My First Time Featured in GQ! I’m Talking TikTok and Gen Z Fashion. Seriously.

Gen Z expressing their style through fashion and make-up

It may be hard to believe (especially for those who know I wear CGK’s company shirt most days), but I have been quoted in GQ Magazine! Yes. That GQ Magazine. It’s exciting for me because I love style and trends, so being able to share my insights about the intersection of Gen Z, TikTok, and fashion was a lot of fun! Let’s dive into the article’s key points…

TikTok Style Tribes

Have you heard of TikTok “style tribes?” If not, you’re probably not in Gen Z. This new phenomenon of style-focused connection and community on TikTok is a direct result of the viral engagement created by the social media platform converging with Gen Z’s passion for fashion, culture, and emergence as trendsetters. In fact, 60% of TikTok’s users are in Gen Z. 

As Gen Z rapidly emerges as powerful consumer trend drivers, they are often interacting and engaging on TikTok multiple times per day. The combination of Gen Z’s heavy TikTok usage along with their focus on fashion and style has created TikTok Style Tribes which has given both the app and the generation unexpected and viral influence over style trends. 

While social-media-powered apparel, makeup, and style trends are not new, this past year put social media, trends, and Gen Z on center-stage as TikTok usage skyrocketed while the world went into lockdown. With virtual schooling, limited or no in-person social events, and very few everyday outings to put style on display, “style tribes” took to TikTok and have become one of the app’s big attractions.

Many of these “style tribes” are grouped by hashtags using “core” as the prefix to denote an aesthetic community—and the communities are endless! From the more eccentric #Clowncore and #GoblinCore to the more natural #Cottagecore, you can find just about any style on TikTok.

The “core” aesthetics are just the beginning. Many style tribes found on TikTok are also amalgamations of “things of yore,” such as past musical subcultures, nostalgia for specific time periods, and subcultural styles that were once often unique to specific countries. 

And while it may feel hard to wrap your brain around the endless style tribes, one thing we are seeing in these communities is their inclusivity, which is incredibly encouraging, especially with younger demographics. Many of these communities include how-tos and tutorials to explain the style and how to align yourself with the aesthetic. 

What Makes TikTok So Special When it Comes to Style Tribes?

CeCe Vu, who leads TikTok’s fashion and beauty partnerships, says in the GQ article, “What makes TikTok so special is the ability for people to discover, interact with, and even join niche communities they didn’t even know about before they joined the app,” says. 

These style tribes and communities, with their massive reach and inclusive nature, aren’t just changing the way people dress, they are also inspiring cultural shifts in perception and accessibility of alternative style.

So Why Do Style Tribes Thrive on TikTok?

Algorithm, algorithm, algorithm. The app is constantly linking users with like-minded creators. Because of this, TikTok has become an incredibly “safe” digital space for sartorial experimentation. With the intentional connection of like-minded individuals, TikTok creates a safe space where users can bypass those who might not understand and may incite negativity or ridicule. 

“When you scroll through a TikTok feed, you can very quickly see if someone is wearing the same thing, so [TikTokers] have to be very thoughtful about their wardrobe. The convenience and expedience of online shopping also make it incredibly easy for people to get their hands on counter-cultural garments. “[People in their] teens and early 20s have unprecedented access to selections that previous generations didn’t. The ease and almost expectation of returns have also had a massive cultural impact,” Dorsey said.

One of the biggest takeaways from TikTok and “Style Tribes” is that it all speaks to something much deeper than the latest trends in fashion: it is the desire to belong, and TikTok makes that happen.

“If you are the only person in your town that dresses a certain way, thinks a certain way, or likes a certain thing anywhere in the world today, you’re no longer stuck with that. You now have the opportunity to instantly connect with like-minded people and to be reinforced, recognized, and celebrated for your difference.”

The key question is if this trend will continue. In the near term, we believe TikTok will continue to be a tremendous platform of influence for Gen Z, trends, connection, community, and so much more. In fact, we believe that Gen Z’s ability to influence trends via TikTok is still in the early innings as many in the generation are only now starting to exert their consumer influence. 

Looking ahead, we believe that Gen Z, like other emerging generations before, will continue to drive style trends, selection, and insights that inform the behaviors of older generations. The style tribes on TikTok are just one great example of Gen Z leveraging newer technology to create outcomes that influence them and other generations, too! You can learn more about Gen Z and how they are driving all kinds of consumer trends in my new book, Zconomy. Learn more about it here. If you’d like the latest insights into Gen Z, please check out our newest report, The State of Gen Z®, which we release every year. 

Gen Z Generations Research


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