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The Unspoken Danger of the Word “Aesthetic”

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

Aesthetic, or the concern with beauty and the appreciation of it, as defined by Oxford. It as a concept tends to deceive us, right alongside our general consumption and over glorification of media as a whole. Aesthetic is a term that has become so often overused as not only a descriptive word, but also a concept in our modern day society. Especially with the prevalence and persistence of social media platforms such as Tik Tok and Instagram, this term has become a way for people to label, and therefore subject themselves to a more friendly way of saying stereotypes.

Youth today often find themselves labeling or centering their content creation, look, or personality around a certain “aesthetic.” It is a seemingly harmless and charming concept or way to look at and identify with a certain way of dressing or even living. However, like with stereotypes, many people find themselves taking drastic measures to meet or commit themselves to one certain “aesthetic” and their indicators. For example, when people feel like they have to commit themselves to one aesthetic, they often find themselves ignoring their needs and want for genuine stylistic expression. In high school, I had this one friend who often fell easily into micro trends and fast fashion as a way of expressing herself. Oftentimes, we would be out shopping and she would tell me word for word that she would like a particular item of clothing but “could not” bring herself to purchase it because it did not fit within her “aesthetic.” It’s not that it was something I couldn’t understand, rather it was just something I couldn’t find myself or anybody else subjecting themselves to.

But, regardless of whether or not it fits your aesthetic, where is the harm in that one t-shirt you’ve been eyeing for a while? Our greater need to be perceived in such a specific way by others has swayed our natural inclinations and wants to be anybody slightly less put together or well crafted than our most admired influencers. Somehow, it has become a phenomenon to feel in some ways, shameful or uncomfortable with our most true expression. It is true there is some comfort in conformity especially in a world where compliments are as rewarding of a currency as our actual physical one.

Besides this, there is also the matter that as a universal truth, history and trends over time seem to repeat and this is especially true of fashion. Nowadays, we walk down the streets and see surmounts of lowrise jeans and layered shirts. These things are very reminiscent of y2k fashion, which in and of itself has become a new fashion “aesthetic.” Don’t get me wrong- there is nothing wrong with a good pair of low rise jeans. However, arguably, the concept of rinse, wash, and repeating fashion trends seems to be limiting our creativity and stylistic expression as a whole. 

With regards to both of these truths, it is easy to argue that the term “aesthetic” does just as much harm (if not more) than good in terms of regulating and inspiring our individuality and honest expression. Words hold more meaning than we give regard to and this word especially. So in that case, a black dress won’t kill you if you are a so-called “cottage core” girl; in fact, it’s a classic.

Birkenstock / New Balance / Steve Madden
Hey! My name is Audrey Case and I am a freshman undergrad at GSU. I am currently pursuing a B.A. in English and am looking to expand not only my academic but also my professional profile! I am very excited to be writing for this journal this year and hope that though my work is very rewarding for me that it is for you as well!
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