Most 2021 trends had one thing in common: nostalgia. None of us were particularly pleased by living through a second year of a global pandemic and instead sought to reinvent the present by embracing the past. We longed for simpler times through our fashion choices and social media behavior. Nostalgia felt like a warm blanket. We saw the Y2K aesthetic takeover, the return of pop-punk, and most importantly, TikTok became the taste-making social media app.
And in 2022, I’m sure TikTok will remain the place to dictate fashion trends, tech revivals, and generation-spanning discourse. But which trends will emerge at the forefront of the app? Based on my conversations with TikTok creators, here’s what I think.
Turning vintage tech into fashion statements
Last year we witnessed the return of wired headphones as the “It” girl accessory of choice among Gen Z, which is the first of many vintage tech items to be co-opted by young people. Next up? iPods. At the tail end of 2021 several fashion creators on TikTok, including Kira Lyn Vaden, started using iPod shuffles as hair clips. “Since posting my video I’ve seen people get iPod shuffles to use as hair clips,” Valden told Mashable.
Another fashion creator, Myra Magdelen, upcycles an eclectic variety of vintage tech to accessorize her outfits, including keyboards, remotes, and CDs. “There’s so much outdated tech filled in thrift stores and I’ve always liked the way it looks,” explained Magdelen to Mashable.
Vintage tech nostalgia isn’t just on TikTok. Apple seems to be using nostalgia to their benefit. The October 2021 ad for its new line of AirPods resembles the iconic iPod ads of the early aughts. Both feature silhouettes dancing in front of brightly colored backgrounds. Additionally, Gen Z queen Olivia Rodrigo released a line of iPhone cases inspired by the Y2K aesthetic, like this one resembling a flip phone.
Overconsumption and a relentless trend cycle have people chasing the next hot item. Vintage tech as a fashion statement offers a solution to the accumulation of outdated technology in our homes, secondhand stores, and landfills. The existence of these items in our junk drawers, or just a click away on eBay, makes it an accessible trend. Vintage tech combines Gen Z’s two favorite things: sustainability and nostalgia.
Prioritizing personal style
The rise of TikTok as a major force in fashion has led to the overabundance of micro-trends. This was most evident by the infamous House of Sunny dress. On TikTok, you’re exposed to an overwhelming number of these micro-trends, and if you’re someone who tries to keep up, it’s an exhausting battle that ultimately wears on your wallet. In order to combat the never-ending micro-trend cycle — and fast fashion companies like Shein — personal style will make a comeback. It’s never been easier to cultivate your own style with the popularity of digital secondhand marketplaces like Depop and Poshmark.
Creators with irreverent and unique approaches to fashion have found a home and a dedicated following on TikTok. Many of these creators preach the importance of cultivating personal style as a means to battle overconsumption. Personal style is about approaching fashion as an investment, curating basic pieces you can see yourself wearing for a long time. Instead of adhering to micro-trends by cycling through new pieces, you can use a micro-trend as a point of inspiration for styling what you already own.
It’s never been easier to cultivate your own style with the popularity of digital secondhand marketplaces like Depop and Poshmark.
We can already see inklings of this shift to personal style on TikTok, where debates over the revival of the Twee aesthetic are currently ongoing. While some users are embracing the Twee renaissance, others are tailoring it to themselves and evolving the trend.
Like vintage tech, personal style is a sustainable force, making it ideal for 2022.
Logging off Instagram
Instagram is in its flop era, and 2022 might be the year young people stop posting altogether.
Instagram has gone through a major transition since the pandemic started. It’s shifted to video with the creation of their knockoff TikTok product Reels, and it’s made the algorithm even worse by removing posts from your feed as soon as you like them. By trying to become an app for everything, it’s lost what people liked about it in the first place: That it was a place where you could share photos with your friends. Now, the app is cluttered with ads and recommended posts.
Users also modified the way they use the app by “making Instagram casual again,” which involves posting photo dumps of “unfiltered” images that previously would have been b-roll footage.
Young people have been interrogating the app and its norms on TikTok, a social media platform where earnest observations and candid conversations take place in the comments section. So we might finally be at the point where we all just log out of IG.
If you’re wondering where people might post their photos instead, video photo dumps have been popular on TikTok for a while.
Deleting corporate accounts
Enough is enough. Brand recognition should not come from the comments section of a viral TikTok video. We’ve had to cope with quirky brand Twitter accounts for years, and 2021 gave birth to the corny brand TikTok page.
While these accounts are consistently trolled, some, especially on TikTok, have gained a benevolent following. Vegan beauty brand Lush made a bold move in November 2021: to quit social media in protest of its negative impact on young people. My hope is that in 2022 brands will either quit social media or behave like a brand rather than an internet personality on its social media accounts.