What is mermaid sleaze? Everything you need to know about the aquatic underwater fantasy

By Charlie Sawyer

Updated Dec 5, 2022 at 11:36 AM

Reading time: 3 minutes

Oh, you thought that we were officially finished with rogue and eccentric internet subcultures and aesthetics? That we’d suddenly close up shop and let your For You Page (FYP) fill up with the core trends of yesterday? Not likely. Introducing the internet’s latest underwater obsession: mermaid sleaze. You heard it here first, the infamous aquatic cousin of indie sleaze is bound to dominate 2023 and have everyone fulfilling their edgier The Little Mermaid fantasies.

What is mermaid sleaze?

Unlike the colour of clowncore and elegance of princesscore, mermaid sleaze is a much darker and rebellious aesthetic due to its roots in fantasy folklore.

Mermaids have always had a home on TikTok. If you’ve never found yourself scrolling through a compilation of “Norrr, Cleo” H2O: Just Add Water memes, you’re on the wrong side of the app and I must say, I feel very sorry for you. As mermaid fashion inspo and tutorials flood FYPs, gen Zers have taken it upon themselves to create the ultimate sea creature-inspired look to perfectly capture this underwater pipe dream.


@mischiefthemermaid slaying in my latest costume🔥 #artist #sfx #mermaid #siren #rusalka #sereia #美人鱼 #マーメcイド #viral #viralvideo #cinematography #realmermaid #realmermaidcaughtoncamera

♬ Ocean - Hazy

Although, if you’re imagining the kind of mermaid look seen in the Disney films, think again—this aesthetic is all about embracing the dark oceans and not so much singing about true love alongside your crab bestie. Mermaid sleaze, similarly to indie sleaze, takes inspiration from the slightly more defiant side of fashion. It champions heavy makeup, ripped seams, and overall salty anarchy.

Forecast as the Halloween trend of 2023, resident fashion analysts at The Digital Fairy took to TikTok to walk us through a rundown of this aesthetic. “Less pop, much dirtier,” the experts said—this subculture is identifiable and truly iconic for its subversion of the classic mermaid look, swapping out bright colours and soft tones for a much sexier and grungier style.


ahoy… #halloween2022 #nonbasichalloweencostumes #mermaidsleaze #indiesleaze #ballerinasleaze #trendforecasting #sireneeyes #siren #mermaidcore #thelittlemermaid

♬ Jack Sparrow's Theme (From "Pirates Of The Caribbean") - Geek Music

If you’re interested in rebelling against your previous core obsession and participating in the latest trend instead, all you’ll need is a handful of muted blue tones, long hair (or extensions), lots of flared sleeves and trousers, and perhaps a shell-shaped bra if you really want to go for it—and if you can get your hands on one.

Fashion-focused publications such as Harper’s Bazaar deemed the mermaid mystique as next year’s go-to resort aesthetic, qualifying the style as inherently flexible. You can either go slightly nautical or full aquamarine—either way, it’s bound to make a splash. And if you’re happy to fork out some coins to capture this look, experts would encourage you to have a look into brands such as BAOBAB and SIEDRÉS.

Adding siren eyes into the mix will perfect your mermaid sleaze look

Closely associated with the ‘dark mermaid’ trend, mermaid sleaze incorporates all things mysterious and feminine. As emphasised by fashion publication Russh, the goal is to look as though you’ve been dragged from the depths of the ocean, and as you reached the surface, you lured in your prey with a tidal wave of dishevelled hair, shimmering lips and hypnotic eyes. That’s hot, as Paris Hilton would say.

Speaking of eyes, the siren gaze is another beauty trend that’s helped curate the mermaid sleaze aesthetic. Coined by iconic hyperfemme ‘it girls’ such as Alexa Demie, the siren eye look is a sure way to pull focus in any room—or lagoon—you might find yourself in.

The beauty trend is perfected by creating a long-tailed winged eyeliner look, matched with thin, long lashes and a slightly smudged brown hue on the lid. Imagine the kind of powerful eyes needed to completely dismantle the confidence of former kickboxer and resident internet douche Andrew Tate—that’s what you should be aiming for.


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TikToker and siren eyes aficionado Millie Leer told SCREENSHOT about her favourite elements of the luxury look: “I think it’s the feeling it gives those who do the makeup that’s made it so popular. In a way it makes you feel powerful due to your eyes being seen as a ‘siren’, something we’ve seen on women such as Angelina Jolie, Adriana Lima and Alexa Demie that make them seem ethereal.”

The term siren is used interchangeably with mermaid. However, the former is often considered the OG villain archetype. Personally, I can’t imagine how a beautiful and enchanting female sea creature who seduces and subsequently drowns sailors could ever be depicted as evil or manipulative, can you?


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Whether it succumbs to the said tropes or not, this alluring and seductive subculture is the next branch of what appears to be a rejection of the classic core aesthetic. Gen Zers are beginning to favour something slightly edgier and Julia Fox-esque. Dewy skin and tendril hairs at the ready, this aesthetic will soon start making some serious waves.


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