Welcome to the year 2022! The hellfire of 2021 is finally behind us and we are now looking forward to … um, somehow. Technically, we’re starting the year looking back, at least that’s the case with TikTok. If last year was the final nail in the coffin for the era of the Kardashian-inspired BBL pandemic, then apparently the antidote to the Insta villain we are all looking for is the twee fashion revival in the mid-2010s.
The twee aesthetic – think Tumblr girls, Zooey Deschanel, cardigans, ukeleles, ballet flats and brightly colored tights, Morrissey before he was Morrissey, an odd obsession with mustaches, bikes, Williamsburg, Shoreditch, the movie Amelie, Pastels, Mary-Janes, and everything Wes Anderson ever touched – peaked in the mid-2010s. Inspired by mid-century modernism (the true twee heads among us will remember a shameful obsession with the overpriced clothes at ModCloth), a 2014 piece by The Atlantic on the twee revolution described it as follows: “You’re twee if you like artisanal hot sauce. You’re twee if you hate bullies […] Twee’s core values include “a healthy suspicion of adulthood”; “A firm focus on our essential goodness”; “The cultivation of a passion project” (T-shirt company, organic food truck); and “the complete abandonment of ‘cool’, as it is conventionally called, often in [favour] a kind of fetishization of the nerd, the geek, the idiot, the virgin. ”We all remember those GEEK T-shirts, all of whom wore their black glasses with their cinema glasses popped out.
Twee was an easier time. An era of being cool was anti-cool, and being a hipster meant telling everyone that you weren’t a hipster. Of course, as aesthetics became more popular, we quickly got fed up. When it hit the dizzying mass consumption of the Topman cardigan era, we fell in love with twee.
You’d think that since we’re only in 2022, Twee would have stayed as a fashion ick in the distant past for at least another decade. But as TikTok trends in the last twelve months alone have shown (think the House of Sunny Dress! would have to have? No? Do you remember hibiscus print? Avant base? Crochet outfits? Didn’t think) the trend cycle has become more hectic than we ever thought possible. Microtrends produce microtrends so quickly that even Shein struggles to keep up. Fashion always looks to the past to inspire the future, but when the past is no longer decades behind, but 2014, one has to ask oneself whether we have gone too far with our aesthetic navel gaze. The pandemic didn’t help either; Being stuck indoors for long has forced us to seek solace in the familiar and nostalgic. For a while, that only meant binge-watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer, move back in with our parents or buy a clamshell phone. Now it means a return to twee.
On TikTok (where all microtrends live and die), twee has emerged as both the antithesis and antidote to the last nostalgic microtrend we briefly enjoyed, indie sleaze. The hashtag #twee currently has nearly 26 million views on the app at the time of writing, with creators breaking the historic popularity of the aesthetic while others herald its glorious return. However, not everyone is so convinced.
On Twitter, people old enough to remember Twee’s first reign complain that they are unwilling to return to some of the more problematic aspects. For some, it was the fact that these ballet flats offered absolutely no support and smelled really bad. For others, it’s a little deeper.
The twee trend was initially dominated by thin, white cis female bodies. The childish gamine aesthetic popularized by celebrities with the same body types isn’t exactly a bastion of the same inclusiveness that the fashion industry and social media celebrate (or at least like to claim) today. Covering the end of the BBL era last month, iD writer Banseka Kayembe mentioned that its demise, while a problematic body ideal in itself, isn’t necessarily a wholly positive development. “For many women, the idea that the BBL era is coming to an end is both a cause for celebration and concern,” says Kayembe.
“For those of us with curvier bodies, the rise of the BBL aesthetic was initially a relief as they didn’t have to live up to the stem-thin body of the 2000s. A trend that for many created a dysmorphic view of teenage girls’ bodies and a constant urge to lose weight that lasted into adulthood. While the BBL style was still unattainable in itself, it paved the way for a self-acceptance of natural curves, no doubt at the expense of other women who then felt inadequate about their bodies. Ultimately, liberation from these trends requires a complete dismantling of the notion of body norms. ”While twee is of course a fashion, not a body aesthetic, we cannot ignore the fact that one cannot do without the other, especially when it comes to the stem-thin physicality that In the early 00s and still ubiquitous, the dark, triggering Tumblr days of the 10s were represented.
So we can hope for two things: First, when twee makes its fabulous return in 2022, it’ll be an updated version of the archetype (similar to the recent, more diverse relaunch of Juicy Couture). A kind of Nu-Twee that is more inclusive and offers more podiatry support. A happy return to the niceness we clearly long for after the dark days of the pandemic, without the annoying downside. Second, we can hope that when Twee returns, as annoying as ever, the endless jumble of the micro-trend cycle will swallow it up by February anyway. Next up is a nu rave revival! Or so.
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