What does 'aesthetic' mean?
The word 'aesthetic'- derived from the Greek word aisthetikos - is on almost everyone's lips these days! It seems like being an aesthetic person is the be-all, end-all for so many in our society. We've literally spent years watching celebs and influencers rock their amazing looks and aesthetics on every platform available, so why wouldn't we want to look as awesome as they do?
And that brings us to the main theory of this article. To experience your own aesthetic success, you first have to elevate your aesthetic sensibilities. That means taking your taste, personality, philosophy of life, perception of what's cool, and your own human nature into account to create an aesthetic that's purely YOU. The rest of society be darned ... or perhaps they'll even be inspired!
Let's get this party started!
Does the concept of being an aesthetic person sound intriguing, but you have no idea how to get started? No worries, we're here to help! Find out what aesthetic form tickles your senses, what type of aesthetic speaks to you, and what philosophy fits your lifestyle! Read on for insight and tips on how to cultivate aesthetic values and fine-tune your aesthetic faculties!
What are the main aesthetic types?
First off, it helps to know what some of the basic and most popular aesthetic types are. Here are 10 of them for your consideration and their definitions:
This fun look is kind of anime-meets-gaming culture. A stereotypical e-girl rocks dyed hair (color focused in front, mostly) and ultra-stylized eye and cheek makeup. You'll see a lot of freckles and rosy cheeks on their faces, maybe with some little hearts drawn on. Some e-girls are more minimalistic with their faces, choosing to go without much or any makeup. E-girls love their hair accessories (particularly clips), as well as jewelry consisting of chokers and silver tones. In their closets, you'll find more than a little mesh clothing.
Pronounced "visco," the name VSCO is derived from the famous app for photo editing. VSCO girls can be observed walking around their natural habitats in white sneakers or Birkenstocks. You'll never glimpse their midsections because they prefer high-waisted jeans or shorts on the bottom and oversized T-shirts on top. VSCO-girl hair is scrunchie-d into messy buns, and the look is completed with a seashell necklace. The VSCO girl stays well-hydrated via her Hydroflask-brand water bottle. The basic idea is to look effortless and low-key, even if it took some work to get there.
The soft girl aesthetic is kind of similar to VSCO, but the soft girl embraces brighter (think pastel) colors. She tends to love romantic looks, and her closet is crowded with lots of floral patterns (pink/purple are special favs), pleated skirts, sweater vests, and cardigans. But before you go all soft on us, know that you can add some edge to this aesthetic (for example, chunky boots and bold sunglasses) and still pull off the coveted look, as long as you maintain a soft overall vibe. Sift through Pinterest for images of outfits or art that fit soft aesthetics. A soft girl also listens to some pretty awesome music - be sure to check out the soft girl playlist elsewhere in this article!
Eons ago (OK, so it's only been a couple of decades), bands like Nirvana and Pearl Jam ruled the world from the US Pacific Northwest, and everyone copied their trademark flannel shirts and combat boots. That look has reemerged (for some, it never died). The grunge aesthetic has its adherents rocking mesh, plaid, mixed prints, combat boots, and layer upon layer of choker necklaces - and looking cool as all get-out doing it. But it all began with the music, so be sure to check out the grunge playlist elsewhere in this article!
Some may say the grunge's somewhat shabby exterior offends their aesthetic sensibilities but if they knew anything about aesthetics in general, they would know that there is beauty in the philosophy behind the shredded clothes and dark makeup. Grunge is simply an aesthetic people should define not by the obvious beauty standards but by its origin and they will find the artistic intention that goes beyond the subjective definition of beauty.
Tumblr broke the art hoe story, so to speak. This aesthetic started there, with the Black and LGBTQ+ communities posting cool, nature-themed art and collages.
While the word "hoe" probably sounds controversial, it's actually a clever way to turn the (mostly male) notion of "promiscuous" women, especially Black women, on its head. Its creators say the term art "hoe" is meant to empower and uplift participants of color, not to demean them in any way, shape, or form. The art hoe fashion look features nature and art, with yellow being the dominant color.
Normcore is basically non-fashion fashion. Normcores embrace not wanting or needing to have a 'look'. This might sound, well, antithetical to the idea of having an aesthetic, but hey. It is what it is. A normcore outfit is made up of plain-fitting basics that are not part of a trend and don't stand out.
Among other unisex pieces, you'll likely find Levi's jeans hanging in a normcore's closet. According to Wikipedia, the normcore aesthetic can also encompass neutral makeup palettes, coffee, the latest phone brands, emojis, social media, memes, and cartoons. An absolutely unproblematic aesthetic to choose.
You KNOW the baddie look, but maybe not by the name. Always Instagram-ready, a baddie wears tight dresses and painstakingly applied full makeup, and never walks out the door wearing even one piece of clothing or an accessory that isn't flagrantly, flashily designer (authentic or inspired). The baddie might be the most prominent aesthetic because it's the fav of beauty bloggers and the ubiquitous, famous-for-being-famous Kardashian/Jenner fam. Be sure to check out the Baddie music playlist elsewhere in this article - it will get you feeling fierce!
It feels like a dream - you're floating around, happily tending to your beautiful garden that surrounds your tiny, cute, perfect little cottage! What you're wearing is blissfully breezy - a frock fashioned from Cottagecore aestheticcotton eyelet.
Or maybe it's something fresh and floral! The Cottagecore aesthetic is all about bringing this lovely illusion into your everyday life. Prairie dresses are a staple of the look. Flowers and bows in your hair complete it!
Adherents to the Academia aesthetic feel the need for tweed! Whether that takes the form of blazers, sweater vests, or any other preppy pieces, this aesthetic would fit right in at an exclusive, exceedingly pricey prep school or a top-notch, obscenely expensive East Coast uni. If you like to go deeper into the definition you will find foggy cobble streets walked by Oxford or Cambridge students, books stacked so high they cover the stained glass windows of an old library, and artistic drawings of herbs and flowers tucked into the pages of a worn novel. Don't forget the rain and autumn vibes to go along with it!
In this case, "dark" only refers to the tones of the clothing (most often browns and blacks).
This is the same preppy aesthetic as described above but in lighter tones. Think whites, creams, and beiges when you're choosing those sweet tweeds!
PS: There's no "right or wrong" Academia aesthetic to ascribe to. It basically comes down to whether dark or light tones look better with your individual skin tone.
How do I create my own aesthetic?
Now that you know some of the main aesthetics, it's time to take what you love about them and cultivate your own aesthetic! Here are 8 tips that aim to help you do just that.
1. What's the first step to finding my aesthetic?
The answer: Getting Pinterested!
Just about every aesthetic person has their own Pinterest board. If you're not already on this social media app, you'll want to be, because it's the ultimate celebration of aesthetic appreciation! Browsing it often will expose you to literally endless images, as well as to tons of expertise from professionals with deep aesthetic knowledge and insight. It will definitely give you a sense not only of the many aesthetics that are out there making the world more beautiful but also a much better understanding of what you can do to create your OWN aesthetic!
Among the vast stores of visual art on Pinterest, you can find endless clothing outfits uploaded by other users. When you see the ones you like, pin them to your outfit board. Periodically review your board to get a good idea of the type(s) of styles you like most. From there, you can also create boards for hairstyles and makeup, as these also strongly reflect your aesthetic.
Don't get dis-Pinterested
Seriously, of all the aesthetic experiences you can have, spending time on Pinterest is one of the most valuable. The sheer amount of stuff to look through can be overwhelming - and of course, a lot of the stuff you see on the app won't appeal to your own taste or senses. But then again, knowing what you DON'T like will also be invaluable to you in developing your sense of style and understanding what will or won't work for you.
2. How do I optimize my aesthetic experience?
Find answers in your clothing closet!
A person who identifies as alloromantic experiences romantic attraction to others - whoever that may be. It is the opposite of being aromantic (see below).
Next, go to your clothing closet and have a serious look at your wardrobe. If you did the Pinterest exercise above and figured out the style or styles you gravitate toward, you'll know which of your clothes have aesthetic value to you. Thinking you might be a soft girl? Hang on to those floral sundresses for dear life! Is your guess that you're grunge? Don't throw out that fraying, fading flannel or you'll live to regret it! Potential baddies, whatever you do, don't toss any sexy, silky, TIGHT minidresses, because you're definitely gonna need 'em!
The bottom line for this exercise: Find your keepers and lose the stuff that doesn't work for your preferred aesthetic(s). Sell or donate all clothing items that don't have the aesthetic feeling you're after. The clothing that makes the cut will help guide your future purchases, and getting rid of what doesn't work will free up room for new clothing loves.
A few words about color. If you dislike brightly colored clothing and think it will make you seem too extra (of course, we only mean this in a fashion sense ;), you could go the minimalist route. Try rocking styles in black, white, cream, beige and brown instead of bright hues. But if lavender, baby blue, duckling yellow, ballet pink, peach, and mint make your heart sing, then soft girl clothing might be literally tailor-made for you!
Balance cool and comfy
While you're collecting all these awesome aesthetic objects of clothing, don't overlook comfort! Being in pain for aesthetic reasons - i.e., just to achieve a look - would be silly. Build your aesthetic around your current go-to's, like your fav yoga pants if you're into athleisure, or jeans if you always rock a pair that makes you feel hot. If you're into several different looks, that's great, too.
Final takeaway: To maximize your aesthetic experience, you should first and foremost wear what you are comfortable in, literally and figuratively. Now, we're not suggesting that you create a Slob Snob aesthetic and wear only muumuus, worn-out sweatpants, and fuzzy slippers, but comfort should definitely be a key part of any style.
3. Be influenced by the best aesthetic minds out there
Nowhere is the 'aesthetic' adjective bandied about more than on social media! It's a 24/7 celebration of aesthetic appreciation! If you have an account on Instagram, Snapchat, or Tik Tok, notice which celebs have a style and aesthetic values you admire and follow them. Chances are, you've already seen images and concepts you like, that really appealed to your senses, but just haven't incorporated them into your own look yet.
While we're on the subject of being influenced, note that it's best to stop there and to not to be an outright copycat (also, how many of us can afford to deck out in Dior every day, or even every year?). The idea is to use stars' and influencers' looks as inspiration. In other words, go ahead and rock those bargain-priced jeans Katy Perry was wearing or those sleek Everlane capris you saw on Duchess Meghan, but be sure your top is unique to you. Mix things up by wearing a little of them and a lot of you!
Being an aesthetic person means not only learning to understand beauty and its many aspects but also to rely on your OWN sense perception of what looks good on and works well for YOU.
4. What's a good place to get aesthetic guidance?
Just like the word 'aesthetic' is everywhere in our society, so are online quizzes about all things aesthetic - from aesthetic theory to aesthetic science to aesthetic sensibility, etc. Take any test you think might help guide you in your aesthetic education and help you to create your own look. The evaluations that online aesthetic quizzes make could help you come to a better understanding of what you like, and ultimately, to discover your aesthetic type.
Take note: While the questions might seem random, and the results are often subject to interpretation, most tests do take your personality and uniqueness into account. Keep in mind, though, that they're just internet quizzes made by another person who doesn't know you. You're always free to reject any advice that seems wrong for you. In fact, when it comes to developing your aesthetic faculties, listening to your intuition/inner sense is highly encouraged. Grab the ideas that feel good to you and run with them!
We simply cannot overemphasize the above point. Imitation might be the sincerest form of flattery, but in the world of style, it's also history! The real, authentic you should be reflected in everything you put out into the world.
5. Where can you buy aesthetic clothing?
After you've narrowed down the type(s) of aesthetic you might be, you'll probably need to do some shopping to develop your new wardrobe and to fill in any gaps created by the closet exercise above. Thank goodness there are SO many clothing stores online. You can easily see which store gives you the most aesthetic pleasure!
Word to the wise: This is where Pinterest can be your BFF, because store names/brands and associated links are everywhere on this site. Your clothing mecca - the key to your personal aesthetic style - is just waiting to be discovered on this app, we promise!
Keep in mind that you don't have to limit yourself to only one store. In fact, it's better to have several style-store go-to's for when you want to find that perfect new aesthetic object of clothing. After all, you don't want to look like a cookie-cutter - just yummy.
If you're on a budget, don't despair. Clearance sections and off-price, factory and thrift stores have you covered, literally. Who hasn't found a treasure someone else thought was trash at a thrift store or swap meet at some point? If the latter isn't your thing, watch for seasonal sales at traditional stores. The best ones drop around major holidays.
6. Is music part of being aesthetic?
You'd better believe it is! The word "aesthetic" mostly brings to mind what you look like, it's true. But just as your clothing, makeup, and hair are your visual art, music is your audio art. The music you listen to says a lot about you as an aesthetic person and adds color to your aesthetic experiences. Hip-hop and R&B tell people you're a baddie; alt-rock says you're more grunge, etc.
You get the concept. However, this definitely doesn't mean that you shouldn't listen to whatever music you darn well please! There's no wrong way to do music appreciation for aesthetic reasons. It's just one of the many aspects of developing your aesthetic and enhancing your life! Really, who could survive this life without their fav tunes?
3 sample playlists for aspiring aesthetic types
To get you musing about your musical aesthetic, below are three sample playlists. The first features 31-derful tunes for baddies. Play them and see what kind of fierce feels you get! (You might decide you're definitely a soft girl after playing a few of these!)
- "Sorry Not Sorry" by Demi Lovato
- "Get On Your Knees" by Nicki Minaj featuring Ariana Grande
- "M.I.L.F. $" by Fergie
- "Diva" by Beyoncé
- "Sleazy" by Kesha
- "Side To Side" by Ariana Grande featuring Nicki Minaj
- "Don't Hurt Yourself" by Beyoncé featuring Jack White
- "Formation" by Beyoncé
- "Like This" by Kelly Rowland
- "Flawless" by Beyoncé featuring Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Ngozi Adichie
- "Grown Woman" By Beyoncé
- "Independent Woman, Pt. 1" by Destiny's Child
- "Survivor" by Destiny's Child
- "Bootylicious" by Destiny's Child
- "Girl On Fire" by Alicia Keys featuring Nicki Minaj
- "All About Me" by Syd
- "Sex With Me" by Rihanna
- "No Scrubs" by TLC
- "Come 4 Me" by ABRA
- "Golden" by Jill Scott
- "Girl Almighty" by One Direction
- "Needed Me" by Rihanna
- "B**ch Better Have My Money" by Rihanna
- "Hard" by Rihanna featuring Jeezy
- "Killing You Hoes" by Trina
- "Feeling Myself" by Nicki Minaj featuring Beyoncé
- "Bad Girls" by M.I.A.
- "Love 'Em All" K. Michelle
- "Money Power Glory" by Lana Del Rey
- "F****d My Way Up To The Top" by Lana Del Rey
- "Truffle Butter" by Nicki Minaj featuring Drake
If after hearing some baddie tunes, you come to the conclusion that you just might be a soft girl, confirm it after a listen to these tracks:
SOFT GIRL SOUND
- Bubble Gum - Clairo
- This is Home - Cavetown
- S U N S E T L O V ER - S L O - M O S O U N D S
- September 16 - Russ
- Ain't Nobody Takin' My Baby - Russ
- Falling for You - Peachy! (feat. Mxmtoon)
- Ocean Eyes - Billie Eilish
- Boys - Charli XCX
- Pretty Girl - Claire Cottrill
- Hidden in the Sand - Tally Hall
- Crush - Tessa Violet
- I Fall In Love Too Easily - Caleb Belkin
- Flamingo - Kero Kero Bonito
- I’m Awkward and Shy - NVTHVN (feat. Tiffi)
- Prom Queen - Beach Bunny
- Beach Bunny - Sports
- Buttercup - MV | Jack Stauber
- Cherry Cola - Jon Kuwada
- First Date - Frad
- The Girl I Have a Crush On - Frad
- Bubble Tea - Dark Cat (feat. Juu & Cinders)
- Cappuccino - Ujico*/Snail's House
- Tsundere Jazz - Tsundere Labs, Inc.
- Vanishing Point - Woosta
- Tiny Little Adiantum (Deadman 死Mochi • 人 - Omae Wa Mou Remix) - Shibayan Records
- Cliché - Mxmtoon
- Stuck on You - Mars Argo
- From Here - Adib Sin (feat. Cae)
- Stalemate - Mochi (feat. T. love-sadKID)
- Screen Love - Trifect (feat. Slyleaf & Bien)
- Ultimately - Khai Dreams
SO MUCH softness! If you can't take any more and feel a real need to rock out ... you might actually be the grunge aesthetic. Find out! Play some or all of the 31 songs on the playlist below. If you can only get to, say, the first Smashing Pumpkins track (#5) because these tunes are just not your jam (and maybe because you can't stand Billy Corrigan's shrill singing voice!) you're probably NOT grunge.
- Nirvana – “Smells Like Teen Spirit”
- Pearl Jam – “Alive”
- Alice in Chains – “Would?”
- Soundgarden – “Superunknown”
- Smashing Pumpkins – “Today”
- Stone Temple Pilots – “Vasoline”
- Nirvana – “In Bloom”
- Mudhoney – “Touch Me I’m Sick”
- Temple of the Dog – “Hunger Strike”
- Veruca Salt – “Seether”
- Melvins – “Lizzy”
- Dinosaur Jr. – “Feel the Pain”
- Pearl Jam – “Even Flow”
- Nirvana – “Lithium”
- Meat Puppets – “Backwater”
- Alice in Chains – “Them Bones”
- Screaming Trees – “Nearly Lost You”
- Hole – “Doll Parts”
- Stone Temple Pilots – “Plush”
- Nirvana – “Heart-Shaped Box”
- L7 – “Pretend We’re Dead”
- Pearl Jam – “Rearviewmirror”
- Soundgarden – “Black Hole Sun”
- Mudhoney – “In ’n’ Out of Grace”
- Dinosaur Jr. – “Out There”
- Smashing Pumpkins – “Cherub Rock”
- Stone Temple Pilots – “Big Empty”
- Hole – “Violet”
- Alice in Chains – “I Stay Away”
- Tad – “Grease Box”
- Pearl Jam – “Jeremy”
Seriously - Pinterest oughta be payin' us!
Among all the amazing content on Pinterest is also - you guessed it - music suggestions! If you search aesthetic types, you'll inevitably find Pinterest users' favorite jams. Take those suggestions straight over to YouTube or your preferred listening platform and hear them out. If you find yourself really feeling any particular songs, chances are you're at least a little of the aesthetic they are considered to represent.
7. Be sure to consider ALL the possibilities
Like aesthetic theories, aesthetic types abound. Be sure to look at the many choices out there before making a decision of which one(s) to strive for. The baddie aesthetic (we're kinda nervous!), the grunge aesthetic (channel that flannel!), the art hoe aesthetic (those contemporary art socks, tho!), the soft girl aesthetic (so delicately kyoot!), and the e-girl aesthetic (cake on that makeup!) are just some of the top categories of aesthetic people.
And hey - social psychology and human nature being what they are, with almost everyone wanting to get in on the aesthetic game, you can bet people will create at least a few more aesthetic types before the trend has run its course. There are great new looks evolving all the time... they just don't have definitions, names, or big recognition yet.
It's actually good to lean into your FOMO (fear of missing out) when you're working on becoming an aesthetic person. Meaning, you might like and fit into more than one aesthetic category, so try as many different aesthetics on for size as you can. You definitely shouldn't limit your aesthetic experience or E-girl aesthetic define your style too narrowly! Combine all the looks you like, adding your own personal touches to reflect your personality traits... and of course, your good taste.
It might be tempting to go whole-hog on one aesthetic because it's quicker and easier than creating your own. But at the end of the day, it won't feel satisfying to model yourself after a template. This is because aesthetics are so much more than just concepts. You're a human being, after all, with many complexities (and a few quirks, natch!). You can't fit the whole universe into a jewelry box!
Are there any special aesthetic rules to follow? No way!
And please, don't obsess about legitimacy - that is, whether or not you feel entitled to adopt a look, that you might be a "fake" for doing so, or that you should possess some kind of special expertise, insight, or qualifications to choose a certain aesthetic. Seriously - you don't have to be an art history major or create sculptures in your backyard to adopt the art hoe look! Doing so might even inspire you to study art, or at least to increase your understanding of its many aspects!
No experience necessary!
You don't need to have special expertise to be an aesthetic person - just a desire to bring more beauty into your life. After all, plenty of people write without understanding the first thing about literary theory, right? The most important thing is to just enjoy what you're working toward achieving.
8. Remember: 'You do you, boo!'
This is not just the most important philosophical theory of aesthetics, but of LIFE in general! Simply doing you - being yourself - is THE best way to come to an understanding of what your aesthetic is. After all, it would feel pretty uncomfortable to have to maintain an aesthetic that has no elements familiar and comfortable to you.
Just be yourself!
When it comes to being an aesthetic person, above all, it's personality, personality, personality! So, strive to be an original, unique, and genuine person in all aspects of your life. After all, being yourself is where your true expertise lies. You are a work of art, so have some appreciation for the beauty YOU bring to the world!