Remember: in 2014, when Tik Tok did not exist yet, artists like Lana Del Rey, Arctic Monkeys or Hozier broke record sales, vinyl returned and sweaters were worn with holes, a pair of Dr Martens or Converses on the feet. Less than a decade later, those who experienced their adolescence in 2014 may feel a cruel sense of deja vu: Arctic Monkeys have released an album, Taylor Swift also, and on social networks, Polaroid-style photos destroy They’re back. Will the internet make a comeback in 2014?
Already in 2020, the famous magazine Harper’s Bazaar, a top trendsetter, announced the return of Tumblr Grunge. On the magazine side voguethis announced in early 2022 the return of the tumblr girl. If we know that fashion and trends are an eternal renewal, seeing teenage girls reclaiming not-so-old codes can be controversial. Especially since 2014, this trend has come with some very problematic aspects: a certain promotion of eating disorders, a romanticization of self-destruction and depression, and a love of heartache and toxic relationships.
Tumblr, a generational and aesthetic marker
Flashback to 2000-2010: when Tumblr launched in 2007, it was one of the first microblogging platforms that allowed its users to have their own site, consult others’, and search for posts by keyword. “On Tumblr, you can post all kinds of media possible, text, images, sounds, GIF…. There was a very important creative freedom and freedom of expression,” explains Clara Defaux Clarinet, which analyzes media and internet culture on YouTube. With its principle of “reblogging”, the predecessor of sharing or retweeting, Tumblr offers the possibility of a “fluid and malleable” relationship with the platform. But above all, Tumblr has almost no restrictions in terms of the content posted: pictures of scratches, promotion of anorexia, pornography… “We called it NoBanTumblr: everything was authorized” recalls Clara Defaux.
A creative freedom that will shape an entire generation of “older Gen Z,” that is, those born in the late 1990s and who lived their teenage years between 2010 and 2015, amidst the turmoil of Tumblr. . All the more so that the social network of images was forged around aesthetics, which participated in the construction of some subcultures or countercultures of the Internet, as Clara Defaux explains: “these are gathering places for communities whose tastes diverged from the dominant culture. It was a grunge/indie aesthetic with artists like Lana Del Rey, Arctic Monkeys; fashion for vinyl and used clothing; stores like American Apparel or Urban Outfitters…”. An aesthetic that combines pastel hair and raw makeup, ripped pantyhose and teenage depression that seems to resonate with the young teens of 2022.
A throwback to 2014, really?
The return of Tumblr’s aesthetic in 2020 is also related to a sense of nostalgia born during the period of back-to-back shutdowns. “During Covid, we found ourselves in our room as we were in our teens… It makes sense to return to soft tastes and comforting passions”, develops Clara Defaux. “It is an aesthetic that has been quite significant and that will probably return with more force. Beyond the fact that fashion is cyclical and that time is shortening tremendously on the Internet, it is the same generation that experienced this period that is the opinion leader today,” she adds. “Old Gen Z,” the generation in their mid-twenties who experienced the Tumblr period in their teens, are now adults and depositing more financial assets than they did then: “The fact that they’re custodians of to this counter-culture, they can bring what they want back into fashion”
A large counterculture of quiet rebellion, focused mainly on consumption and exploration of topics around mental health: from 2014 to 2022, teenage concerns don’t seem to have changed much. About this supposed return in 2014, Clara Defaux prefers to remain cautious: “There has been a wave of small articles about the return of this or that aesthetic, but the trends are understood in relation to what is being done on Tik Tok, really . . And in Tik Tok, everything is going very fast, this does not mean that the whole Internet will return to it. Thanks to its sharp algorithm and very fast self-regeneration capacity, the short video platform recommends transient trends. So it’s hard to know whether Tumblr’s aesthetic is a grassroots movement or a surface rediscovery.