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8 Jan

BBLs are over, eye bags are in, smoking is

With the aesthetics of the 90s and early noughties making a comeback, are we also witnessing a return to the glorification of thinness and glamorisation of medication?

Within the early 90s, the style industry was dominated by waifish models with pale skin and baggy hair. Led by a young Kate Moss and Jaime King, and documented by photographers like Davide Sorrenti and Corinne Day, the trend was controversially dubbed “heroin chic”. It epitomised the last decade’s grunge-inspired nihilism, which served as a pushback against the glossy excess of 80s hedonism. The aesthetic is widely considered to have come to an end with the death of 20-year-old Sorrenti in May 1997. Soon after, the style industry banded together to condemn the look and models like Gisele Bündchen, tanned and athletic, rose to prominence, with Vogue proclaiming the “the return of the sexy model” and “the return of the curve”. 

Despite this declaration, thin bodies remained a mainstream ideal for one more almost twenty years, enduring through the shifting aesthetics of Y2K, Indie Sleaze, and Twee. Within the early 00s messaging promoting unhealthily thin bodies was rampant on largely unmonitored online forums and communities like Tumblr. With the prevalence of pro-ana (pro-anorexia) content, and the glamorisation of depression and medicines, in some ways the Tumblr girl was just heroin chic repackaged for teens. G-Eazy infamously paid tribute to the aesthetic in his 2014 song “Tumblr Girls” which opened with: “I’m in love with these Tumblr girls / With skinny waists and drug habits”.

It wasn’t until the 2010s that standards modified as “Kardashian” curves became sought-after, the body positivity movement gained momentum, and the wellness boom saw glowy health grow to be a standing symbol. For a moment it gave the look of the industry had reached a degree where it was finally able to embrace a large diversity of body types. Nevertheless, now, as we witness the trend cycle churn its way back through 90s and early 00s culture, as low-rise jeans, under-eye bags, and smoking make a comeback, are we in peril of returning to the skinny body standards that toxically impacted a complete generation the primary time around?

It’s unlikely articles or trend forecasters will declare the return of heroin chic in the identical way because the more palatable trends that succeeded it, but nevertheless, its influence has begun. “Smoking is back,” wrote the Recent York Times last month, reporting that in 2020, for the primary time in twenty years, cigarette sales had increased. Meanwhile, TikTok has declared BBLs (Brazilian butt lifts) over, in the event you imagine the various videos zooming in on the Kardashians’ behinds to point out a seeming reduction in size because the sisters undergo their Indie Sleaze phase. On the runway, low-rise, micro-minis and cut-outs reign supreme, while in print, Robert Pattinson looks worse for wear on the cover of British GQOn-screen, Euphoria’s chronicling of drug-tainted teenage angst recalls 90s movies like Kids and Basketball Diaries, with the show’s important character Rue and handsome newcomer Elliot perhaps popular culture’s most mainstream heroin use.

The trend has reached the sweetness industry as well. According to the children, dark under-eye circles are cool again, and a TikTok tutorial demonstrating learn how to fake it using concealer has been watched eight million times. Trend forecaster The Digital Fairy recently predicted we’d soon be within the “post-wellness party girl beauty” phase of skincare. “Skincare could be very entwined with the concept of wellness, especially in recent times,” she explains. Nevertheless, now we’re witnessing the “indie sleazification of skincare,” as brands like 4.a.m and Bad Habit rebel against and subvert these Goopified wellness ideals. “The main target [is] on living less rigid lifestyles… staying out all night, drinking and eating food that’s not healthy.”

“In January 2022, Beat provided the very best variety of support sessions for people affected by eating disorders in a single month in its history.”

This cultural shift has already begun to permeate our brains. On TikTok, users have expressed concerns about growing pro-ana content on a platform already rife with it and ED (eating disorder) online support groups have documented a major rise in members. Holly, who at 25 is an older Gen Z, can attest to that personally: she says she and “a minimum of five” of her close friends have “joined therapy or formal support for eating disorders within the last six – 12 months.” Lockdown was “definitely” a trigger and so too was the reintroduction of Y2K. “Especially the celebration of thinness and using thinness as an adjunct,” she says. TikTok’s algorithm has been showing her “skinny, predominately white, girls eating the equivalent of a toddler’s weight loss plan” for months. 

Lara, 21, joined an eight-week support group towards the tip of last yr, after a four-month wait attributable to a surge in people searching for help. She says despite losing her period and perpetually having no energy, she didn’t realise she had an issue because she saw similar bodies all around the media. “TikTok showcases regular individuals with so-called ‘aspirational’ bodies doing normal things, like dances and making recipes, which makes it easy to slide into the mindset of pondering it’s best to also appear to be that. In point of fact, one among the explanations they’re popular is due to their physical appearance.”

ED clinics, too, have reported a rise in people searching for assist in recent months. In January 2022, Beat provided the very best variety of support sessions for people affected by eating disorders in a single month in its history, a seven per cent increase from the identical time period last yr. “It is mostly now widely accepted that the media, and social media particularly, can precipitate or feed into poor mental health and disordered eating,” says Dr Heather Naylor, Clinical Director at The London Centre for Eating Disorders and Body Image.

As expected, messages through fashion, too, are triggers. “Harmful fashion trends, particularly through the 2000s, are sometimes engrained in weight loss plan culture and encourage an infatuation with weight reduction,” adds Tom Quinn, Director of External Affairs at Beat. “If a glorification of this era were to grow to be prevalent within the mainstream media again, it might be very harmful for someone who’s at risk of an eating disorder and will contribute to an eating disorder developing.”

Millennials know this cycle all too well. When heroin chic was first prevalent, 28-year-old Ellen says she “loved” Kate Moss and was “obsessive about” Amy Winehouse. “The Tumblr aesthetic was one other weapon in my internal arsenal,” she explains. “Not only was I depressed, but I wasn’t the correct sort of depressed, so I attempted desperately to align myself with what I saw. America’s Next Top Model, high fashion magazines, runway shows, and music videos – especially Lana del Ray – showed me that to be cool and successful you needed to be thin.” 

“I’ve definitely noticed there’s an enormous promotion of thinness in popular culture and on social media without delay and much less greater bodies on show,” adds fellow millennial Lily. “This time, I a minimum of feel like I even have the tools to grasp it’s misogynistic bullshit and that I don’t have to look a certain way. But at the identical time, I can’t help but feel body conscious because I don’t look good in any of the currently trendy clothes. They’re simply not made for my size 14-16 body.” Lily appears to be onto something: brands like Revolve appear to have drastically reduced the variety of diverse bodies on its site and others online have reported struggling to locate plus-sized items at their local H&M and Primark.

“We’re finding it hard to get curve models across the road presently,” a trend director at a preferred high street retailer tells me anonymously over Instagram, noting her work’s Pinterest board has been “algorithming to old runway photos” from the Kate Moss era. “Bodycon dressing lends itself to curves,” she continues. “But with trends moving more towards low-rise, midriffs, and separates, a number of people in the corporate feel it just doesn’t suit that shape.”

After all, until we stop buying into bodies as a trend, this cycle will proceed. “The sad fact is, bodies have at all times been a method to become profitable,” says recovering Tumblr girl Jemma. Every little thing is sold back to us and what higher option to sell products than to make people feel bad about themselves. “There’ll at all times be a body type that’s ‘in’ or ‘out’ – and I do not know how we’ll ever move away from that in our culture.”

Like Jemma, Ellen went through years of therapy to unlearn her disordered eating habits and recently has begun to need to implement measures to guard her mental health again: logging off, talking to professionals and reporting any triggering content she sees. “As a society, we have only now really began to heal and grow from the excessive skinniness of the heroin chic and Tumblr era,” she says. “I actually hope it stays previously.”

For those who’re anxious about your individual or another person’s health, you’ll be able to contact Beat, the UK’s eating disorder charity, one year a yr on 0808 801 0677 or through online chat here, or The London Centre on 020 3137 9927.

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