tiktok micro-trends

Why TikTok’s micro-trends aren’t just bad

TikTok has become a massive predictor of micro-trends, cores, and aesthetics. While they drive ultra-fast fashion, they also come with a good side. Key takeaway: finding your personal, long-lasting style no longer accompanies anxiety attacks.

Cover photo: courtesy of Nina Ricci

TikTok micro-trends and cores

The start of last year marked one of the first times I didn’t know a term referring to my generation and its ‘lack of taste’: cheugy, commonly used to express Millennials who are either “trying too hard” or are the “opposite of trendy.” According to The Standard, mainly Gen Z uses this term to refer to their predecessors. The New York Times was (back in 2021) the first to report on the aesthetic. Writer Taylor Lorenz refers to the all-important TikTok video of Hallie Cain (24), claiming she found the term “that you clearly are all in need of.” The list of characteristics of a particular type of Millennial is limitless (think of girl boss energy, side parts, skinny jeans, and so on), and Cain ends the video with a clear conclusion and the birth of a new term, and nowadays aesthetic: “The word, my friend, is ‘cheugy.’” The opposite, instead, taps into the needs of self-expression: “Looking good for yourself and not caring what other people think, that confidence exudes non-cheugyness,” explained Gaby Rasson to The New York Times. Don’t have a clear image of the term yet? Luckily, the Instagram account Cheuglife is happy to help.

I don’t consider myself cheugy, but the term made me think of the platform’s endless new ideas, trends, cores, and aesthetics that pop up daily. Last year there were the UGG ultra short classics, and Skims’ long slip dress, to name just a few. And then I haven’t even tapped into the cores: Barbiecore soon saw the light after photos of Barbie The Movie’s set broke the internet, Mermaidcore became a hit when the remake of Little Mermaid reached the public, and even cottage core, gorp core, clown core, and even Abercrombie core are a thing now – or better put: used to be a thing; when you read this, the chances are big that they made a place for new siblings. However, these cores rise as quickly as they fall; they can be considered micro-trends.

What are micro-trends? Micro-trends are trends that emerge in a wink of the eye and vanish as quickly. These trends often see the light when an influential TikTok creator introduces them to the audience, followers react positively, and consequently, they are pushed to the For You pages. Shortly after their massive popularity, TikTok users label them as ‘cheugy’. These types of micro-trends seduce people to fall for ultra-fast fashion when buying these super short-lived aesthetics.

Simply put, TikTok’s micro-trends aren’t good at all. At high-street fashion labels such as Zara, Mango, H&M, and many others, these cores foster the development of quick-to-market collections, often of poorer quality than the standard collections.

A positive note on micro-trends

Apart from the masses falling for these micro-trends and TikTok cores, TikTok is the ultimate platform to get educated about fashion and style, including finding your personal style. With the platform, you suddenly have access to the advice of the (usually) most exclusive and high-in-demand fashion advisors and even get a sneak peek into their closets if you’re lucky. Micro-trends, cores, and aesthetics offer a broad view of fashion, apart from the narrow view many fashion magazines still present these days.

Mircro-trends can lead to an enhancement of self-expression and a lack of it. “The inherently performative nature of microtrends raises the question of whether following these trends erases identity and self-expression or fuels it,” states Anna Mykhaylyants in an essay in The Harvard Crimson. It perfectly summarized both the problem and the blessing that come with these micro-trends. Young adults and teenagers are usually more prone to these trends, buying them at webshops like Shein and the cheaper segment of Asos.

Overall, the overload of trends leads to exciting, inspiring, yet sometimes exhausting content. The development of a wardrobe based on personal style, taste, and the right basics has never been easier, with TikTok as an infinite source of inspiration, though. The myriad of fashion videos and the on-point algorithm make sure you find whatever fits your taste, sometimes without you even knowing it upfront. Luckily for me, the minimalist aesthetic I have been drawn to far before Phoebe Philo left Celine is back in the game – according to TikTok and the most influential creative directors out there. So, cheugy or not, I’ll stick to it.