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From ‘Mermaidcore’ to ‘SeaPunk’

Exploring the internet’s love of ocean-themed subcultures and it’s translation into high street fashion

While scrolling through TikTok, the video-based social media app that’s taken the world by storm, it wouldn’t take you long to find videos cropping up of aquatic dreamscapes, tousled hair and seashell accessories. Welcome, my friends, to the world of ‘mermaidcore’, the latest aesthetic trend based around the watery world of mermaids.

The fashion of the 00s is very much making a comeback, with teenagers and people in their early 20s emulating the looks they saw on-screen in their childhood. This is especially evident when it concerns ‘mermaidcore’, with wardrobe staples such as shell necklaces and a wardrobe palette consisting of cool pastel tones – right out of the wardrobe department of the 2006 Australian teen drama series ‘H2O Just add water'.

The stars of the show – Cleo, Emma and Rikki are poster children for the mermaidcore movement and it’s easy to see why. Even out of their mermaid form they oozed that aquatic energy that everyone is chasing at the moment, with a mix of the nostalgic 00s fashion and their permanent ‘on holiday’ wardrobe.

Lyst has reported a 51% increase in the search term ‘mermaid’

Major fashion labels Versace and Burberry reflected the desire for ocean themed attire with their Spring 2021 collections which showcased an abundance of aquatic life – particularly starfish. People have taken note – the online fashion platform Lyst reported a 51% increase in the search terms ‘mermaid’ and ‘starfish’, showing that ‘mermaidcore’ is truly taking off.

However, mermaidcore isn’t the first time we have seen a rise in interest in watery themed clothes. In 2016, when Disney announced their upcoming live-action remake of The Little Mermaid the world began dressing in metallic blues and turquoises.

Shiny metallic fish scale leggings and holographic seashell bags were everywhere, shimmer makeup looks were in and Bobby Abley released a collection directly inspired by Disney’s The Little Mermaid, with the familiar characters adorning the pieces.

There is something fun and magical about dressing like the queens of the ocean so it’s no surprise that the announcement of a live-action remake featuring the most famous mermaid of all time ignited everyone’s desire to dress like an aquatic dream.

‘Seapunk’ is like something straight out of the ’90s

Going even further back, to 2011, the ‘Seapunk’ movement was born after Lil Internet tweeted about a dream he had, stating “seapunk leather jacket with barnacles where the studs used to be”. From this seemingly innocuous statement came a whole aesthetic, mostly found on Tumblr, the photosharing social media platform popular in the 2010s.

Seapunk revolved around 90s iconography associated with the sea – think Ecco the Dolphin for the Sega Mega Drive. Music under the seapunk genre was also created and celebrities such as Azealia Banks leaned into the style with her 2012 song ‘Atlantis’. The music video features every bit of seapunk iconography there is and is a really good showcase of the subculture and its aesthetics.

Summer always makes us think of holidays; sunshine on the beach and a dip in the ocean. Of course, with lockdown, not many of us have had the opportunity to see the beach in quite some time so it’s no mystery as to why we are reaching for the shell necklaces and pastel blues. If we can’t go to the beach then we will bring the beach to us.

The subcultures of style centred around the ocean prove one thing – humanity is enchanted by the sea and aquatic life.


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