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FLANNELS Thinks: Have We Reached Peak Fashion Core?

FLANNELS Thinks: Have We Reached Peak Fashion Core?

Flannels blog article

Barbiecore, gorpcore, gothcore, normcore, grungecore, auntiecore, clowncore (seriously); over the past few years the fashion world has been dominated by the arrival of multiple trending aesthetics. But has core culture gone too far? What does it even mean? And, more importantly, which one are you?

In 2022, it feels like we can’t swing a cat without hitting a few new fashion cores on the way round. The (not-so) new way to label up style aesthetics has taken on a life of its own. And these days, fresh micro trends are given core nicknames on an almost weekly basis.

So, what actually is a fashion core? A niche fashion trend. A specific aesthetic. A vibe. A lifestyle. An attitude. A core goes beyond your clothes and ties your persona up in a neat bow - especially your social and virtual persona[s].

While cores may have been part of our diction for over two decades now (kudos goes to cartoonist Ryan Estrada who is credited with coining the most famous of them all, normcore, back in 2008) in ’22 things have gone up a notch.

The reason? As with most things in circulation these days: internet culture. More specifically, the rise of TikTok. Segmenting users based on our likes, what we engage with (sorry but algorithms don’t actually lie) and what we’re watching, sharing and searching for, TikTok is grouping together similar content to give the appearance of a trend sweeping your feed. The result is we’re seeing mini trends that are seemingly everywhere.

And the bigger the trend better. Social media favours the brave with the loudest looks and most OTT fits drawing more attention. The aim? To get you to stop, look and hit like. Which is why we’re suddenly throwing around terminology like clowncore.

Although things might have reached fever pitch, fashion cores aren’t flash in the pan. Gorpcore, coined by The Cut in 2017 to describe the intersection of fashion and function has been gaining traction ever since. Meaning ‘good ol’ raisins and peanuts’ (aka a tasty snack favoured by hikers) it’s fuelled a long-term trend that’s seen outdoor-inspired fashion with streetwear appeal hit the masses. Fleeces, chunky sneakers and ugly shorts are mainstays in our looks to this day. Dadcore followed soon after, named as one of 2018’s biggest trends.

The aforementioned normcore has been kicking around since ’08. It had another lease of life in 2013 when trend forecasting collective K-Hole used it in their report, Youth Mode, to identify the anti-fashion movement that was occurring. Think dad jeans, Birkenstocks, plain white tees. A rediscovery of basics, essentials and everyday pieces. Described as a mindset rooted in ‘adaptability, not exclusivity,’ they explain: ‘Normcore seeks the freedom that comes with non-exclusivity. It finds liberation in nothing special and realises that adaptability leads to belonging.’

Belonging. A key factor in the core factory. For algorithms aside, cores have the unique ability to give us a sense of community. To drive connection. To make us feel like we belong to something bigger than us. And after a period of detachment bred by the pandemic, connection is what we’re craving.

The SS22 and AW22 collections were filled with the return of subcultures. Grunge was back in beauty in a big way, with M.A.C featuring deep dark lips and the likes of Raf Simmons and Rick Owens revisiting the ‘90s. Over on Instagram the Indie movement of the ‘00s has been having a moment, fuelled by pop culture account @indiesleaze no less. And Kourtney Kardashian and Megan Fox have been leading a goth revival that culminated in the former’s Dolce & Gabbana wedding to Travis Barker.

Fetishcore was coined after the likes of Julia Fox started stepping out in subversive looks earlier this year. Lyst reported a 26% increase in latex product searches since February and a 100% increase in sales of leather chokers since the start of the year. Similarly, gimpcore has been gaining traction after Balenciaga took over the New York Stock Exchange in May with models decked out in masks.

Bloggercore has been another biggie. Specifically referencing those who found cult followings circa 2010, the It accessory of the time – the Balenciaga City Bag – has seen a 37% surge in searches since January. While auntiecore has played into a more chill aesthetic, think Matthieu Blazy’s debut Bottega Veneta collection or Jeff Goldblum and Kyle MacLachlan walking for Prada’s AW22 show. These are looks that come with knowing exactly who you are on the inside.

But the latest core to drive a mass following? Barbiecore. Driven by the recent sightings of Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling decked out in various shades of hot pink as they film the upcoming Greta Gerwig film. The movement has been huge. Everywhere you look there are now iterations of 
pink: fuschia, bubble gum, candy floss. You name it, there’s a shade to suit. 

For normcore, the pin-up became the ultimate everyman: Homer Simpson. Plain, uncool, with mass appeal and zero s**ts given. The man is even decked out in the normcore uniform: light-wash blue jeans and a white tee. It was only a matter of time then before worlds collided. Cue the Balenciaga show at Paris Fashion Week last year when the Simpson clan became the lead stars of Balenciaga’s latest campaign.

Not just a TikTok craze to be dismissed then. Reflective of pop culture, the coining of cores is driving demand. But why the obsession? A constant need to define the self and to communicate that self to the wider world? Perhaps. Or maybe in the midst of a shocker of a year we just want to have a bit of fun with fashion again.

Have we reached peak core? Quite possibly. Has core culture gone too far? Absolutely. Do we care? Not one iota. And for those that do? It’s called fun Karen, look it up. But before that, tell us, which core are you?