20 January 2022

Goodbye Y2K and the ‘Kardashian’ look — here are the fashion trends we won’t be seeing in 2022

The rise of TikTok has led to a somewhat amorphous fashion scene — current trends now co-exist with aesthetics that originate from pivotal moments in pop culture.

It’s certainly an interesting time for fashion, and its purveyors, what with the advent of shape-shifting cores — think: “goblincore”, “cottagecore” and “Russian bimbocore”.

Three such interrogators of these trends are the twenty-something women behind the fashion and culture podcast, Nymphet Alumni, identified solely by their first names, Alexi, Biz, and Sam. Describing themselves as “opportunistic one-time nymphets”, they have spoken at length about the intersections between fashion and culture. Episodes discuss the impact of Tavi Gevinson’s Rookie mag (RIP), dissect the legacy of Megan Fox’s Jennifer’s Body, and analyse the prevalence of “thotwear” — to name but three.

Here, Alexi, Biz and Sam share their thoughts on what trends are on the way out, and what they expect to replace them in 2022…

Nessa: There have been a lot of strange fashion trends to emerge primarily from TikTok, last year. You guys have spoken at length about a few, including ‘Vampire GF’, ‘Russian Bimbocore’, and ‘Christian Girl Autumn’ — do you reckon any of these are going to endure in 2022?

Sam: No I don’t reckon, they may inform future trends, but I do think they’ll be discarded pretty quickly. The modern trend cycle, of course, moves at the speed of light. It’s also very difficult to get ahead of the trends because they don’t seem to follow any cohesive logic. For example, Twilight/Vampire GF aesthetics trended on TikTok in the dead of summer. Girls were really out here wearing long-sleeve thermal Henley tops in August! It’s honestly quite brave.

Alexi: I don’t reckon either. It doesn’t seem like TikTok fashion follows the traditional adoption cycle. There are lots of trends that never go mainstream because they’re so ephemeral and atmospheric, often tied to a more amorphous “vibe” than any type of subculture or sense of personal expression. I can appreciate this type of moodboard-y experimentation with fashion that seems less tethered to consumption.

Biz: Realistically, I think these trends will endure in 2022, even if they aren’t considered “cool” anymore. Even as the trend cycle accelerates and contracts, alt fashion, and fashion in general, kind of operate on an “it’s always five-o’clock somewhere” model, because the internet lets outfits live in perpetuity, long after the original wearer has moved on to something newer and cooler. Someone, somewhere is seeing a Twilight-inspired Pinterest board for the first time, and will be searching “Bella Swan top” on Depop for the first time.

Nessa: You’ve talked about how pop culture informs fashion and vice versa. So in 2021, we had the likes of Megan Fox and MGK / Kourtney Kardashian and Travis Barker tapping into a particular aesthetic, which then trickled down into the mainstream. Who do you reckon will replace them this year — any bets?

Sam: It pains me to say that people are getting very tired of the Kardashian extended universe. Unless something big happens, which it very well might, I don’t see the Kardashian pantheon maintaining relevance for more than a few months of 2022. Bella Hadid is experiencing a sort of renaissance among the youth, as are other fashion stars — but fashion stars are not as willing to whore themselves out to the tabloids as much as other celebrities may be. There will have to be some sort of up-and-coming industry plant, maybe a viral sensation groomed into pop-stardom a-la Cardi B or Lil Nas X. 

Alexi: We’re getting exhausted of nostalgia icons, nepotism babies, and multi-hyphenate wannabes, so I’d either want them to be dethroned by viral sensations as Sam mentioned, as in genuinely likeable people plucked from relative obscurity, or conversely, I’d like to see actual royalty become iconic again. For example, I find Princess Mako of Japan really charming since that time she got lost in New York while wearing hugely oversized clothes. Maybe she and her “commoner” husband could become a fashion power couple, since their reluctance toward fame makes them so engaging.

Biz: Possibly no one, in terms of  “power couples.” Kanye West and Julia Fox literally christened the new year by going on a date on the last day of the year, and before the end of January their relationship has already been psychoanalyzed to death. We’re seeing the decline of the “break the internet” effect that unusual celebrity couple pairings, like Grimes and Elon Musk and Ariana Grande and Pete Davidson, once exemplified. Those couples were literally a cultural reset. I think people are also becoming more aware that celebrities from all walks of fame are likely to cross paths so we’re not as mindfucked when something happens between them.

Nessa: Otherwise, who do you think will be the key fashion players in 2022 and why?

Alexi:  I do see a lot of potential in viral sensations as discussed earlier – Gucci’s editorial with Francis Bourgeois is promising to me as the type of character-driven crossover that actually creates feelings of affection toward a brand and fashion in general.  I also feel like early internet nostalgia has the potential to make stars out of someone like the kid from “Charlie Bit My Finger.” I think the more random the better. Maybe some of the minor Euphoria characters, like “Vape Girl” Sophia Rose Wilson, who was cast from a mall in Columbus, Ohio and is basically playing herself. I want stay-at-home-moms, high school teachers, and farm girls to become fashion icons. The British Vogue February 2022 cover also reminded me of the enduring power of insanely beautiful supermodels on the cover of magazines. Maybe you can tell by this point that I’m kind of a fashion extremist. 

Sam: Gen Z really enjoys dusting off the forgotten icons of yore — yore being approx. 2007-2014. A lot of their iconoclasts are celebrities who are still kind of digitally “around”. For example, Zooey Deschanel recently posted a TikTok poking fun at the “twee revival” trend re-designating her as a fashion icon. Celebrities / fashion icons who peaked in the 2010s will definitely be dredged up nostalgically. But, I think the ones that will last will be the ones who are not good sports about their revival. Gen Z loses interest in figures who try to be “in” on the joke, they’re more entertained by figures who are either clueless about their digital reputation or reject memeification outright. It’s an opportunity for Gen Z to ironically be like “yaaaas” or something. 

Biz: I agree with Sam in that we’ll be seeing more nostalgic references to cultural figures and moments of the 2010s. We also have developed a taste for seeing famous people in “unexpected” contexts – more and more fashion houses, from Balenciaga to Prada, are sending celebrities down the runway, and not just ones that look like models themselves. I imagine we’ll see more of this in 2022 and it’ll keep getting funkier, similar to Gucci’s editorial with the TikTok train star, Francis, that Alexi brought up. In the same vein, I hope that by the end of year Addison Rae will be named the creative director of Bottega Veneta or Twitter or something. 

Nessa: Are we ever going to see the back of Y2K? And why do you think it’s become such an enduring craze amongst Gen Z (most of whom weren’t even born in the 00’s)?

Alexi: Y2K is really designed to be grown out of – patron saint Paris Hilton is married now, let’s take that as a signal! It’s fundamentally adolescent; it looks cute on Roblox characters and explore pages, but it lacks subtlety and is largely based on an age-regressive fascination with what we thought was cool and fashionable when we were younger, coupled with a hedonistic lack of financial literacy. I don’t think the appeasement of a hypothetical “inner child” is necessarily a healthy way to form one’s identity. 

Sam: We are very much at the back end of Y2K, I haven’t seen a mini bag in ages. There are a plethora of reasons behind that trend. The Y2K bimbo mentality was very adaptable to Gen Z’s sugar baby empowerment complex, and to their impulsive online shopping habits. Gen Z is also a fan of weaponised incompetence, very befitting to the bimbo mentality. The Bratz doll look went hand-in-hand with the expansion of Instagram and TikTok filters, the music was all beep-boop electronic like a computer, etc. But all of this is long, long gone. 

Biz: Early 2000s fashion has seriously been beaten to death. It was great for building a 360-degree character through clothes, which is in turn great for creating content. Putting on a Von Dutch hat, bedazzled baby tee, and micro-mini skirt was a catalyst for some sort of camera-ready, alter-ego formation, perhaps because the archetype of the Y2K bimbo a la Paris Hilton is so well-formed, from the sound of her voice to her interests, hobbies, and catch phrases, and thus easy to imitate. 

Nessa: What is the most likely contender to replace the Y2K trend?

Sam: The Y2K aesthetic lies cold in its grave, replaced by a bedazzled, trailer-trash, digital dark angel style of dress. It’s distinctly closer to the 2010s, almost scene-adjacent. Some of the hot pink bimbos have lightened their color palettes, opting for a pastel-esoteric style of posting. Others have gone the spring breaker, neon trucker hat route. Really, it seems like Gen Z is crawling its way up the 2000s timeline on its hands and knees. Right now, I would map them in the 2007-2014 period. I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw a more bookish indie minimalism adopted in the coming months. 

Biz: Like Sam said, we’re (rapidly) creeping through the 2000s and into the 2010s. The alternative masses will flock to mid-to-late 2000s and early 2010s fashion, while the most cutting edge girls will already be bringing back trends from 2016 and beyond. 

Alexi: Of course I think Sam and Biz are correct, in terms of probability. But I want the youth to be free! Or at least to diverge from this acceleration to present day. Some of my favourite styles are decade crossovers, like 1970s Victoriana and the ‘60s revival of the 2000s – I would love to see an interpretation of the exaggerated Edwardian silhouette, or severe and masculine 1930s fashion as executed by an Instagram thotwear boutique. 

Nessa: This year, we saw people really tap into 00’s pop culture faves like Twilight and American Apparel. What else could we see become ubiquitous once more in 2022?

Sam: I think we’re about to see a massive uptick in different forms of Americana. I definitely feel like a unicorn vomit Americana a-la Miley Cyrus will pop up somewhere along the way, MySpace raccoon hat Americana, a-la Christopher Drew, former hypebeasts in Redneck-core, gas station slackers wearing novelty patriot garb, 1970s road trip vibes, etc. I also feel something vaudevillian and circus-like quietly brewing at the fringes of our culture. Kentucky Fried freak show. Rob Zombie vibes. Dream catchers, Aztec print, and McDonald’s red-and-yellow all loom on the horizon. 

Alexi: There seems to be a lineage of corporate workplace drama that seems on the come-up – from American Psycho to Mad Men, and most recently Succession. The meaning of work has changed so much in recent years, so I can foresee young people becoming captivated by the antiquated formality of high-income workplaces. I myself work for a pretty glamorous corporation, but most of the time I’m just in my bedroom in cutesy loungewear, so I fantasize about long elevator rides and carrying a briefcase. Business attire has such a strong lexicon of classic pieces – I think playing with these will always be cool. I really just dream of a world where young people idealize “real adulthood,” though whether this actually exists is questionable. Right now it seems like everyone is looking at youth culture with a giant magnifying glass, trying to replicate it at every stratum to avoid being perceived as old or out of the loop. 

Biz: The look of Victoria’s Secret Angels prior to the mid-2010s. Perfectly blown out and bouncy hair, feminine yet non-intrusive style, tight jeans and push-up bras, smelling good, and basically dressing basic in a really flattering way. Alexander McQueen skull scarves too.

Nessa: Which trends do you really want to see take off this year and why?

Sam: I’d actually really love to see a fashion trend that emphasises tailoring. I think it would encourage people to leave their houses and go try on clothes at a physical store, or force some under-socialised young TikTok influencers to make small talk with like, the old lady who tailors clothing at a local dry cleaner. Any trend that encourages face-to-face interaction. 

Biz: Tailors and tailoring rock. Also, investing in good shoes that you can keep for a long time and get repaired if they get worn out. Really boring, but Carrie Bradshaw was on the shoe investment tip too…  Make your clothes work for you!

Alexi: We do love tailoring – clothes these days have very little structure off the body, they’re like noodly little rags that you have to fasten to yourself in strange ways to get to fit correctly. This year I want everyone’s waistlines to become well-kept secrets, whether skimmed over by a shift dress or completely obscured in a sculptural cloud of fabric. I also have a couple of other trends that I won’t try to justify: penguins, busking, writing checks, and primal movement exercise.

Nessa: Finally, what trend can each of you not wait to see the back off in 2022?

Sam: Behaviourally, I would like to witness a humble-yet-rigorous intellectual renaissance. Gen Z is severely lacking in both practical and impractical knowledge. They’re going to have to face the music at some point, and I don’t want to sound like a crotchety old dad, but someone needs to teach these kids how to change their oil, and it’s not going to be TikTok! Weaponised incompetence is definitely something I’d like to see die off as soon as possible. Anti-intellectualism, an insatiable lust for novelty, pathologized need for comfort, “social anxiety” as a viable excuse, these are all crotchety old dad criticisms but crotchety old dads know what’s up sometimes. 

Biz: Mean-spiritedness, wickedness, paranoia, main character energy, “archival fashion” as a signifier, and social media addiction (my own included)! 

Alexi: To continue my last line of thought: our obsession with waist checking is making silhouettes seriously boring. A little slip of the upper ribcage or lower back is good, even the full midriff, but this standardised little midsection between crop-top hem and high-waisted bottoms is out. On a larger scale, I second everything Biz and Sam have said!

Find Nymphet Alumni on Twitter, and listen to them, here.

  • Writer Nessa Humayun

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