Are Indie Sleaze, Twee, and Tumblr Trends making a comeback?

Indie Sleaze, Twee, and Tumblr Revival

By Charlie Elizabeth Culverhouse

According to Vogue, the 2014 Tumblr Girl is back. TikTok knows this, and creators are reminiscing on the trends earlier spotlight, showing off old Tumblr accounts, and predicting what the 2020’s revival will bring. What is missing, however, is people adopting the trend. 

Trends come out of nowhere. We wake up to find them dominating the collective consciousness until they inevitably dwindle. But some people have the magical power to know what is to come. Trend Forecasters are dominating TikTok, gaining huge followings helping people to stay ahead of the game – because while you can be fashionably late, you can’t turn up in last week’s trend.  

Think of trend forecasters as a sponge absorbing everything around them, studying the world and those in it. World events, past and present trends, problems consumers are facing are evidence of where the next trend is heading. Looking to the past and consulting the 20-year trend cycle is a relatively sure fire way to gauge when a new trend is about to pick up. Secondhand shopping is also driving trend revivals, bringing trends gone by into people’s baskets with ease – you see tonnes of items donated by people who will soon wish they had saved them to make a small fortune on Depop. 

The secondhand boom has also instigated a resurgence of vintage styles on the runway, Courreges being a great example. ​​Designers have long been inspired by their overflowing archives, but seeing which vintage pieces are sought after in the market can bring the original item back or inspire modern takes on the style to play into what people want. 

The three comebacks we’re all watching at the moment are Indie Sleaze, Twee, and the 2014 Tumblr Girl. All three grew out of the Tumblr era and shared many similarities, low quality photography being but one, so it’s clear to see why they’re reviving at the same time. While trend forecasters are raving about these comebacks, is there any evidence people are actually into it? Are these trends working their way back, or are trend forecasters just saying that?

Indie Sleaze first reared its head in the mid-2000s. A mash-up of 90s heroin chic, 80s grunge, and the questionable fashion choices of the noughties. Indie Sleaze was simultaneously low-maintenance and flamboyant. Clothes were playful and bright, inspired by 80’s neons, metallic sheens and, of course, leopard prints. 

The aesthetic encouraged not caring too much, doing and wearing what felt right, being more genuine, and just having a laugh. As anyone there the first time around will tell you, Indie Sleaze was not an ‘innocent’ time in history. The movement grew out of resistance. People wanted to forget the woes dragging down the rest of the population and be in the moment, crashing house parties, chugging warm beers, and living out the plotlines of ‘Skins’. 

The reasoning for the revival is fairly apparent. The Y2K revival has dragged on forever, and it’s starting to get tired and oversaturated. The next natural destination for the trend cycle is the 2010s. 

There’s also the post-pandemic urge to party like it’s 2009 before we had to weigh up the pros of leaving the house with the cons of possible infection. Heightening this nostalgia is the longing for a pre-inflated world where you could live affordably. The rise in the cost of living, the stagnant minimum wage, and the death of cheap rent have made the party life a distant memory. We’re all constantly uptight because we have to be. No longer are we scraping by to pay rent because we missed work a bunch to party, but we have to do so despite missing parties to work. Indie Sleaze’s trashy flash photography and lavish displays of clubbing offer a promise of fun – actual fun! Can you imagine it? 

Trend forecaster ‘OldLoserInBrooklyn’ cites the current popularity of outdated technology as a major hint to the revival. But planting Indie Sleaze in the realm of a comeback feels dubious. Sure, we’re seeing wired headphones and disposable cameras coming back, as polaroids and typewriters did in the 2010s, but does this mean Indie Sleaze is back? If you’re on board with the comeback, take those Y2K pieces you’ve collected and style them more – well – sleazy. Scrap what should be right for what feels right. Things that don’t go together do go together in the world of Indie Sleaze.

Indie Sleaze, Twee, and Tumblr Revival

Twee, defined by the Oxford Dictionary as ‘excessively or affectedly quaint, pretty, or sentimental’, is less aggressive than Indie Sleaze. Dominated by a ‘quirky’ personality type, Twee adopted many ‘hipster’ interests; vintage photography, cult movies, indie bands, ukuleles, thick fringes, knee socks, satchel bags, round-framed glasses, and berets being a few. 

You may remember Zooey Deschanel becoming 2022’s first fashion icon in her near childlike outfits, highlighting her cookey demeanour. But the UK’s near disdain for ‘cookey’ personalities bred a distinctly British leg of Twee. The epitome of this style, Alexa Chung took twee and toned it down, making it more digestible. British Twee is timeless and classic, pairing ‘feminine’ styles with grungier items to create something sweet but not cavity-inducing. The modernisation of Twee heralds more Chung than Deschanel, returning to Twee’s 1960s inspiration; patterned tights, mod-cut dresses, bold patterns, chunky kits, granny cardigans, maximalist collars, puffy blouses, loafers, and berets. 

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It’s hard to label Twee a revival because it never went away. Alexa Chung has forever been the blueprint for timeless British style, and many Twee pieces are simply classics. The 2022 runways offered up some preppier styles, perhaps hinting at a revival, but the extent of this is yet to be seen. 

The 2014 Tumblr Girl adopts Indie Sleaze and Twee aspects, creating its own personality. The above photo is the epitome of 2010’s Tumblr; Doc Martens, denim jackets, tennis skirts, chokers, cuffed jeans, monochrome, anything American Apparel. Tumblr Girls listen exclusively to Lana Del Rey, The Smiths, Arctic Monkeys, and other sulky musicians, preferably on vinyl and a Crosley turntable. Hair is dip-dyed, kohl liner dominates eye looks, well-worn flannels fill drawers, and the quest to acquire Marlboro Reds is never-ending. 

As mentioned before, there is a distinct lack of 2020’s Tumblr Girls. Vogue suggests Olivia Rodrigo is channelling the revival as a ‘reformed Tumblr girl’ in platform boots, punk miniskirts, and experimental updo hairstyles – which all scream Y2K pop-punk, not Tumblr Girl. They stipulate that berry lipsticks are being swapped for peachier tones; checkerboard will replace the aesthetic’s beloved grid patterns, and straight-leg/boyfriend jeans will overthrow ripped skinny jeans.

To any actual 2014 Tumblr Girl, these are less ‘small swap outs’ and more of a totally different aesthetic. The staples of 2014 Tumblr Girl’s are the same as basics in many wardrobes today; denim, black, flannel. If you take away the styles as Vogue suggests, is this the same aesthetic? 

TikTok may be full of people talking about these revivals, but no one seems to be living it. There’s an apparent desire to label things, predict and plan them, but surely what makes fashion exciting is its unpredictability? Maybe the labels are correct, and these trends are yet to worm their way into enough lives to make a comeback. Perhaps we subconsciously cherry-picked each piece, incorporating them into our personal styles until their origin is unrecognisable. Or maybe the labels are wrong. 

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