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The ‘Tumblr girl’ era is back – should we be worried?

Don’t put away those choker necklaces and disco leggings just yet; the ‘2014 Tumblr’ era is rumored to be making a comeback

Influencers Hinting at Tumblr

In case you haven’t heard, the Tumblr girl period is back – and bigger than ever before. Unlike ten years ago, when American Apparel tennis skirts and black wire chokers flooded our social media feeds, these fashion and cultural trends of the early 2010s are now being adopted by well-known influencers and corporations.

Kylie Jenner, possibly the most powerful influencer of all, ushered in the Tumblr renaissance just two months ago when she uploaded a selfie in a pastel pink wig, reviving her “King Kylie” days. “Suddenly we’re back to 2014 y’all, it’s finally happening,” one admirer said on Jenner’s Instagram photo. “2014 is alive and thriving, we love to see it fam,” another enthusiastic fan exclaimed.

Just a few weeks ago, TikTok sensation and pop singer Addison Rae experimented with a similar look. Rae took to Instagram and posted a selfie with the platform’s trademark “Valencia” filter, sporting a fur coat, frayed jean shorts, and sheer black tights underneath (the Tumblr girl uniform). “So Tumblr 2014 coded, I love you,” one person remarked, while another added, “Oh 2014 is coming back.”

History of Tumblr

Tumblr was founded in 2007, shortly before Instagram, which transformed visually-focused social networking platforms into ones that promote sponsored brand deals and digital storefronts. Tumblr’s blog structure enabled its users, who peaked at over 100 million in early 2014, to create an online identity and interact with a specific community.

Some believe that the alternative fashion trends of the early 2010s encouraged a specific yet prevalent Tumblr community: think disco leggings, Peter Pan collars, denim shorts over tights, and Doc Martens combat boots. A “Tumblr girl” archetype emerged, with a social media account full of low-contrast photographs of her grunge aesthetic and a vinyl copy of the Arctic Monkeys’ album AM.

Of course, social media has evolved significantly since then. In reality, the rebirth of the so-called Tumblr girl comes at an interesting time, given that neat trends like the “clean girl aesthetic” have dominated the cultural scene over the last year. According to trend experts, this is not an accident.

Rejecting Quiet Luxury?

Rebeca Oksana, a TikTok fashion content creator, has witnessed a shift in how people interact with social media. “There’s this trend that everyone’s been talking about that’s taking Instagram back to its golden era, when people were posting unhinged selfies and filters,” she stated.

It appears that individuals have gotten tired with perfectly coiffed and groomed social media accounts. Instead, they’re following fashion trends that appear to reject minimalism and quiet luxury. The mob wife aesthetic, for example, named after and inspired by mafia wives, has emerged as the newest TikTok fashion trend, with ladies dressed in leather pants, fur coats, and gold accessories a la Adriana La Cerva from The Sopranos. In fact, the hashtag #mobwife has received 24,000 TikTok postings in only one month, and interest in the “mob wife aesthetic” is increasing at a rate of four percent each day, according to Data but Make It Fashion. Meanwhile, interest in the “clean girl aesthetic” has decreased by 16% every day.

Perhaps this so-called “mob wife” fashion trend of 2024 is a way for people to bring the Tumblr girl of 2014 into the current decade. Anyanna Anako, a fashion content creator and trend forecaster on TikTok, has already noticed a rise in certain clothing items that were previously believed to be in fashion purgatory.

“It’s funny that such an archaic or ugly style is quite popular right now,” she told The Independent. “Even with the younger generation, Gen Alpha, what I see coming back are ballet flats in combination with skinny jeans as well.”

Make no mistake. While the years-long comeback of Y2K fashion provided us with the comfort of baggy and high-waisted denim, interest in skinny jeans, one of the most wicked fashion fads of the 2010s, has increased by 50% in the last month alone. It may be more difficult to convince younger folks to discard loose-fitting denim and cram themselves into a pair of restrictive jeans, but that’s why Anako feels it’s not millennials or Gen Zers that are mimicking 2010s fashion trends at such a fast turnover rate. Rather, it’s those who never got the chance to actually live through the supposed golden era of social media.

“I firmly believe that the fashion trends of the 2010s will primarily resonate with Generation Alpha,” she expressed. “They will perceive it as something novel and stimulating, devoid of the cringe factor or the sense of reluctance associated with revisiting past styles.”

This isn’t the first instance of fashion trends less than a decade old resurfacing; in fact, it’s not the first time we’ve witnessed the resurgence of Tumblr-inspired aesthetics in the cultural landscape. By the conclusion of 2021, trend analyst Mandy Lee (@oldloserinbrooklyn) observed a comeback of Indie Sleaze – a trend reminiscent of the cooler, more underground counterpart of the Tumblr aesthetic, characterized by provocative ads, amateur flash photography, and lavish displays of club culture.

It’s a well-established principle in fashion that trends from approximately two decades ago tend to cycle back into popularity. However, the rapid pace of trend cycles, facilitated by fast fashion, means that what we perceive as a revival – like the Tumblr girl aesthetic – has already made its comeback just two years prior. Fashion’s ability to swiftly replicate trends owes much to the prevalence of fast fashion, as agreed upon by trend forecasters.

“The affordability of fast fashion has driven the acceleration of trend cycles,” noted Anako. “This hyper-consumerism often commodifies identities, where individuals feel pressured to adopt new identities based on their purchasing power.”

In recent years, Shein, a Chinese-founded online retailer, has emerged as a dominant force in fast fashion, reportedly generating $23 billion in revenue in 2022 and being valued at an estimated $100 billion. Shein has faced allegations in multiple lawsuits of using artificial intelligence to identify current fashion trends, introducing up to 10,000 new items on its platform daily.

Oksana concurred that people “are becoming increasingly fatigued” by the constant flux of trend cycles. “If last year’s trend was the ‘clean girl’ aesthetic and you invested in gym sets and related products, transitioning to the ‘mob wife’ aesthetic would necessitate another substantial expenditure,” she remarked.

Is it truly essential to resurrect every fashion trend from a specific era? Let’s not overlook the landscape of both Tumblr and the fashion industry in the early 2010s. Reviving certain trends, even those as recent as 10 years ago, risks perpetuating ideals of exclusivity and body standards that were prevalent during that time. If Tumblr aesthetics are to reemerge, it should be led by a diverse representation.


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