At the beginning of 2022, Vogue published a viral story proclaiming the resurgence of 2014 Tumblr style. Characterized by black winged eyeliner, ripped tights and Doc Martens, and moody black-and-white cigarette selfies, 2010s Tumblr style is making a comeback thanks to zoomers on TikTok embracing the trend, led by It Girls like Olivia Rodrigo and Euphoria’s Barbie Ferreira. The aesthetic (which was also heralded a full year earlier, in a 2020 Vox story on 2010s nostalgia) is also often conflated with “indie sleaze,” which eschews the muted shades of Tumblr style for eye-popping neons, gold latex and barely-there halter tops (think American Apparel in its Dov Charney era).
With the rise of both aesthetics, millennials are now dreading the resurgence of another 2010s style: twee. Popularized primarily by 500 Days of Summer-era Zooey Deschanel, twee was a combination of throwback, ultra-feminine 1950s style (think Modcloth teacup dresses and poodle skirts) with a cutesy librarian aesthetic (Peter Pan blouses, cardigans, and bangs so lengthy they threatened to obscure one’s vision). To some extent, twee has been repackaged with the rise of the ultra-cozy cottagecore aesthetic, yet the Coke-bottle glasses and pastel headbands have largely been left behind in the 2010s.
Over the past few weeks, however, twee has already started to make a comeback on TikTok, where millennials are compiling their favorite twee looks set to the tune of Deschanel’s band She & Him’s “Why Do You Let Me Stay Here.”
There’s been some backlash to the twee renaissance, primarily from those who have pointed out that the look prioritized a very specific body type: largely, that of a thin, white, conventionally attractive cisgender woman. “It wasn’t all Zooey Deschanel and mustaches,” one person writes in the caption to their post. “It was racism, fat phobia, SH posts and ED forums. I could go on forever.” If nothing else, however, the revival of twee will likely give some millennials a chance to break their ballet flats out of their closets (even though they were never that comfortable to begin with).
On this week’s episode of Don’t Let This Flop, Rolling Stone‘s podcast about TikTok and internet culture, co-hosts Brittany Spanos and Ej Dickson talk the return of Tumblr girlie style and twee, as well as Disney-Adult drama, “So Hot You’re Hurting My Feelings” chanteuse Caroline Polachek, and Kardashian kiddie Photoshop discourse gone awry.