Indie Sleaze is back and it’s about to get messy

How the post Y2K era has taken social media by storm, creating a new fashion and beauty trend for 2022

It’s no secret that Gen-Z dominates the world of social media and the trends that emerge throughout it. Craving nostalgia for something that once was – or for some, nostalgia for something never experienced has been a common theme for everybody in recent years. Indie sleaze eases our longing for the halcyon days of the simple life – and simpler times. For some, this is the grotty, low-fi days of Tumblr, American Apparel and digital cameras. We want to be sleazy.

Provocative and obscure casual photography, mis-matched outfits, and a general sense of expression all bide to the notion of Indie Sleaze. Think a purposeful walk of shame and you’re almost there. Club culture is finally back on track, giving the trend the push it needed to take off. Young adults of the 2000s – where the trend has its roots – would create a community, and mimicking this will allow for experimentation with the alternative side without having to dive into a subculture. The trend marries into music and art too; we are seeing a new and updated version of what once was.

Via American Apparel

“People want a more nonchalant mash-up of things that feel right in the moment. Indie sleaze was ultimately about seeking pleasure, approaching life as a giant mashup, making the most out of the moment at a time when life was getting darker”

– Geraldine Wharry, futurist.

With the rise of photo dumps and shitposting on Instagram, the site is becoming more genuine, offering users a more natural and casual feel contradicting the otherwise made up and obnoxious aspect of social media. More and more people are posting what they like when they like; a sudden shift from the pressure that Instagram has built up over recent years. This grants a new sense of freedom of expression and an all-in all a low maintenance lifestyle, contradicting what we’ve pushed for in the past. 

Alana O’Herlih on Instagram

The days of Tumblr are back. Amature style, in-the-moment photography is on the rise and even captions are becoming garish. Megan Fox’s recent nonsensical engagement post being an example of this. After all, “…and then we drank each other’s blood.” is seemingly straight off a 2009 Tumblr thread.

Kate Moss, 2008
Devon Lee Carlson on Instagram

With this style of photography and verbal expression comes fashion trends. We are seeing skinny ties placed on outfits for example, alongside waist costs and many, many layers, mirroring the carefree, ill-assorted fashions of the time. Beauty is also becoming increasingly abstract and messy – on purpose. Alexa Chung and Kate Moss being ‘sleaze’ icons of the time, ‘it-girls’ like Devon Lee Carlson and Alana O’Herlihy personify the era with their dark, smokey, just-woke-up looks and clashing fashions. 


Indie sleaze is back 💕 Link in bio for all of The Cobra Snake’s party pics of @megsuperstarprincess ✨ #indiesleaze #photoshoot #nyc

♬ original sound – scalar quantity

The trend among Gen-z is said to have somewhat emerged from the climate crisis and ongoing challenges with sustainability in the fashion industry. With people being progressively conscious, Depop and eBay have become even more popular, infiltrated with genuine garments worn at the time. It’s 2000s low-fi hipster galore.

While you don’t need to panic yet as the trend is currently at micro status, forecasters like Mandy Lee say indie sleaze will be the next churn of the nostalgia economy in the next few years. We saw what happened with the take-off of Y2K, so dust off your digital camera and wired earphones (or win a bidding war on eBay) as it’s about to get tacky.

Jordan Ricketts