Apologies for the cheesy advice you are about to read, but if no one has told you yet, you do not have to conform to an aesthetic. Another obvious but true statement is that social media has created a sphere where people create spaces to find like-minded people. It makes sense — most people gravitate toward comfortability — but it has created a division at the same time. People take their aesthetic seriously to the point where it feels like a rigid cage.
Let’s blame TikTok for the surge first. Since the beginning of social media, aesthetics were formed and people could recognize that, but it was not as defining. When TikTok blew up, it completely transformed what it meant to be dedicated to an aesthetic. Rules were implemented, and people scrambled to buy products and products dedicated to one aesthetic.
Glossy names some new aesthetics that have sprung in rapid succession in a very short amount of time. Clean girl, That Girl, Y2K, Cottagecore and Coastal Grandmother, to name a few out of dozens. Each of these aesthetics share similar ideas and styles, but they present themselves differently. It seems like not conforming to one is a sin when TikTok plays God. In a Google press conference, it was revealed that 40% of young adults aged 18-24 have turned to TikTok or Instagram for discovery purposes. A famous TikToker was quoted on a TikTok saying, ““I don’t even Google anymore– I TikTok. … Why would I Google something when I can go to TikTok for a 15-second video and get the full lowdown?”” Clearly, TikTok has a major influence on young people’s opinions and perception of trends.
Alert: Style Is In Trouble
According to Refinery 29, “In place of personal style, there is a performative exercise to buy and show off the It-item or -aesthetic of the month, and then throw it away when the algorithm tunes it out.” It’s because of an algorithm! A silly little non-sentient calculation. That algorithm decides the lifespan of aesthetics, and it is increasingly getting shorter and shorter as new ones develop. Hopefully, that takes off the pressure of fitting into a style. By the time your Amazon package arrives, a new one is already in place. What’s the point of this constant artificiality?
Many people have seen through these aesthetics and have called out the superficiality and constraining connotations TikTok has created. Influencer @Evanagetfit posted a video explaining why being “That Girl” is toxic and will lead to unhealthy expectations regarding self image and self worth. Trying to be an aesthetic is simply unattainable. It is not just about looks, but also how you feel. Even if you look like “That Girl”, do you feel like her? Do you feel like you have everything together at all times? Because this is what a rigid aesthetic implies — that you must be the best version of yourself at all times. While creators might preach against that, it does not negate the fact that enough pressure is created that the reassurance of not having to be an aesthetic is lost on the audience.
You Are That Girl No Matter What
So, forget the aesthetics. It was not meant for personal growth, longevity or happiness. You can wear a long white button down and still emulate Coastal Grandmother, you can do an Olaplex slicked-back bun and still be a Clean Girl and you can wear red lipstick and a little black dress and still be the Mysterious Girl at the bar. You can do all of that anytime you want. Consumerism breeds a need to continuously buy something in order to succumb to a desired aesthetic, but chances are your closet and makeup drawer probably having something similar. Trends evolve rapidly and do not wait for you to catch up, so do something nice for yourself and find what you actually like in the midst of all these aesthetics bombarding you.
VALLEY is here for all your self-identity crises, so remember that VALLEY would never expect you to be anyone but you. Your little unique self who should never worry about being anything but a person trying to live on this Godforsaken Earth.
Tweet @VALLEYmag times where you have felt the pressure to belong to an aesthetic and find your people who also do not get the hype.