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The rise of aesthetics

On YouTube, Gen Z is exploring and expressing identity types like no generation before them.

If you’re not part of Gen Z, you might not have heard of cottagecore -- but you’ve probably seen it. 

Cottagecore is a folksy, simple way of life that’s embodied by Taylor Swift’s surprise album, “Folklore” (homespun-looking clothing, candles, earthy tones). When this aesthetic started catching on, our Culture & Trends team decided to crunch the numbers and explore the data.

What we discovered was amazing. Cottagecore is just one of many aesthetics that since 2015 have racked up more than 1 billion cumulative views on YouTube.

So we dove into the worlds of other popular aesthetics, like royaltycore, dark academia, bardcore, Y2K, dreamcore and weirdcore. Each aesthetic has its own style of music, fashion, design and a core identity, with creators sharing playlists and guides for each one.

Here are 5 things to know about aesthetics on YouTube:

  1. Cottagecore is part of a wider rise in aesthetics that took off during the pandemic, when many people embraced an 'offline' world.

  2. Aesthetic guides and quizzes dominate in popularity. Creators detail how to bring all the elements of an aesthetic together in different parts of your life - music you listen to, decoration of your room, daily activities, beauty routines, outfits and more.

  3. Today's aesthetics are a re-interpretation of older teenage stereotypes; such as preps, jocks, goths and emos; but in a more niche way.

  4. Aesthetics are being adopted in all facets of someone's identity -- from their fashion and username selections, to book lists and mods they use on Animal Crossing.

  5. Unlike other manifestations of Internet culture, the world of aesthetics skews heavily female.

Check out this interactive visualization to discover more.