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Exploring TikTok Aesthetics– Why Are They a Thing?

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Winthrop chapter.

The idea of “aesthetic” has been a part of internet culture for quite some time now—we have the era of Tumblr aesthetic, a website where people could post their edited photos of themselves, objects, or scenery they found aesthetically pleasing. There were many subcultures to these aesthetics such as “grunge” and “vaporwave” to name a few.  

Eventually, Tumblr began to die as a platform, but the aesthetic culture that began on it transferred over to TikTok, which began gaining momentum during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic. I distinctly remember the term “cottage-core” being coined during this time, an aesthetic that included flora and fauna imagery, green forests, fields with cute cows, and small cottages adorned with pleasant objects such as lanterns and flowers.  

The idea of fitting into an aesthetic is something that fascinates me and it seems that with each new trend on TikTok, new types of specific aesthetics come out of the woodwork. So, what are these aesthetics exactly and why do people feel the need to label themselves with a specific style? Let’s explore some of these TikTok “aesthetics” that I’ve come across on the app below.  

  1. Y2K   

I’m not going to lie, this is one of my personal favorites. It seems like a complete throwback to my early childhood; sparkly flip phones with charms, Lisa Frank accessories, sequined shirts and jackets, and butterfly clips. Similarly, these makeup styles are fun and colorful, with bright eyeshadow looks and glossy lips. Basically, this style feels like the inside of Claire’s sometimes, but it’s fun and it’s a throwback to the early 2000s.  

  1. Coconut Girl  

This one confused me a bit at first—it seemed a little outlandish to label oneself a “coconut” girl, but the term seems fitting for what the aesthetic entails! This style is bright and upbeat, with a heavy focus on beachy themes, such as tropical flowers, pink flamingos, 1960s-style vans, and surfing. It seems like a mix between the Y2k style and enjoying life by the beach or poolside.  

3. Grandma-C ore  

I’m guilty of fitting into this aesthetic—I love to participate in wearing soft sweaters, petting animals and spending my nights inside crocheting by myself, which is what “grandma-core” seems to consist of. This aesthetic focuses heavily on participating in what is titled “grandma activities” such as knitting, crocheting, wearing soft-knitted fabrics, baking, and staying indoors.  

4. Dark Academia 

This one comes across my “for you page” quite often and it’s extremely pleasing to look at. Dark Academia focuses on the fine arts, college, or other high education institutes, and is a highly idealized version of studying and schooling. The aesthetic includes dark libraries with gothic structures that resemble the inside of cathedrals, candlelit reading, and loose, dark clothing. It’s pretty to look at and makes me wish my college library looked like a moody, dimly lit cathedral. 

  1. Clean Girl 

I remember this one taking TikTok by storm—get ready with me videos and makeup routines with the title “clean girl” were becoming popular. I explored this aesthetic more and found that it mostly consists of the “off-duty” model look while emphasizing soft, glowy makeup and simple hairstyles. It’s about looking effortlessly good while also putting in a bit of effort to look this way. I enjoy the minimalist style but have seen some issues with the problematic aspects that the internet has pointed out, such as the focus on skinny, thin, and primarily white women.  

There are many more aesthetics and styles I could explore that have come out of the TikTok app, but these were a few that came across my radar within the past year or so. I find it fascinating that the masses are quick to jump on a trend and label themselves with a certain aesthetic or style. I’ve done this too and still do occasionally, and I find nothing wrong with it, however, I think attempting to label every little aspect of ourselves can be a waste of time. We all have specific styles and aesthetics we enjoy and want to fit into, but we do not need to label ourselves with “clean girl” or “coconut girl” every time we try out a new style or wear something different. I think the idea of aesthetics is a fun and cute way to showcase our styles, but labeling every interest and style can be monotonous after a while. Dress the way you want and do what makes you feel the most comfortable and happy.  

Abigail Smith

Winthrop '24

Howdy! My name's Abigail, but you can call me Abby. I'm a 3rd-year student at Winthrop University, majoring in Elementary Education. I love cartoons, history, video games, animals, horseback riding, reading, and of course writing!