What is dystopiacore? The new doomsday-inspired, leather-infused fashion aesthetic

By Francesca Johnson

Published Jan 23, 2022 at 09:15 AM

Reading time: 3 minutes

How would you dress for the apocalypse? It’s probably not something you’ve previously thought about, but I’m sure I could guess off the top of my head. Maybe something durable, a lot of layers perhaps, even multipurpose pockets like in a pair of trusty cargo pants? Facing the end of the world, you’ve got to be prepared, right?

Well, it seems like fashion has asked and answered that question already, with people online birthing a trend out of such speculation. Some people are plain doomers, others are doomsday preppers. But what about those who are right in the middle, embracing the scary global chaos? Enter dystopiacore.

What is dystopiacore?


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Gen Zers are faced with many options when it comes to fashion choices. You can take a trip down memory lane with the Bratz X GCDS line, step into your youth with a pair of glossy jelly shoes, or even bring out your inner 00s fashion model in low rise jeans.

If you dig the utility vibe and aren’t into colourful fashion however, then dystopiacore might be right up your monochrome, minimalist alley. Simply speaking, dystopiacore at its core is a darker and edgier fashion aesthetic that resembles the grunge and goth looks.

And it couldn’t come at a better time, since gothcore, metalcore and punkcore are on the horizon to dominate fashion trends in 2022. In the mainstream once again, with a little help from the star-studded power couple Megan Fox and Machine Gun Kelly—as cringe as they may be—goth’s going chic. Dystopiacore is one of the many aesthetics to watch out for this year and here’s why.

Taking its name from the genre of dystopia, the category where utopian dreams come to die and fashion begins to thrive, dystopiacore epitomises the ‘too cool for school’ (and the world) mentality that I’m sure we’re all familiar with. In the wasteland of worries and woes about the future, as we approach yet another year living within the COVID-19 pandemic’s grasp, saying ‘fuck it’ looks pretty good to me.

Decked out in long black jackets, versatile trench coats and massive combat boots, gen Z are ditching stretchy waistbands and comfy loungewear. According to dystopiacore, joggers are out and cargos are in, people.

Gone is the work-from-home wear that most of us are sick of slumming it in, according to author and expert on everything gothic and to do with vampires, Nick Groom, who shared a few words with The Guardian on evolving fashion trends. “People have stopped the rather passive onesie/pyjama stay-at-home, work-from-home-in-your-comfort-clothes trend and realise that they need to be more active and get out,” Groom explained.

Where did dystopiacore come from?


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Trend forecaster Geraldine Wharry told The Guardian, “Fashion statements often have an element of defiance. In this particular case, the defiance is the darkness and dystopian aspect.” I mean, what’s darker than totalitarian environmental degradation? “The idea that optimism is not cool and doesn’t reflect our current times, similar to what punks stood for during the 70s,” is where dystopiacore finds its appeal, Wharry continued.

Along with the rise of dopamine dressing—the maximalist rainbow throw up twin of dystopiacore—that is also a new trend for the 2022 wardrobe, not everyone is on board. It seems like we’re catching up with Hollywood’s releases of dark sci-fi blockbusters and keeping hold of our leather jackets after The Matrix Resurrections late 2021 release. With the world fawning over Timothée Chalamet (once again) for his appearance in the cinematic sci-fi epic Dune, fashion in this post-apocalyptic genre has been kickstarted once again.

Speaking to The Guardian, fashion professor Zara Anishanslin delved into the possible reasons for this spike in popularity towards doomsday apparel. “The experience of living through a pandemic is somewhat like that of living through a war: both are traumatising collective experiences, both have people battling on the ‘frontlines’, both result in a distressingly large number of deaths,” she told the publication.

Originally popularised by military soldiers, this trend of wearing durable, functional and resilient clothings has retained its uniquely universal utility aspect. To venture into the harsh and desolate world, people are using dystopiacore as a shield of armour of sorts. By now, we are all used to preparing ourselves for simple errands—PSA: always wear your mask, COVID-19 hasn’t suddenly disappeared after we were freed from incessant lockdowns.

Who’s wearing dystopiacore?


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We are in the midst of the Avant Apocalypse, for those of you who aren’t aware. The trend, currently booming on TikTok with #AvantApocalypse garnering over 280,000 videos on the platform, has given many the idea to distress their clothes. The DIY trend features creators tearing up their tights and stockings to turn them into tops and recycling old distressed clothes with archive fashion couture pieces to get that grunge but stylish look.

Dystopiacore takes the same sort of approach to fashion, fitting into the futuristic fantasy look with layers and layers of subversive basics clothes too. Think of the outfits worn by new it couple Kanye West and Julia Fox, covered head to toe in Balenciaga. West’s own line of clothing, Yeezy, is the perfect example of dystopiacore.


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As well as Balenciaga, other fashion houses are pinned as top makers of the military gear sported by wearers of this trend, like A-COLD-WALL*. Samuel Ross, the brand’s founder and fashion designer, spoke on the growth and push towards the futuristic aesthetic that dystopiacore offers. Addressing his dystopiacore-themed Autumn/Winter 2022 collection he recently presented in Milan, Ross said, “The idea of protection is a bit more universal across luxury, contemporary and streetwear now, for sure.”


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“We’ve always had a utilitarian angle, but this season we wanted to bring in a more ‘on the nose aspect’,” Ross concluded. Maybe it truly is time to switch out the sweats for some cargos, huh.

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