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An Analysis of Gen Z Aesthetics

Monte Remer

Lifestyles Editor

Art by Isis Coyle

Most little things are probably forgotten. Most aspects of the way we go about our lives are too unnoticeable to take down on paper or—in recent memory—too much like individual atoms of a needle inside the haystack of biblical proportions that is the internet. When future generations look back on this time, they might wonder how people really lived amongst it all. For want of a clear snapshot of a place and time, they might wonder what we saw. Looking around at the aesthetics of students on Willamette's campus, this is what I see.

Unabashed Zoomer

Speaking of the internet, herein are the egirls, eboys, eNBs and so forth. This group—and these terms for those unfamiliar—define those who outwardly embrace the internet age. Sweaters, sneakers and comfy pants are common amongst them as if the body is but a vessel whose want of comfort must be efficiently dealt with to make time for the mind's digital stimulation. In constantly affixed earbuds or cat headphones, esoteric music is playing. Video games are hotly debated and memes are not so much currency as lifeblood. When someone of this aesthetic raises their phone and says "Hey, look at this," they are like an orchard keeper offering you their finest rose this spring.


There's remarkable consistency here. Shirts, shorts and merch from various sports teams have all been around the block and they walk it still. Someone in such garb might stop you and compliment your shoes. There is a deep respect for shoes among Jocks. Earbuds here too are largely ever present, typically playing something popular like Bad Bunny or Kendrick Lamar. Jocks tend to be as steeped in Gen Z culture as Unabashed Zoomers, though far more earnest. Gen Z slang among them is less ironic, Jocks use terms like "fire," "on God" and "L" without fear of judgment.


Upon the death of Kurt Cobain or maybe the thirtieth birthday of Billie Joe Armstrong, the punk crowd must have split into two groups. One group headed out on their skateboards, the other to hitch hike with their guitars. The first group was assimilated into other aesthetics. The guitarists, however, traveled into music like spelunkers into a cave—thus the Alternative aesthetic was born. There's lots of things with any aesthetic to discuss, but music reigns supreme here. Gems from the cave's most obscure depths are highly prized—bands like Ghost and Youth Fountain—but some popular stuff is also beloved, from R.E.M. to Modest Mouse. Spotify playlists are impeccably curated and clothing is usually related to some band or another.


Maybe this one comes easier at Willamette. Eaton and Lausanne's Gothic architecture and the Hatfield Library's 70s design lend themselves to the smell of old books and the sounds of vinyl. So many students long to buy a Volkswagen bus and drive it to every thrift shop around Salem. Cottagecore and Dark Academia aesthetics come out of this general group, though more often people who generally prescribe to Vintagecore tend to have a broader mix and match romanticization of the past. Bell bottoms are coming back as students voluntarily read Greek mythology. "Stranger Things" and Stephen King adaptations have made Gen Z enamored of the 80s as the early internet of the 90s and 2000s have spawned things like analog horror and the weirdcore aesthetic. A teenager's knowledge of both Shakespeare and Revolutionary War Era America—particularly surrounding Alexander Hamilton—is nowadays surprisingly comprehensive. Such devotees of vintagecore stand on the shore and let the waves of past eras wash over them.


Simply existing is a virtue and a lot of people have a knack for it. "Chill" is a popular Gen Z word to describe a general sense of peace and goodness. Dorm rooms of the Chill aesthetic are likely to have a coffee on the counter next to some well kept plants. Lo-fi or something by Taylor Swift is playing in the background, Netflix on the TV. Posters of Pink Floyd and Prince line the walls. Places like these are ideal for being cozy in leggings or jeans, perhaps a sweater or just whatever feels comfortable. There's no upheaval of the world here. Why would there be? The world is a pretty cool place. While other aesthetics cultivate the perfect microculture within their rooms and lives, people in the Chill aesthetic remind everyone that they can always open up the blinds and take a minute to appreciate the simple beauty of existence, most of all being here to appreciate it.

What aesthetic are you? Tell us in the comments below.

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Sage Lamott
Sage Lamott
Sep 12, 2023


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