The Core-ification of culture and why it’s problematic 

Cottage-core, Bloke-core, Gorp-core, and of course, Core-core. I’m not sure when it happened, but adding “-core” to a trend has been the best way to describe niches of fashion in the last years. Which isn’t neither good nor bad. Just a fun way to describe the things we consume and identify with. Right? 

Well, it depends. While the easy-to-understand names have surely made fashion and trends accessible for more people, the art of core-ing has diluted niches, that weren’t even a trend to begin with – but a subculture. The best example showing that phenomena is “Bloke-core”. Bloke-core, a trend that some might already consider dead, reached his mainstream peak in 2022. In essence, it’s a laid-back soccer-jersey-jean-combo, featuring vintage and secondhand clothing. If you google Bloke-core (go ahead, just do it), you’ll find numerous articles, mostly from last summer, talking about the trend, delivering styling-tips and explaining how TikTok launched this aesthetic into the mainstream.

The irony of it all is that before TikTok co-signed soccer jerseys, they were already part of a larger culture. A culture that exists despite being out of style. “Bloke” was (and still is!) a term associated with a subculture that celebrates traditional masculinity, particularly in the UK and Australia. It’s connected to pub culture and, of course, soccer culture. The term “Bloke” is just slang for “Man”. But it does hold value.
Apart from the term that “Bloke-core” appropriates, the concept of wearing jerseys has always been an integral part of soccer-culture – all around the world. And traditionally, it was always the little man that rocked his favorite jersey. Not saying that rich people don’t like soccer – most of them just wouldn’t be caught dead in a soccer jersey and some joggers.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not here to reclaim soccer-culture. I probably have like four soccer
jerseys lying around in my closet, and I don’t even like watching soccer. I don’t think we should be gatekeeping jerseys. Similar to wearing random band t-shirts, I think putting on something that “belongs” to a local subculture might look a little goofy, but I don’t believe that it’s offensive. So, what’s my problem with the core-ification of fashion? In essence, I believe that it’s diluting already existing aesthetics to a point that subcultures lose their meaning. Let me explain. Older millennials might want us to believe that subcultures are dead, but like The Face explained in 2022, they’re just different now. But, depending on how one defines “subculture”, it’s not far off to assume that they’re not as strong as they used to be. Oxford Languages explains the term subculture as “a cultural group within a larger culture, often
having beliefs or interests at variance with those of the larger culture.” Meaning that, in
order to be called a subculture, a group of people first has to have a set of shared beliefs
that differ from the mainstream. 

I think I’m not wrong when I say that Bloke-core-TikTokers in fact, don’t share the same beliefs. If any, it’s the online fashion community that is a common denominator of the people in question. But apart from a shared love for something, the fashion community doesn’t really “believe” in anything. I would argue that it’s simply too big and too global to do that. So, could we call Fashion TikTok – or any mainstream online community, for that matter – a subculture? I don’t think so. 

In fact, I would argue that the real subcultures of the present times don’t solely identify themselves by the clothes they wear. And the “core-ification” of niches is just proof of that. Two people could be dressed “punk“, but only one of them actually believes in the values that punk-culture holds. So, one of them is just into the aesthetic, not the actual movement, and – in consequence – not punk. 

Obviously, the problem is not adding “-core” to an aesthetic. Rather, it’s the concept behind that. Turning actual movements into little trends, completely devoid of the values that they originally might hold. I would argue that subcultures are somewhat important to a society. They help in creating a more diverse understanding of modern society, even if the ideas they believe in never make it to the mainstream. 
I’m not saying that we can’t draw inspiration from them. If somebody wants to dress like a punk without actually being a punk, they should be able to do that. But as those aesthetics get commercialized (and calling them -core is just part of that), they lose a fraction of the meaning they held before. So what’s the solution? To be honest, I’m not really sure. I’d like to think that reading up on the subculture we like should be a good start. But then again, nobody is forced to do that. Maybe the “core-ification“ of fashion is just part of a greater trend? A glimpse of the future, where subcultures don’t necessarily mean that people share similar values? Who knows.