On Topical Trends and Timelessness

Timelessness: The quality of being unchanging as time goes by.

If you’ve been on TikTok recently, then there’s a good chance that you’ve heard of the Clean Girl aesthetic that’s gone viral. Characterised by natural (or no) makeup, slicked back hair put into a bun or ponytail, and simple outfits and jewellery, often including light-wash jeans and hoop earrings. In the world of celebrities, this style has been championed by Hailey Bieber and Bella Hadid.

On the other end of the spectrum is the Indie Sleaze aesthetic, a trend that is seeing its biggest comeback since its inception in the late 2000s. Indie Sleaze is typified by dark, grungy makeup, dark colours, and clashing prints. Whereas the Clean Girl might spend hours doing her skincare and planning the perfect outfit, a lover of Indie Sleaze might just throw something on, as hastily applied eyeshadow and an ‘I don’t care’ attitude are all part of it.

In terms of origins, the Indie Sleaze trend was based on a number of factors. In media, indie rock groups and electronic music groups like the Arctic Monkeys and MGMT, websites like MySpace and Tumblr, and TV shows like Skins all embodied the chaotic and carefree vibes, sounds, and styles that came to be the identifying features of Indie Sleaze.

The origins of the Clean Girl trend, however, are more obscure. Despite being based on femininity, it hasn’t taken much interest from other, more feminine, trends of recent times like Barbie-core or being coquette. It has been suggested by TikTokkers and fashion news outlets alike that it stems from (and in many cases appropriates) Black and Latina culture, where hoop earrings and slicked back hairstyles have always been staple looks for young women.

So what has this got to do with timelessness?

The Clean Girl movement (as well as having a suggested dress code) also pervades TikTok in the form of lifestyle advice – motivation for studying, meal plans, skincare routines, and even dating advice. Regardless of how seriously you take it, the Clean Girl advice seems to attempt to ingrain a way of life (often focussing on modest femininity) into young women and girls that reads as a way to avoid rebellious teen phases and the fashion and activities that might go along with it.

In this sense, the Clean Girl movement does seem to promote timelessness in the clothes and lifestyle of its target audience.

On the other hand, Indie Sleaze is deeply ingrained in partying, concerts, and potentially getting up to mischief. Not only does this make it more appealing to a wider audience (especially those who remember the original Indie Sleaze era in the late 200s and early 2010s), but it shies away from timelessness by promoting fun and chaos, if not only for a few years as a young adult.

This experimentation lends itself to further evolution of personal style by experiencing more varied events, people, and outfits so that people can decide for themselves, rather than prescribing a more of a uniform-type wardrobe like Clean Girl content creators often do.

Of course, you’re free to dress and live however you want, and there’s no reason why you can’t mix the grungy style of Indie Sleaze with a Clean Girl mentality, or even the rockstar lifestyle of the Indie Sleaze movement with the minimalist Clean Girl style.

My advice has always been to find out what you like to wear and what works for you, and I think the same is important here – although trends can inspire you to try new styles or buy something from a different brand, its important not to let them take over your life to the detriment of your own personal style evolution. It can be nice to wear something and look back and remember that specific time in your life. Even if you look back and think “what on Earth was I wearing?!”, it’s important to remember that it brought you happiness in that moment, even if you’ve moved on from it since.