The Reincarnation of Indie Sleaze

How does one describe Indie Sleaze? If I’m lucky, you caught it the first time round when 2012’s eyeliner-smeared hipsters made it mainstream. Assuming that’s not the case, my best one line explanation is as such: Indie Sleaze is an aesthetic that celebrates the grotty and decadent party scene of the mid-to-late aughts. It aims to reproduce the dishevelled look of house party-goers through a paradoxically manicured selection of skinny jeans, leather jackets and graphic tees. Back in the day, before the reincarnation of Indie Sleazers, they looked down coldly at their preppy counterparts through intentionally poorly cut fringes. And upon its return in 2022, not much has changed.

This return might come out of left field to those of us versed in the 20-year trend cycle – the idea that what was in fashion 20 years ago will inevitably be en vogue today. Many experts have already pointed out, however, this cycle is speeding up. Additionally, as anyone who’s been making a concerted effort to match the pace of fashion trends today will tell you, doing so is getting more difficult. Why has the 20-year cycle accelerated? Theories range from blaming fast fashion companies, which push consumers to constantly buy new clothes, to accusing the internet and its ability to spread trends faster than light. Either way, while the seminal Indie Sleaze show Skins was airing less that 10 years ago, and it feels like our eyeballs were only just assaulted with the American Apparel’s controversial adverts, the disco-pant-clad, glitter-smeared and tight-ripped aesthetic is back with a vengeance .

Party scene in Skins

Upon first view, it might seem that Indie Sleaze is the recycled product of just one decade-old trend. In reality, it’s like one of those plastic bottles whose sticker proudly boast that ‘I’m made of 100% recycled materials’. That it is to say, if you weren’t part of the Myspace and early-Tumblr version of Indie Sleaze, you’re almost certainly familiar with its predecessors.

Let’s trace back its history. The aesthetic is the love child of the turn of the century Mc-Bling look (think Juicy Couture meets rhinestone studded flip phones meets Britney Spears’ infamous 2007 breakdown) and the nineties’ Heroin Chic style (a term that can’t be uttered without evoking the black and white Calvin Klein adverts that featured an emancipated Kate Moss). All of which, of course, were born of grand-daddy of sub-culture styles – Rock ‘n’ Roll.

What do these all have in common? As alternative styles, the sub-cultures give us the answer in their name – they are reactions against the norm. Indie sleaze is only the latest and greatest fashion metamorphosis for those who want to rail against styles that prioritise a clean, expensive and classic look. In the past that might have been the mods of Brighton beach or the preppy look of Gossip Girl. In an era of minimalism, green juice and pastel work-out gear, the Reincarnation of Indie Sleaze is trending for the same reason alt-style always has – as a way to tell the world you’re tired of perfection.

Words by Kate Bowie

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