Tiktok Aesthetics and the Discovery of Personal Style

Tiktok Aesthetics and the Discovery of Personal Style

Something interesting to me in the scope of fashion is how modern social media fabricate and disseminate various fashion styles or aesthetics to audiences. TikTok and Instagram, especially through influencers, consumerism, and algorithms, have intensified the fashion trend cycle by continuously adding new trends to the wheel and making it spin faster.

I want to talk about the difference in exposure to aesthetics and styles in 2024 and what it was like for me growing up. I think it’s important to give a bit of perspective and context to fully understand the gravity of the change. I did a quick test to see how many different styles or aesthetics would be mentioned if I searched “Fashion 2024” on TikTok. After a 10-minute scroll, there were over 12 different aesthetics and styles mentioned in the videos (some of the styles included: old money, coquette, clean girl, opium, mob wife, streetwear, cool city girl, etc.). This diversity is not necessarily bad because, to me, any exposure to fashion is a positive outcome; however, I think the wide range of options leaves audiences confused or trapped in the trend cycle wheel. 

Growing up in an Ontario suburb in the 2000s and 2010s, I can say that my experience with exposure to style and fashion is completely different than it is today. In middle school, there were probably a total of 5 styles or aesthetics that were present in my life: emo/scene, preppy (not to be confused with the modern definitions of preppy), jocks, cool people mall clothes, and not cool people department store clothes. Although we were aware of other aesthetics or styles that were mainly already well-developed sub-cultural groups like punks or hippies, they were not as vividly present in my life at that time. Streetwear wasn’t even really something people knew about or considered a separate style until high school, in the mid- to late-2010s. At that time, my peers and I still primarily valued style based on the brands we wore. Aesthetics, in general, but especially for young people, were not as heavily promoted in the 2000s and early 2010s as they are today, and in my experience, were quite class-driven and separated. The more stylish and cool people wore name brands that were not affordable to everyone, and shopping secondhand was not popular and had different societal connotations than it does today. 

So, it’s pretty clear that modern audiences have more exposure to a variety of styles through social media. I know a lot of people have negative associations with TikTok and fashion; however, as I said previously, the exposure of fashion content in any form is good, and the diversity of choice shows how expressive the field is. The two issues with the TikTokification of fashion are the human tendency to get lost when provided with a long list of options and how easy it is to access clothing in modern environments. Having a never-ending supply of different aesthetics that are not only available but also tend to trend cyclically, we not only struggle with the ability to pick a favourite but also somehow not fall behind or get lost from everyone else. Combining this with our strongly capitalist and consumerism-based society, people overbuy, change their minds, throw away, and simply seek lower-priced and consequently lower-quality clothing. I don’t necessarily blame people for the need to keep up with trends; however, we all need to be more accountable for overconsumption. Clothing purchases per person have steadily grown since the 1990s, and now, about 80+ billion pieces are sold annually. An average American purchases around 70 new articles of clothing a year, which is excessive and a problem that I have with the TikTokification of aesthetics and style. 

This brings me to the discussion of personal style. Everybody has their own definition of the term; it’s called personal after all, but to me, personal style is, of course, the clothes and silhouettes that make you the most confident and yourself, but also lifestyle choices. For instance, somebody who goes to the gym frequently will most likely own more athletic wear than somebody who doesn’t go at all. Consequently, the gymgoer would feel more comfortable in athleisure, and it probably reflects in their personal style choices. Of course, this is not always the case, and I am simply giving an example of how lifestyle choices can reflect the clothing we wear, which creates our style. So does the tiktokification of aesthetics ruin personal style? Are people now consuming clothing to fit in the current most popular niche, which is causing insane levels of overconsumption? Or is the exposure to all these different niches a good thing that gives people so much inspiration? I think these are the two sides of the scale that are trying to balance each other out. 

My take on it is that I think we are very slowly moving toward the idea of finding personal niches, as I keep seeing the term “me-core” appearing on trending fashion videos on TikTok. People are realizing how damaging consumerism is, both environmentally and psychologically, so individualism becomes a lot more important. When you’re not chasing the next trend, priorities shift to just being uniquely yourself. Having found my aesthetic (which is not unique to myself only, but something that fits into my taste and lifestyle) actually helps me avoid overconsumption. Sticking to specific silhouettes, patterns, colours, or even brands not only makes your wardrobe cohesive and easy to style but also prevents you from purchasing trendy items that have a very short shelf life. But, of course, there was also definitely an endless amount of trial and error before finding the niche that fit me. Your style should bring you joy, confidence, and comfort, and I think developing a personal niche should be the end goal in the act of participating in different aesthetics. 

I never want to shame or discourage people from participating in fashion; I think doing so encourages the negative stigma of the community and makes the field more pretentious, which is something I am against. I understand that it’s difficult to fully commit to and stick to one style or aesthetic. There is a certain kind of undeniable desire in the act of searching for your niche. But like I said earlier, we are humans, and it’s easy to get caught up in all the choices of styles but also the ease of consumption. As consumers, we hold so much power in choosing who we support and where we spend our money. Ultimately, this isn’t a guide on how to find personal style, but what I truly believe in is staying authentic to yourself and your lifestyle. Finding the exact looks, colour palettes, silhouettes, materials, and textures that are true to you and slowly investing in yourself through them.

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