On & Off Campus Blog

Covid, Tik-Tok and Fashion: A personal reflection from Gen Z
Covid, Tik-Tok and Fashion: A personal reflection from Gen Z
Kaia Patterson '23

Millennial magazines, fashion websites, beware; amidst a year of pandemics, lockdowns,  and TikTok, attempts to attract the Gen Z population can now be compared with that of “pulling a rope of sand.” Nonexistent. Whether one has used TikTok, or not, best said by prominent fashion magazine Vogue, “its minute-long videos have become inescapable this year.”

If we are to discuss this new TikTok age of fashion, it is important to first explain what, exactly, these trends are comprised of. As an answer, I’d say a majority of these fashion trends correlate, in some way, to a 2000s style. Some, however, go even further back to the 1990s or 1980s. As of now, I’d say a mix of low-rise jeans, leather jackets, and Doc Martens have been categorized as the main staple for many teenagers and their closets. Withall, let’s not forget the iconic comeback of True Religion jeans, Von Dutch caps, and Vivienne Westwood.

Now, I wouldn’t like to call myself the typical fashion analyst. And in no way could I say that I have the credentials to do so. However, from someone who is simply and utterly a big enthusiast for vintage fashion trends, I do feel like I can confidently say that TikTok has impacted not only my personal sense of fashion, but also, the fashion of teenagers around the United States. Here’s why:

There is no doubt much of this new sense of fashion style has deeply been impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. As we stayed inside, pondering the means of existence, most of us came to find the need for a new identity. Maybe it’s the new identity of someone who found a passion for creative writing, or maybe, it’s simply the new identity of someone who found the love for a good book. For others, maybe it has become a mix of multiple newfound identities––one being that of a fashion identity.

I’m not sure about others, but I can personally testify that fashion is viewed by many as a form of expression. Best said by Psychology Today, “self-knowledge and self-confidence expressed through what you choose to wear is a life-affirming expression of your character.” Fashion designer Rachel Zoe agrees, “Style is a way to say who you are without having to speak.” Enough with the psychological analysis!

As we spend our hours scrolling through the TikTok “For You Page,” a teenager’s video on an outfit from the 2000s may appear. In admiration of their style, we click on the profile. To our satisfaction, a multitude of TikTok posts begin to appear with style inspiration, clothing ideas, and wardrobe tours. Out of mere interest, we decide to follow them. And thus commences the fashion journey of a typical Gen Z teenager in 2021.

Now, I feel the explanation as to why there has been a growing preference to vintage fashion comes down to one main reason: the typical clothing found at Forever 21, H&M, and Abercrombie lacks a sense of uniqueness––a uniqueness many of us strive to achieve when in search of a new way to express ourselves. And if vintage clothing means buying second-hand, not only have the benefits turned into that of environmental sustainability, but also, a cheap way to shop for pieces of clothing many cannot, exactly, replicate.

From the beginning of the pandemic, my love for fashion has continued to grow as I come to terms with my own sense of expression. From TikTok, I have learned about the clothing resale app Depop––giving me a chance to gain access to an influx of vintage secondhand clothing.

Now, I’m not sure how much longer TikTok’s influence will hold on the Gen Z population. I wouldn’t be surprised if it ends in a year or two. But there is no doubt it will leave behind an immense amount of impact on this Gen Z community.

I stand as a believer in change, a lover of books, a feminist, and a writer. Yet, as a result of TikTok, I also stand as a lover of fashion; I doubt that this will ever change.