Summer 2022 collections featured pearl details, accessories and iridescent fabrics as a modern testament to the timeless gem.
According to Pinterest Predicts 2022, pearlcore is set to be one of the biggest age-inclusive trends to watch this year. In a report on the aesthetic, the platform detailed search terms like ‘pearl necklace men’ witnessing a seven-fold surge while ‘pearl dress’ and ‘pearl ring simple’ skyrocketed with three and two times more interests respectively. Searches for ‘pearl-themed party’ and ‘pearl wedding decorations’ have also gone up over the past year. “Pearl-themed parties will be on the rise, as people opt for pearly gowns and wedding decor,” Pinterest wrote on these terms.
Although people across the world are predicted to redefine pearl jewellery in 2022, the platform believes pearlcore will boom especially in Australia. “Searches for ‘pearl nails’, ‘men’s pearl necklaces’ and ‘pearl chokers’ will rise in this region as Australians embrace a fresh, modern take on this natural gemstone,” the report read.
So how can brands jump on this looming trend today? According to Pinterest, if your focus is home decor then you can start by helping audiences bring understated luxury into existing spaces. Pearl floor tiles and satin-finished or pearl-toned wall paints are a great starter pack into the aesthetic. Embellished photo frames, serving trays and beaded throw pillows also add accessible touches to everyday pieces. For event-based companies, the platform advises helping clients plan pearl-themed parties—with the gemstone illuminating wedding invitations, table settings and balloons. Add some faux-pearl necklaces as party favours and you’ve successfully captured the upcoming essence of 2022 in a nutshell.
On the other hand, if you’re a fashion brand, kick pearlcore off by initiating customers into the versatility of the gem championed by the aesthetic. Encourage them to pair simple strands with casual jeans and T-shirts or help them rethink classic pearl earrings by trading studs with more Baroque alternatives. And if you, as a customer, are looking for winter options to jump on the trend yourself, one personal advice would be to layer ropes of pearls until you’re all nice and cosy.
However, if you’re a nail artist or salon looking to tap into pearlcore, listen up. We’ve got Tuguldur “TJ” Erdenejargal—founder of Bicolor (a private nail studio based in Beverly Hills, California)—on the line to track the potential of the aesthetic in 2022.
Growing up with his grandmother, TJ started by reminiscing how pearls have always been her biggest adornment. “Following this, I have always admired the exhibition of pearls,” he told SCREENSHOT. “That’s why I’ve always wanted to connect it with my work and now I’m happy that it’s trending.”
When asked about the visual translation of pearlcore into nail art, TJ highlighted the need for a more holistic approach to the aesthetic—given how everyone’s style is different and it’s important to suit them as an artist. “Of course, it’s classic to add a small pearl on the back of each nail, painted in natural colours. But placing pearls on simple white french tips or placing large pearls on long nails is now a big trend,” he explained, adding how coloured pearls are also gaining traction.
Versatility is another boost behind pearlcore’s upcoming dominance in the industry. The luminance, rippled edges and the pearls themselves offer a myriad of inspirations to start with. However, TJ believes this versatility ultimately boils down to the client’s interest. “Imitating the iridescent glow of pearls is a regular choice for some of our clients. For someone who hasn’t really tried it, of course, it’s a ‘trendy’ concept,” he said. “For me, physically adding pearls to nails is more of a jump on pearlcore. This will add that texture to nail art, which is also becoming a trend.”
In order to analyse the premature signs of pearlcore, I asked TJ if his studio has witnessed a rise in customer preferences for the aesthetic as of late. In response, the nail artist acknowledged how he has a large collection of pearl ornaments which was stowed away… until recently. “Customers have been requesting the use of pearl ornaments, often in combination with hand-drawn designs,” he admitted. At times, some of TJ’s clients have also requested nails fully encrusted with pearls. “I also recommend my clients who choose more natural nails to use a few pearls for a classic look.”
So if you, like me, are on the fence about calling up your nail tech as we speak, here’s what TJ advises: “It’s always fun to try new things. So I recommend experimenting with pearlcore nail art, but of course, my advice is to be careful with your nails.” According to the artist, one can choose to be very creative with pearlcore—in fact, that’s where the fun begins—without feeling the need to follow the trend blindly. “You can talk to your nail tech about how you can change it up to your style,” he concluded.
At a time where COVID-19 has festered ‘cave syndromes’—the tendency to remain secluded in safe spaces instead of venturing outside—the steady rise of pearlcore offers visual proof of our desires to come out of our shells as evolved individuals. Just like a grain of sand into a pearl, if you may. The aesthetic also seeks to be the living symbolism of “what strikes the oyster shell, doesn’t damage the pearl.” Together, they form the perfect potion to an optimistic 2022—decked in the wildest colours imaginable.