Aesthetics vs identity: choose your fighter

Prachi Tailor discusses the importance of individual identity in an over-aestheticised society

The start of a new college year is akin to a blank canvas, offering a chance to redefine oneself, break free from constraints, and explore new horizons. However, in today’s age of subcultures and microtrends, it is easy to get ensnared in the allure of an overwhelming number of aesthetics. 

The Historical Tapestry of Trends

Trends are woven throughout history, each thread reflecting the values, aspirations, and social dynamics of its time. For instance, Persian men once adorned heels to assert dominance over the lower classes. The modern-day equivalents are it girls or, more recently, quiet luxury aesthetics. Intentionally or otherwise, trends are a means to distinguish oneself from the crowd. While this has negative overtones and may result in elitism, or worse, conformism, it is appealing to classify history into different trends in a conservative fashion. It is equally unpleasant to consider the replacement of historical eras by microtrends caused by TikTok, popularly known as TikTokification.

“Are we sacrificing the richness of eras for ephemeral trends?”

Trends such as VSCO girl and, more recently, Barbiecore have leapt off of our for you pages and into our everyday life. Pink is the colour of 2023 largely due to the huge press support of Greta Gerwig’s Barbie. It is incredible to see this movement of fashion in rapid succession, one trend after another, reflecting the ever-changing nature of social media. However, this acceleration can also be said to have disrupted traditional notions of style and identity. Meanwhile, some argue that these microtrends are an extension of fashion eras. It is essential to question the impact of their rapid turnover: are we sacrificing the richness of eras for ephemeral trends? Nevertheless, it is worth noting that microtrends also foster inclusivity, offering individuals a sense of belonging within a specific aesthetic community.

The Pitfalls of Aesthetics

Aesthetics provide a sense of belonging and a psychological comfort in adopting a particular style. As a result, a real sense of community can be created. However, there is a danger in becoming so engrossed in a chosen aesthetic that we neglect aspects of ourselves that do not align with it. This comforting community can soon turn into a community that becomes all too enclosing and impossible to break out of — I confess that I once kept a Polaroid of me and my best friends from high school hidden because it did not look good next to the posters I had framed. In certain social settings such as college, we become engrossed in an image of ourselves and how we are perceived by others. This obsession results in the creation of a person who becomes increasingly unrecognisable outside of the environment.

“The inner dialogue about one’s identity should not be a battle of exclusion, but rather a harmonious synthesis of influences”

I am constantly torn between being a mysterious girl studying in Kinsella Hall 24/7 or a Bollywood-obsessed Indian. However, my moral compass persistently reminds me that I can have both. Personal growth and self-discovery thrive in the balance between diverse influences. It is possible to be both deeply connected to one’s cultural identity and drawn to the mystique of academia. There is something excruciatingly vital in this. An extremely stifling college environment would be presented if we were all to follow a fixed pattern to keep in line with the latest trend. Who is to say that we cannot have both? The inner dialogue about one’s identity should not be a battle of exclusion, but rather a harmonious synthesis of influences. We need to learn how to live with our identity both within and outside a college environment. In a place that can feel all too overwhelming, it is vital to remind ourselves of who we are outside of campus.


Challenging the dominance of microtrends will encourage a more nuanced, authentic approach to self-expression. Let’s celebrate the diversity of identities and experiences that shape us. Instead of conforming to fleeting trends, let’s seek to transcend them, creating a space where every individual feels empowered to be their truest selves.

As we step into a new college year, let us be mindful of the transformative power of authenticity. Trends and aesthetics are threads in the tapestry of our lives, not the defining fabric. Embracing the full spectrum of our identities enriches our personal narratives, fostering a more inclusive, empathetic, and vibrant community. We need to allow ourselves to break free from the confines of microtrends and advocate for a more authentic, reflective, and informed approach to self-expression.