On 18 September 2023, TikToker @cozyakili posted a video in which he talked about two young girls who had allegedly decided to move into Chernobyl—a partially abandoned city following the 1986 accident at its nuclear plant which was the largest uncontrolled radioactive release in history, situated in Ukraine, about 90 kilometres north of Kyiv—and posted clips about it on the video-sharing app.
Although living anywhere within the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone is technically illegal today, it’s been reported that authorities will tolerate those who choose to live within some of the less irradiated areas. In the girls’ videos that Cozyakili dueted, decrepit walls covered in lead paint (the main causes of chronic lead poisoning) and abandoned buildings were clearly being romanticised. This new trend’s name? Squatterscore.
In his TikTok, the content creator goes on to link the burgeoning aesthetic to Kylie Jenner’s recent campaign for the Swedish brand Acne Studios, in which the reality TV star, who up until then had a pristine and always polished image, went full-on mucky on us.
Now that the ultra-rich are slowly getting bored of quiet luxury, it seems like they’re ready to cosplay as the poor. It sounds incredibly problematic and insensitive, I know, but it wouldn’t be the first time this trend has reared its ugly head. It’s not hard to find similarities between the 90s’ heroin chic look and today’s up-and-coming squatterscore.
As people around the world continue to struggle with the cost of living crisis, skipping meals, getting evicted left, right and centre, and working multiple jobs at once, the wealthy are making a trend out of it. Despite the long list of controversial points that can be made about squatterscore, some early adopters see it as a movement born out of the need to oppose the clean girl aesthetic, which is embodied by Rhode founder, Hailey Bieber.
In contrast, squatterscore praises dirt and chaos, flipping the finger to the perfectly balanced lives influencers feed us on social media. The term “squatters” typically refers to individuals who occupy and live in vacant or abandoned buildings without permission. Squatterscore could then be associated with a particular style of music, art, or lifestyle that reflects the experiences or ideals of squatters, often challenging mainstream norms and advocating for alternative ways of living or creative expression.
My honest opinion? You don’t need to cosplay as homeless à la Tommy Cash—the Estonian rapper who showed up to Diesel’s SS24 show in Milan with a bag-filled shopping trolley in tow, wearing soiled clothing and a single shoe, rattling a change cup and holding a sign that read “It’s expensive to have money”—just to protest and combat poverty.
Other TikTokers went as far as to link Kanye West’s recent disdain for shoe-wearing to the potential rise of squatterscore. Although, with Ye, who ever truly knows what he’s up to?