Much like how Tumblr spawned its many subcultures in the early 2010s, we can thank TikTok for doing the very same right now.
‘Fairy Grunge’ is undeniably one of the most prominent subcultures to have emerged across the platform over the last year, and honestly, it’s one of the most exciting aesthetics to pop up in recent memory.
Slightly harkening back to the Soft Grunge dominance of 2014, it’s part 90s, part gaudy 00s with a sprinkle of fantasy — think tree greens, browns, layered skirts, tatty train driver hats and smudged black eyeliner. Other accessories that you’ll generally find pop up amongst the fairycore crowd include crystals, clanky silver jewellery and elf ears, as well as an obsession with abandoned houses, forests and night skies.
According to the Fairy Grunge aesthetics wiki, the subculture can also be seen “as a natural evolution of the kinderwhore aesthetic (which also has deep ties with grunge), but goes for more of an ethereal twist.”
TikTok user thedigifairy also unpacked the aesthetic in this video, further explaining how fairycore or fairygrunge is much like other pandemic-born subcultures (like cottagecore and goblincore) in that it’s super escapist and nature-focused. If you take a snoop through the #grungefairy tag on TikTok (which currently has 50.7 million views), you can also get a glimpse into the overall vibe of the subculture.
To put it simply, it’s as if Lord Of The Rings characters dressed like they were in bands from Portland, Oregon in 1994.
If you’re still confused, allow me to introduce the reigning queen of the aesthetic – beabadoobee.
For those uninitiated into the beabadoobee cult, you probably heard a remix of her track ‘Coffee’ on your FYP last year without realising it was her. She’s one of the most interesting artists in indie rock right now, her most recent EP was produced by The 1975‘s Matt Healy and George Daniel, and to top off her resume she’s one of the ambassadors for Pandora ME’s latest campaign.
Look at our fairycore queen go.
The Instagram account – @hystericsnaps and its sister page, @hystericfashion—, chronicles the fairy grunge (and bonafide goth looks) the youth of London have been wearing over the last year. For the most part, the hardcore fairy grunge faithful seem to be UK-based right now (which makes sense, given the entire vibe is very Camden Markets / Vivian Westwood).
However, if my calculations are correct, the prominence of butterflies and draping silhouettes in the mainstream recently (donned by the likes of Dua Lipa, Olivia Rodrigo and more) show Fairy Grunge’s slight infiltration into the broader culture.
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Considering there are literally hundreds of user-made fairy grunge playlists on Spotify, it’s proof that aesthetic is here to stay too. The artists that seem to pop up repeatedly include Mitski, Beach House, Mazzy Star and salvia palth, and actual grunge and grunge-adjacent acts like Nirvana and Pixies.
They’re all angsty and fuzzy, yet dreamy and outsider — which perfectly mirrors the vibe achieved in the clothes and accessories prominent with the aesthetic.
Some have harkened that subcultures are dead because of the internet, but in reality, platforms like TikTok are keeping them alive. Subcultures give people the space to explore their identities through fashion, music and art, and while those communities may not exist as much in physical spaces, their online presence is so important. It’s not a new concept either — whether it’s Myspace emo or TikTok fairygrunge, these looks all chronicle the overarching feeling of wider society at the time and provide young people with the space to belong and express themselves.
You can suss out Pandora ME’s latest range of jewellery here, to express yourself and your style.Image: @radvxz / Instagram