Indie Sleaze: Another Very Tumblr Trend Is Back To The Spotlight
"We can now say that it is based on American Apparel and Urban Outfitters from over a decade ago."
Over a decade ago, somewhere around 2008 I would say, we started to see a very specific group of people emerge. They were wearing most American Apparel - especially the gold lamé leggings - and listening to music that would still be mistaken for disco, indie or rave - but it was something that was all of those and none of them at the same time. And they were very good at partying, like, very good. Just dancing the night away to electro-pop music that I could never enjoy, but it seemed to work just fine for them. I mean, I was six years old at the time, but speaking from today's perspective, you know? Also, I watched Skins at a very young age so I feel like I’ve lived it all. However, those were the hipsters, and I know you remember them - even if it was considered a dead style for a while.
But it seems like someone was wrong about it, and the style is not dead at all. Actually, it is now back at - almost - full force, with just a little change: it is now called Indie Sleaze. I know it might be a little strange to see how fast trend cycles are happening now and we’re already taking back a trend that was popular merely 10 years ago, but if Bella Hadid was showing evidence of it then who are we to deny, right? And as if it wasn’t enough to make us fall for something, that’s not even all we have. Lace ankle socks seem to be back, same with mid-aughts staple of black ankle-length leggings and bohemian-style dresses. There’s even a talk about ‘vintage American Apparel’ on TikTok.
The Indie Sleaze take on the hipster style is a lot more specific than the first time it showed up. Because we have somewhere to go back and take inspiration on the dos and don'ts. We can now say that it is based on American Apparel and Urban Outfitters from over a decade ago. It is a big go back to MySpace and other media platforms that were popular at the time. But most of all, it is about Gen Z wanting to live at a time where they were too young to live - and even to remember. I was six, and I’m not even in the youngest Gen Z group, so imagine how little those kids were. We want to dress like it’s 2008 and we saw on TV at an age that was even a little inappropriate for us to watch shows like Skins, but we just can’t help to love how tacky and random it is.
I believe that what really made Gen Z so hooked on the style now is that it mixes being trendy and being kind of trashy at the same time, so it will probably make people have an opinion on every outfit - and we do love to make a little scene. People are even considering going back to skinny jeans now, so it’s a big deal. Match those with white granny socks, faux-leather loafers, an oversized graphic tee and accessorize with pearls, cross necklaces, or bow headbands and you’re good to go! The goal is to make it look very organic and as if you didn’t spend a lot of time in front of the mirror making it look like you didn’t just do that. Also, the lifestyle attached to it requires not caring about what other people think and living at the moment, so no phones in hand or camera poses - so just pose as if you're being spontaneous, you know how. Make it look like you’re having genuine fun and feeling totally free, as people could still be before everyone started living on social media and being always ready to be photographed. I promise you’ll get some very nice candid photos to your Insta feed.
When we think about it, it makes just sense that the nostalgia trend lands on the 2010’s after a long time in the late 90s and y2k. And more than that, it serves Gen Z needs of going in the extreme opposite direction of millennials' aesthetic, marked by being minimalist and very basic. The new trend allows us to have fun, to be messy and to create a little chaos, some of my generation’s favorite things. But there’s more to it than that: it is a way to live back in the last time that it was possible to live life just a little more away from the ravages of late capitalism. It’s not really about wanting to party hard, but to experience life in a cheaper way, as if we could just leave our phones at home and go watch some unknown artist in a basement somewhere with no bigger consequences. Before we’ve been consumed by the online world - I mean, there’s even a whole virtual world now, not even us that were basically born with a phone in our hands are very excited about it.
From the kids perspective I had back then, the teenage one I got from watching tv shows and from doing my research nowadays, I can say that it’s actually the first time that this aesthetic can be considered mainstream. Actually, most people didn’t want to wear neon clothes, fry their hair and go all in in black eyeliner. So as much as it is a nostalgic trend, it is actually, in a way, the first time it is a total trend like this. Also, there are some aspects to be discussed about the values and morals of the time, but I don’t think those will come back just because skinny jeans and graphic tees are doing so, so let’s not get pre-occupied with that. If I was going to talk about the down sides of Indie Sleaze, those would be the starvation-thin bodies, drug abuse, and a lot of cultural appropriation - I’m sure you remember the clothes people used to wear to Coachella, I just don’t see how it was considered so normal and fine back then. But again, I wasn’t even ten.
There are always downsides to every trend that comes back - and the growing love for super thin bodies might be one of the most important for now, and there’s no point in pretending that the first appearance of the indie sleaze was perfect and innocent. But when we look at it as if we don’t live chronically online everyday, we can see how it represents a pacific form of protest and resistance against the direction that our society - and the world as a whole - is going into. All I can say is that if the people love indie sleaze, long live to it - or as long as TikTok thinks is right.