Remember the “VSCO Girl?” The emergence of this trend around mid 2019 from some corner of TikTok was the first time I can recall feeling old. It was introduced to me by a friend’s little sister who was visiting our college for the weekend. She laughed in my face when I responded to her mention of the trend with “Isn’t VSCO a photo-editing app?” I’m not even sure if I fully understand what a VSCO girl is to this day. But according to an NBC News article from 2019, the aesthetic can be defined as “the latest teen iteration of “preppy” style with a casual beach-inspired flare.” Essentially, people on TikTok were donning oversized t-shirts, hair scrunchies, and pukka shell necklaces–and it was all the rage.
As someone who prides herself on remaining consistently on top of pop-culture trends, as soon as I felt out of the loop, I made it my mission to finally give into the rising subculture and download the app that everyone was talking about–TikTok. But, as soon as I had, the VSCO Girl trend had seemingly faded, and the “E-Girl” style was in. I realized I couldn’t keep up.
Trends on Trends
Since then, I’ve become a more frequent user of the app. Therefore’ I’ve been indirectly exposed to a mass number of rising and falling micro trends. And, since I’ve become hyper-aware of their presence and influence among Internet users, I’ve also noticed that they’ve been appearing and disappearing faster and faster than ever before. In early 2019 , it felt as if one specific micro-trend would dominate the TikTok sphere. Now, they seem to move at the speed of light.
Off the top of my head, I can list the following TikTok fashion trends that came and went before I could fully grasp them: There was the “E-Girl” look, which was a re-stylized and objectively much more fashionable representation of the outfits I donned during my 2011 Emo phase. The “Cottage Core” trend, that spawned from Quarantine isolation. The “Dark Academia” trend, where social media users romanticized the aesthetic of college and studying without actually having to study. These trends seem to stem from one singular video that happens to go viral. Then before you know it, hundreds more of the same style pop up in their place.
The Problem with Micro Trends
Even a single item can become a micro trend, and luxury brands aren’t immune. Over the summer, famous Instagram influencers like Madison Beer popularized designer Vivienne Westwood’s Mini Bas Relief choker necklace. Suddenly, this vintage-inspired jewelry piece was the hot-ticket item for young TikTokers. This trend was short-lived, however. The more popular something becomes, and the more “mainstream” a label it receives, the less likely it will continue to reign popular. By the end of summer 2020, that $200-something dollar designer piece that hundreds of TikTokers and influencers had broken the bank for was suddenly deemed tacky and overused.
I might sound cynical in describing these micro trends. But, this mentality has a lot to do with two things. First, my lack of complete grasp on the ways in which young people follow and invent these trends. Second, the controversies that are so clearly embedded in these constant recycling of what’s “in.” Unfortunately, as fun and tempting it can be to chase the latest trend, it becomes both a financial privilege and an unsustainable act to do so. TikTok aesthetics and popular styles cycle so rapidly. This leads a lot of social media users to purchase mass quantities of cheap, unsustainable items of clothing that specifically align with one micro trend. Then, they often discard these items weeks later when the very same trends are no longer trending.
When Will It End?
This trend of rapid fashion-cycling on the platform is unsurprising. Alongside TikTok’s rise to fame in the past few years, hundreds of different corners of the app have sprung up. This leads to the rise of a ton of different trends that people become obsessed with instantly copying. If this trend continues, there will be so many micro trends circulating TikTok that they’ll be impossible to categorize.
However, I can’t lie and say that I’m above the toxic-yet-addicting pull of these micro-trends. I may or may not have impulse-purchased in the past based on aesthetically pleasing videos on my feed. Do I regret it? Maybe, seeing as most of my TikTok-inspired clothing items haven’t been worn out of the house once. So, as trends continue to pop up all over the platform, inundating viewers with what’s in at that exact moment in time, it’s important to consider whether or not you’re following the newest micro trend in a sustainable, beneficial, and useful way for your own personal wardrobe.