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The 2014 Tumblr Girl Is Back

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POV: The year is 2014. My drives to and from school are scored by The 1975, Halsey, the xx, Lorde, Two Door Cinema Club, Lana Del Rey, the Kooks, Haim, Twenty One Pilots, and the Arctic Monkeys—in other words, bands I found through Tumblr. On weekends, I line my eyes with black winged liner, experimenting with Sharpie pens to make sure it doesn’t smudge. I wear purposefully ripped opaque tights and cherry red Dr. Martens with everything. For concerts, my best friend, Jillian, and I draw black hearts on our cheeks, paying homage to Marina and the Diamonds’ “How to Be a Heartbreaker” lyric, “Wear your heart on your cheek / But never on your sleeve / Unless you want to taste defeat.”

In short, I was trying to be the perfect 2014 Tumblr girl, emulating our collective soft-grunge idols like Effy Stonem from Skins and Aria Montgomery from Pretty Little Liars. While she fell out of fashion in favor of new archetypes such as the cheerful VSCO girl and the rise of minimalist, athletic street style (the 2014 Tumblr girl didn’t wear biker shorts and leather blazers), she’s staging a comeback.

The return of the 2014 Tumblr girl’s style comes in tandem with the renewed appreciation for the indie sleazecore aesthetic, which became prominent in the early 2000s (think American Apparel ads). Trend cycle analyst Mandy Lee outlined the phenomenon in a viral TikTok. “I think of indie sleaze as 2014 Tumblr girl’s debaucherous older sister,” she tells Vogue. “Indie sleaze was much more flamboyant; neon colors, metallics, ostentatious displays of nightlife, erotic advertisements, and amateur-style flash photography. This aesthetic came up during the inception of Myspace around 2005 and integrates technology and social media into our everyday lives. On the other hand, the 2014 Tumblr girl was super moody, dark colors, simple silhouettes; she was a bit more of a loner.” The two styles are gaining significant traction thanks to content creators and fashionistas reviving their adolescent aesthetics. Now the Tumblr girl style is being revisited by its millennial originators, but also Gen Z, which has discovered and altered the trend.

Both indie sleaze and the 2014 Tumblr girl styles materialized through music and girlish rebellion. And both inhabit a culture of angst and nightlife that congregated through social media platforms. Indie sleazecore called Myspace home, while the 2014 Tumblr girl emerged through, well, Tumblr and its online communities focused on indie pop and alternative music. Marta Langston, a style content creator, said on TikTok that if you “had the phase in 2014, you probably never really grew out of it. I think that ‘grunge’ style in a broader sense will always exist. Tumblr was the first place to widely romanticize the edgy, mysterious soft-grunge girl. Perhaps it was the first time that more gothic-inspired styles were accepted as cool rather than looked at as just a stereotype for the social outcasts in high school.”

The Tumblr girl resurrection has subtle changes from its 2014 origins. According to Hailie Barber, a style influencer, “A lot of key pieces of that style have become a closet staple for millennials and Gen Z. We all still have our denim jackets, Docs, oversized flannels, and fishnets in our closet. Which speaks to the longevity of the trend and how it plays off of different eras in fashion like ’90s grunge.”

You could argue that characters like Maeve Wiley from Sex Education and pop star Olivia Rodrigo also take cues from young, grungy women from almost a decade ago, but with a twist. Wiley is known for wearing fishnet and black opaque tights, a dark fringed cowboy leather jacket, and either dip-dyeing her hair pink or dark chocolate for an alternative look. While Rodrigo is seen wearing chunky platform combat boots or sneakers, punk miniskirts, and experimental updo hairstyles, being a more reformed Tumblr girl, unafraid to experiment with color and early-2000s fads.

“The revival of that style now has a few differences,” says Barber. “Berry lipstick shades are being swapped for more peachy tones; there’s fewer grid patterns and more checkerboard; and ripped skinny jeans are being replaced by straight-leg and boyfriend jeans. We’re seeing less circle/skater skirts and more tennis skirts.” Grunge—whether it’s called the Tumblr girl aesthetic or indie sleazecore—is timeless. Though I’m no longer a teenager drawing hearts on my cheek, I still reminisce about getting a large X drawn on my hand at a small concert venue, waiting to see my favorite band for the first time. It may have been a phase, but clearly, it’s one that many young people will always be drawn to.


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