By now, you’ve probably already come across the following types of videos while scrolling through your feed; find your dream bedroom based on your aesthetic, your aesthetic based on your zodiac, cottage-core outfits tutorial, or even a dark academia aesthetic day in my life.
The rise of the “aesthetic” trend has taken the Internet by storm, and it isn’t difficult to see why. With platforms like TikTok, Instagram, Pinterest, and YouTube, users can create and curate their own visual style that aligns with their individual tastes and interests. Whether it’s through music, fashion or art, users can explore and showcase their personal aesthetic in a way that resonates with them and other viewers.
These aesthetic videos have become an increasingly popular trend among Gen Z, and TikTok has undoubtedly played a significant role in their rapid rise in popularity and influence. With the app’s unique ability to allow users to create and share short 15 seconds of video content, it has become a breeding ground for creative expression and self-discovery.
A Brief History of Aesthetics
In order to understand how the modern term “Aesthetic” is used in today’s media, the idea of aesthetics needs to be traced back to its roots. The Oxford English Dictionary defines aesthetics as “The concern with beauty or the appreciation of beauty”. However, the study of aesthetics is slightly more complicated as its rich history dates back to ancient civilizations where the beliefs, values and cultural practices of various countries have greatly influenced the concept of aesthetics over time.
The origin of aesthetics can be traced all the way back to ancient Greece, where Greek philosophers such as Plato and Aristotle pondered over the nature of beauty and its relationship to art. According to Plato’s Republic, art mimics everyday objects and experiences. In other words, a work of art is a copy of a copy of a Form. It was believed that artistic creations at best can be entertaining but deadly delusions in the worst situations.
Meanwhile, Aristotle argued that the beauty of an object is determined by its size or proportion and the way its parts are arranged in relation to each other. As said by Aristotle, “Beauty depends on magnitude and order.” Aristotle’s statement suggests that beauty is not just a matter of personal taste or opinion, but rather can be objectively evaluated based on principles of proportion, balance and organisation.
During the Renaissance period, which is the period in European history when the knowledge and wisdom of the Classical era thrived, aesthetics became a more secular and humanistic field of study as the seed of an answer to beauty was planted. Artists and thinkers such as Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo sought to capture the beauty of the natural world in their works. This can be seen in a book illustrated by Italian mathematician Leonardo da Vinci where he named a number (1.618) the divine proportion. This number, known as the golden ratio in popular culture, was regarded as the universal law of beauty as it appears in geometry, mathematics, architecture and even nature.
Flash forward to today, aesthetics continues to evolve and adapt to new cultural and technological developments. The modern conception of aesthetics may differ somewhat from the philosophical study of beauty, due to the significant demographic change. Nonetheless, the emergence of digital media has given rise to creative forms of artistic expression and new approaches to appreciating beauty.
An Analysis To The Different Types of Aesthetics
There are a myriad of aesthetic options that people can choose from when they are drawn to certain styles, but do not have the words to express them. Here is a quick study of just some of the many trending aesthetics, ranging from well-known and popular ones like the “That girl” aesthetic to more recent ones like the Kidcore aesthetic.
Cottagecore is a relatively new aesthetic trend that embodies the idea of slow living in a peaceful rural life. The Cottagecore aesthetic is about creating a warm and cosy atmosphere with an emphasis on romanticising and appreciating every little moment. This aesthetic is also linked with domestic productivity and the values that come with it such as mindfulness, self-sufficiency, and sustainability. It encourages the connection and appreciation of the beauty of nature. Activities such as gardening, baking, nature walks, reading and crafting are all central to the Cottagecore lifestyle, which emphasises the importance of comfort and mild adventure. Movies that are commonly associated with the Cottagecore aesthetic include “Alice in Wonderland”, “Howl’s Moving Castle” and “My Neighbour Totoro”.
Dark Academia/ Light Academia Aesthetic
Light Academia and Dark Academia are two similar yet somewhat distinct aesthetic trends that have gained popularity in recent years. Both aesthetics are often perceived as being Eurocentric as they both revolve around the love of classic literature, classical music, the pursuit of knowledge and traditional academics, but they differ in terms of colour palettes, moods, and themes.
With an emphasis on soft pastel colours, light fabrics and delicate textures, Light Academia has an airy and romantic feeling that is often linked to the love of poetry, art and literature. This visually lighter counterpart of the Dark Academia aesthetic draws inspiration from classical Greek and Roman sculptures, as well as from the picturesque settings of university campuses and libraries. Themes of romance, nostalgia and optimism are present in Light Academia which can be seen in popular movies and television shows such as “Pride & Prejudice”, “Little Women”, “Gilmore Girls”, and “Dead Poets Society”.
Dark Academia, on the other hand, embodies a darker atmosphere with a focus on traditional education, ancient Greek and Roman mythology, and Gothic architecture. The aesthetic took inspiration from universities such as Oxford or Cambridge Universities, libraries, as well as dark, atmospheric settings. Dark Academia is often associated with the romanticisation of learning, philosophy, and history, and it features themes of melancholy, nostalgia, and intellectualism. Books such as “Harry Potter” by JK Rowling or “The Secret History” by Donna Tartt are also heavily associated with the Dark Academia aesthetic as both books feature dark academic settings.
“That girl” Aesthetic
The “That Girl” aesthetic started on Tiktok, but later made its way to Instagram and YouTube, with many fashion and lifestyle influencers incorporating the aesthetic into their personal style and online personas. Women that fit this aesthetic are often in their early twenties to mid-thirties, posting vlog-style videos of themselves being productive and taking the time to engage in self-care. They maintain regimented routines that promote healthy eating habits, good skincare, fitness, productivity in work and study and mental wellness in a clean and simple aesthetic. Ultimately, the “That Girl” aesthetic is about working towards the best version of oneself by adopting healthy habits into their daily routine.
It can be seen as a response to the modern, fast-paced society, celebrating female empowerment and independence, while also embracing femininity, self-expression, and confidence. However, the aesthetic has also faced criticism for being part of the larger trend of toxic productivity and “hustle culture,” where people are expected to spend every waking hour bettering themselves in order to meet a manufactured and unrealistic standard rather than leading an authentic life.
The Kidcore aesthetic is a fashion trend that centres around reminiscing childhood innocence. It often features vivid colours, cartoonish images and references to toys and activities from the 1990s and early 2000s. It also draws inspiration from older, retro design styles like 90s graphics and neon colours as well as children’s media such as cartoons, and video games. Children’s television programmes like “Totally Spies!“, “Hello Kitty“, “Pokémon“, or “Bratz” all fall under this category. Some other common visual elements of the Kidcore aesthetic include pastel colours, playful typography, stuffed animals and DIY or handmade items.
The Kidcore aesthetic gained traction on TikTok in recent years as people sought solace and familiarity in the past. By providing a fun, upbeat alternative that values simplicity, joy, and imagination, this aesthetic offers a nostalgic escape from the demands and complications of adult life.
While the aesthetic trend has been around for a while now, its influence on social media continues to grow. As more and more users seek to express themselves creatively and connect with others, the aesthetic trend will continue to evolve and shape the way we interact within social media platforms.
Ultimately, the crux of any aesthetic is not about the perception or appearance but the things we do. Beyond just the visual aspect, the aesthetic trend has also helped those who share similar interests feel more connected to one another. This has created a sense of belonging and community, which is essential in a society where social isolation has become more prevalent.
Written by: Wen Li
Edited by: Poorani