While the “clean girl aesthetic” was once trending on TikTok, despite the controversy surrounding its name, it seems as though there’s been a significant shift across the platform toward a grittier and deliberately more unkempt style.
On Sept. 17, Russian TikTok creator @pusik107 shared a now-viral look at how she and a friend have been making an “abandoned place into our new home.” The “home,” however, appears to be within a dilapidated structure with what some commenters believe to be lead paint and mold on the walls. As of reporting, @pusik107’s 14-second video has more than 14.9 million views and 2.2 million likes.
After discovering the video in question, Akili (@cozyakili) shared his thoughts on the idea behind “squatters core” and the ways in which it has permeated popular culture.
“So I just saw this video of these two girls moving into Chernobyl. I think there’s lead paint on the walls. I’m not totally sure,” he said on Sept. 18. “I was looking through the comments and someone actually called it ‘squatters core,’ and I think that ‘squatters core’ is actually a really good name to describe a lot of the aesthetics that we’ve been seeing recently.”
Kanye West, according to Akili, has adopted this aesthetic, given his decision to forgo footwear as of late.
“Starting with Kanye. I think I’ve been seeing a lot of posts of Kanye running around Italy without shoes on. He also has his wife without shoes,” he added, referencing Bianca Censori. “And I think ‘squatters core’ is a good place to start with trying to define this aesthetic.”
On Aug. 26, Acne Studios unveiled its fall/winter denim campaign starring Kylie Jenner. The sultry shoot aimed to capture “Kylie transformed, stripped back, and undone wearing oversized silhouettes, and distressed and dirty washes.”
“‘Squatters core’ just stands out to me because of the emphasis on dirtiness, which is something that I talked about a year ago where I was talking about cosplaying as poor,” Akili continued. “The whole construction zone aesthetic. I mean, don’t get me wrong, Acne is one of my favorite brands, and I think Kylie looks gorgeous, but ‘squatters core’ is definitely what it’s giving.”
Is this ‘aesthetic’ controversial?
On Sept. 5, following the news of Acne Studios’ latest denim campaign, Hudi (@thethriftythinker), an advocate for sustainable fashion, delved deeper into the brand’s decision to sell presoiled clothing.
“I thought they were made dirty for the shoot, but no, basically all the clothes in this collection look like this,” she said. “Fashion’s gonna fashion, but I do have one thing to say: When fast fashion inevitably brings out copies of these, do not be tempted.”
TikTok user @fatmegstiktok pointed out what she deemed the exploitative nature of these garments, and the campaign in general, writing, “When homeless people do it, it’s gross. When working class people do it, it’s embarrassing. When celebs do it, it’s fashion.”
This isn’t the first time TikTok creators have vocalized their criticism of high-end brands capitalizing on the experiences of the unhoused or those who are in financial strife. Earlier this year, Magnolia Pearl, a Texas-based boutique brand, was called out for its “poverty core” aesthetic and selling of “hobo chic” garments at inaccessible prices.
The commercialization and turning of homelessness into a coveted sartorial aesthetic has long persisted in the fashion industry. In fact, the 2001 film Zoolander featured the fictional fashion line “Derelicte,” which satirized fashion’s glamorization of the homeless.
Some creators on TikTok have also been critical of fellow users who’ve decided to actually purchase pieces from the Acne Studios drop.
“This absolutely cannot be real, I can’t believe someone would actually pay hundreds for skid mark jeans, the elite are literally laughing at us,” @taleasoldastimes wrote in response to a video posted by Uli (@ulitruly), a 22-year-old fashion influencer who proudly claimed to have purchased jeans that “don’t even fit me” because she was influenced by Jenner.
“If you don’t get it, then you don’t get it,” Uli said in a follow-up video. “I feel great, I think I look great and that’s all that really matters.”
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