Flash photography, iPods, ‘90s grunge influence, outdated technology. I’m not just listing what was cool in the 2010s but describing aspects of the trending indie sleaze movement that is gaining incredible popularity right now.
Indie sleaze is the term Olivia V. — or @indiesleaze on Instagram — coined to describe an aesthetic that dominated the early 2010s. According to trend forecaster Mandy Lee, or @oldloserinbrooklyn on TikTok, Indie Sleaze relies on antiquated technology — I’m looking at you, wired over-the-ear headphones — grunge fashion, makeup and moody poetry. Think Alexa Chung, hipsters and the general vibe that emanated from 2014 Tumblr users.
If you know anything about trend cycles and the 20-year rule surrounding them, this may come as a shock, seeing how indie sleaze didn’t take off until the last decade. But, the evidence is clear. I mean, just take a look at the cover of Taylor Swift’s newest upcoming project, “Midnights.” The aesthetics of the album cover are highly reminiscent of those popular in the 2010s, with the use of Helvetica and the grainy photo with the lighter center stage which would’ve made Tumblr lose its mind. This, on top of both The 1975 and Arctic Monkeys announcing new albums, cements what I already know to be true: indie sleaze is making a comeback.
Now, as a survivor of early 2010s Tumblr, I’m unsure how to feel about this. On one hand, the idea of Macbook Photo Booth selfies and the unbeatable indie rock music scene makes me incredibly happy.
However, there are many aspects of this revival I could do without. The ‘Tumblr aesthetic’ at this point in time was practically synonymous with eating disorders. Amateur flash photography, an iconic portrait style to this era, was popularized by American Apparel founder Dov Charney and Terry Richarson, both of whom reportedly sexually harassed their models and employees.
Also, galaxy leggings. Ew.
All of this being said, a revival can be positive as well. A returning trend is never exactly the same as the original. Think about the Y2K revival. Sure, low-rise jeans are making a comeback, but they’re hardly the same as the ultra low-rise style which dominated the early 2000s.
There has been a rise in conversations about personal style, and the idea that you have to follow trends is dwindling away. In that spirit, this revival does not mean you have to revert back to your 2010s fashion sense. That being said, get ready to see more of this aesthetic, because indie sleaze is coming back.