For more end of year essays and analysis on VICE, check out 2022 in Review.
In the 2020s, trends move quicker than ever. It can feel as though there’s a new TikTok “aesthetic” every week (clean girl, indie sleaze, coquette, dark academia, blokecore, to name just a few). Entertainment is constantly eating itself, and when so much of life happens on the internet, it makes sense that our attention spans have become teeny tiny, with something new always on the way.
As such, it can be difficult to know what’ll be next – honestly how many of us saw “Frazzled Englishwoman” coming? So to get a head start on what will inevitably be another year of relentlessness, I peered into my crystal ball – with some help from Jane Macfarlane, Biz Sherbert and Rukiat Ashawe of creative agency The Digital Fairy, as well as Fiona Harkin, foresight editor at strategic foresight consultancy The Future Laboratory – and had a go at predicting where the Mario Kart circuit that is fashion and culture in the 2020s might go next year.
The new 90s is… the 80s
We’ve done Y2K, we’ve done the 90s, and we’ve even done the 70s, so it makes sense that our endlessly recycling culture would turn to the 80s next.
We’ve seen hints of this in fashion over the last couple of years, with shoulder pads and lamé (thank you, Skims) making their comebacks. But my hunch is that culturally in general it’s going to be back on the menu in a big way – think erotic thrillers, legwarmers and a cocaine aesthetic (hello Cocaine Bear).
The new cottagecore is… folklore grandma
TikTok trends are ever-evolving, and Macfarlane, Brand Creative Director at The Digital Fairy, tells me that a brand new iteration of a few we’ve already seen is on the horizon: Yes, “folklore grandma.”
“Plenty of trends have honoured wholesome, matriarchal homemakers (cottagecore, coastal grandmother) but in AW23, the folklore grandma will emerge,” she says.
“This trend is modest, motherly and cosy with heavy layers, house slippers and knits. Silhouettes will become snuggly, pastimes will become analogue and accessories will be knitted and crocheted. In beauty, we can expect ruddy blusher, wispy corner lashes, undone hair and outgrown greys.”
The new indie sleaze is… everything “sleaze”
We’ve had (or didn’t actually have) indie sleaze. Now get ready for the word “sleaze” to be tacked onto everything.
“Sleaze will become the new ‘core’ suffix in fashion – from mermaidcore transforming into mermaid sleaze to balletcore and cabincore becoming ballet sleaze and cabin sleaze respectively,” explains Sherbert, Culture Editor at The Digital Fairy. “Sleazes subvert their source material, making it grungier and edgier, rather than attempting to capture the purest essence of an aesthetic, the way ‘-cores’ do.”
The new “Very Peri” is… Viva Magenta
“Viva Magenta” is Pantone’s 2023 colour of the year, taking over from last year’s periwinkle. The “colour experts” crown a new shade every year, and for 2023, they say the hue they’ve selected is “a new animated red that revels in pure joy, encouraging experimentation and self-expression without restraint, an electrifying, and a boundary-less shade that is manifesting as a stand-out statement.”
Which, like, is a bit full-on to be fair – it’s a colour, babes – but I do see the rationale. After a disastrous, isolating start to the decade, and despite, well, everything, there does seem to be a sense in the air that people are gearing up to have fun again. It’s an optimistic way to go into 2023, so let’s hope.
The new athleisure is… slobwear
Described by Macfarlane as “the quiet quitter of aesthetics,” slobwear feels like it has emerged from the WFH-dressing that became popularised in the years following 2020.
“In fashion we will see ‘slept-in’ baggy fits, big brother tees, underwear as outerwear and grungy ‘give us nothing’ styling. It’s mostly oversized, possibly torn and absolutely all hanging out. In beauty we can expect lived-in lippy, nap-flushed ‘lazy blush’ and sleepily scraped back hair,” she tells me.
The new liquid design is… the return of the serif
We’ve all had our fun with curvy design full of sanded down edges, neon and chrome – is there a single club night poster that doesn’t follow this metric at this point? – but I have a feeling that we’re reaching a saturation point, and that next year might see the beginning of a return to a cleaner, sharper look.
The new clean girl look is… 90s minimalism
Let’s be honest, the many iterations of the 90s never seem to go away and 2023 will be no different. Despite other decades also getting a look-in, the 90s are also here to stay, says Sherbert. This time it’ll be about 90s minimalism “à la 90s Gwyneth Paltrow” also acting “as an antidote to trend overload, mirroring the popularity of minimalism via Phoebe Philo in the 2010s and the contemporary ‘clean girl’ look, but placing emphasis on the clean lines of ‘90s designers like Helmut Lang and Jil Sander.”
This trend, she says, is also set to emerge due to the current economic situation: it will “act as a way to shop smart ahead of a recession, since the pieces and looks involved are trend cycle-resistant.”
The new dopamine dressing is… anti-dopamine dressing
Since lockdown, “dopamine dressing” – that is, bright, statement pieces which make you feel good – has been huge. But The Future Forecast predicts that we can expect to see the end of this, and the beginning of a backlash, as shoppers embrace darker looks and seek items that will generally last longer.
“Expect to see a swerve to the anti-dopamine dressing trend and a more dystopian direction as we vent our collective, post-pandemic trauma via disillusionment and cynicism to forge an inclusive and resilient fashion system,” Harkin says.
The new Y2K is… real 2000s Normcore
Ashawe, the culture specialist at The Digital Fairy, predicts that trend fatigue will set in (if it hasn’t already) giving rise to “2000s mormcore, or what one of our favourite creators on the net Rian Phin calls ‘true-thousands’,” she says.
“2000s Normcore consists of dressing like ‘normies’ or ‘NPC’s’ of the decade, sourcing images, videos and any other type of media where ‘ordinary people’ are present – old Flickr accounts, abandoned online blogs, Facebook – in order to get a real sense of how people were truly dressing in the 2000s.”
The new “academia” aesthetic is… high school 2k
As an addendum to this new normcore, Macfarlane expects that we’ll see this trend colliding with “academia” style, to pay homage to bog standard school uniform. “Most academia aesthetics dream of prep schools, Prefect badges and privilege beyond belief, but next year, posh pleats and embroidered details will be replaced. High School 2k puts the ‘mid’ in mid 2000s, channelling the muted colours, classic cuts and intentionally unexciting British school uniform,” she explains.
“This trend is an ode to the Bri-ish students of the noughties, who scruffed up their standard uniforms to express their differences (prepare for undone ties, scribbled white shirts, skinny gold chains, hemmed mini skirts and clunky Kickers). Miu Miu SS23 gives us a glimpse of this, with a monotonous palette, awkward fitting blazers and sporty zip-ups over shirts and skirts.”
Time to dig out the old PE kit?