There is a new generation of cool kids making waves on TikTok and they look nothing like the picture-perfect influencers of yesteryear. The new stars have risen up from the multitude of subcultures that the platform nurtures and with their alternative attitudes, they’re being hailed as a much-needed anti-dote to social media perfectionism.

One example that epitomises this phenomenon is the e-girl/boy (‘e’ being short for electronic). E-girls and boys are the Avril Lavignes of the 2020s.Inspired by the melting-pot of the Internet, their style is a mash-up of emo, anime and grunge and they spend a lot of time doing things once considered ‘anti-social’: using the internet, gaming and, of course, TikTok-ing. In the last six months, the number of Brits talking about e-girls and e-boys has risen 121%, to 14,000. Some well-known brands have even recognised the cultural power of these young TikTokers, with 19-year-old e-boy Noen Eubanks featuring in a recent campaign for fashion brand Celine.

Meanwhile at the opposite end of the spectrum, the adherents of cottagecore are evoking their inner grandma through matronly activities like dressing up in gingham dresses, knitting, reading, tending to their gardens and dreaming of escaping to a secluded cottage. Some credit the origins of this subculture to SoraBlu, who posted a series of shots from her rural home in December 2019 and who now has 170,000 followers.

This only scratches the surface of the multitudes of TikTok subcultures, but it’s enough to suggest that the new ideals of imperfection could change the way that brands collaborate with subculture influencers. Brands will certainly want to get the relationship right; the7stars’ study Life Behind Labels found that half of all people formulate life-long interests in their teenage years, and that 70% of people in a sub-culture group strongly identify with brands. So, don’t write off TikTok as frivolous fun, but consider the serious role it plays in the identity formation of tomorrow’s consumers.

BrandWatch, 1st Dec 2019 – 17th May 2020.

Life Behind Labels, the7stars x the Stylist, 2019