The Arctic Monkeys are considered to fit into the indie sleaze aestheticBill Ebbesen/Wikimedia Commons

As exam season approaches, my library procrastination reaches an all-time high. I find myself scrolling through a steady influx of termly wrap-ups entwined with celebrity posts on social media, instead of working. It’s hard not to notice patterns, right down to the captions people use and the poses people strike. Obscure moments are collated as vaguely disorienting blurs with practiced obscurity. The photos are hazy with nostalgia despite being taken only days before. The internet is adamant that it’s this pattern that shows the first signs of the ushering in of a new era: the “indie sleaze revival”.

“Suddenly, sweaty basements and packed warehouse motives couldn’t get more appealing”

But what exactly is “indie sleaze”? Coined in 2021 and popularised on Instagram and TikTok, it’s a catch-all phrase that refers to the aesthetics, fashion and lifestyle of the mid to late 2000s and early 2010s. In terms of fashion, this was the era of long slogan tank tops and metallic leggings. Pairing ripped fishnets with denim shorts, raccoon eyeliner, and stuffing fried hair under a fedora or any other equally quirky hat. Skinny jeans, aggressive side bangs, and thickly-framed, fake glasses. The word “indie” yokes together the Myspace/Tumblr grunge, hipster twee, and the #swag era that haunts so many. From Skins to Kaytranada’s infamous 2011 boiler room set, indie sleaze is generalised nostalgia for the 2010’s party scene.

This is a culture that we would have all been sentient for but too young to truly participate in. It makes sense to subconsciously gravitate to aesthetics that were once aspirational, simpler times in our collective memory. As the owner of the original @indiesleaze Insta account muses, this nostalgia was aggravated by the global pandemic. Suddenly, sweaty basements and packed warehouse motives couldn’t get more appealing. The backdrop of a recession, economic instability, and fear of the future is what propelled indie sleaze the first time around, which itself was a revival of sorts of 90s grunge. These parameters are all too familiar, and reignited a demand for unregulated, affordable, and slightly sticky fun (more formally known as the Fresher experience).

“The aesthetic only really exists in hindsight and is currently too broadly ranging to properly pin down”

Although I am yet to see anyone rocking glitter leggings and shutter shades in Lola’s, the similarities are uncanny. Digital cameras plucked directly from those years are becoming staples alongside undefeated film photography. People’s dorm room photoshoots start to match the grungy quality of American Apparel ads. Friends are snapped from above, eyes wide through an unfocused 0.5x lens, and nights out can actually be photographed as hazy as they feel without endangering a camera that took over a year to save up for. The shift in the way social media is used harkens back to early Tumblr pages with the curating of collections of visually pleasing and cohesive images. More emphasis is placed on what you like, what you see, and what you’re up to at that exact moment rather than solely on what you look like.


Mountain View

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No matter how many more fall victim to the ballet flat, however, we still remain securely infatuated with Y2K fashion. This may be slowly seeping into the late and mid-2000s but a longing for the millennium’s first few years still dominate the zeitgeist. Despite the efforts of TikTok trend forecasters and influencers, the trend cycle refuses to move as fast as they want it to. The 2010s will return but we will have a few more years before anyone would even dare suggest wedged heel trainers and galaxy-print leggings should make a comeback.

The indie sleaze revival may very well be coming but the concept of sweaty club photos and messy hair does not have to belong to a singular four-year window. The aesthetic only really exists in hindsight and is currently too broadly ranging to properly pin down. What we can be certain of is that, whether on Myspace or BeReal and regardless of where the trend cycle falls and how technology changes, young people will continue to be sleazy, and, of course, document it.