Last fall, Kim Kardashian yet again set the internet ablaze with a controversial magazine cover. Fronting the September issue of Interview magazine, she wore bleached brows, a shag haircut, a jean jacket, and not much else. The cover prominently featured her bare butt, which spurred feminist Twitter debate en masse, and the fact that she was wearing a jockstrap was also a point of contention. But I had no qualms with it, as the cover solidified a hunch I had been monitoring for months: Everyone is weird now.
Sure, Kardashian wasn’t in charge of the styling of her cover (that would be the brilliant Mel Ottenberg) and she may not have even been familiar with references on the mood board (Chloë Sevigny in Gummo and Cherie Currie of The Runaways). But the ultimate American sex symbol shedding her Skims and extensions for a mullet and spiked choker confirms the fact that no one is interested in being traditionally hot right now—or rather, that our ideas of what that can look like have shifted.
Kardashian was just one of several celebrities who had hopped onto the bleached eyebrow trend, making the once-alternative look the surprising trend of summer 2022 and sort of an It-girl rite of passage for the likes of Bella Hadid, Lizzo, and Kendall Jenner. Hadid, who always has her finger exactly on the pulse of the trends, started verging into “weird” territory in 2021, swapping her sexy model-off-duty style for a wardrobe styled with vintage finds. Doja Cat has done a full 180 from her “Say So”–era style, opting for surrealist body paint and drawn-on eyebrows.
The fact of the matter is that these women are—and always will be—hot. But in an effort to break through the monotony of too much content, too many appearances, and too many micro-celebrities, they had to adapt. So they turned to looks that were shocking, extreme, and slightly disgusting to push through the noise. In turn, they created a new breed of hotness that’s as intriguing as it is off-putting.
As with most 2023 trends though, the weirdification of literally everyone didn’t start with celebs—it started on TikTok. Quarantine allowed teens who were coming of age to find their own unique style outside the confines of the school hallways, and young adults were able to do the same since they no longer had an office dress code to worry about. And with all the time stuck indoors, it gave anyone with the slightest interest in fashion plenty of time to research the weirder side of personal style. We saw the great knitting and crocheting boom of 2020, as DIY alternative knitwear is a foundation of the weird-girl aesthetic. There’s also, of course, the Y2K boom that bubbled up during Covid, which opened the door to the “so ugly it’s cool” style of dressing we all know now.
The “weird girl” has always existed—think goth subculture in the ’80s and ’90s or early 2000s Harajuku style—but TikTok allowed her to be showcased to the masses. Creators like Clara Perlmutter (@tinyjewishgirl), Myra Magdalen (@MyraMagdalen), and Aliyah Bah (@aliyasinterlude) became niche superstars thanks to their alternative—and extremely divisive—senses of personal style, and President Joe Biden’s inauguration introduced Vice President Kamala Harris’s stepdaughter, Ella Emhoff—one of Brooklyn’s most premier weird girls—to the rest of the world.
It’s tempting to tie everything back to the pandemic, but in this case, I think it tracks. What goes up must come down, and after two years of sweatpants, overgrown eyebrows, and natural hair colors—not to mention the slicked-back clean-girl era that directly followed lockdown—it makes sense that the pendulum would swing the other way. We piled on the accessories to an almost comical degree, brows were plucked away or bleached into oblivion, and hair was dyed midnight black or vibrant copper—and the celebrities followed suit.
In some cases, of course, it just seems to be a case of shifting aesthetics. Aprime example of this phenomenon is model Amelia Gray Hamlin (also the daughter of Lisa Rinna). She moved to NYC for college and shortly ditched her full, fluffy brows and Cali-girl style for thin (sometimes shaved) brows, harsh contour, and leather corsets. Her looking exactly like model Gabbriette Bechtel (who was weirdgirling before it became A Thing) is almost like a meme at this point since it’s pointed out so frequently, and the two even did a twin photo shoot together.
Sure, maybe Gray Hamlin is just following the trends or she moved to NYC, got involved in fashion, and evolved her taste past high school—my guess is a little bit of both.
But then there are the celebs who are using “weirdness” as something deeper. Julia Fox, who has made her extremely experimental style a trademark, has mentioned multiple times that she uses her outfits, makeup, and clothes as a sort of “man repellent” as a reaction to the way she was sexualized after her Uncut Gems debut. Doja Cat has expressed similar sentiments, using her look to rebel against the beauty standards that were thrust upon her. “Now, to me, beauty is going against [the standards],” she told Dazed magazine in 2022. “I love when you take something that is maybe classically beautiful and twist it and make it your own.”
Former Disney star Dove Cameron has only become much more secure in herself since coming out as queer, and her style—which includes leather, studded eye makeup, and Iris van Herpen gowns—reflects this. “I came to the conclusion that so much of my identity was wrapped up in being blonde and who I was when I was younger,” she recently told Elle Singapore. “So, I dyed my hair and took some time off from being in the public eye for a couple of months.” She came back with a song openly referencing her sexuality, midnight-black hair, and a penchant for harnesses and latex.
This general vibe shift has also made its way to the runways. While designers have never been afraid to dabble in the untraditional, those willing to color outside the lines have become favorites. Collina Strada’s FW23 show, which had models transformed into creatures like frogs, rats, and horses, was the buzziest show of New York Fashion Week—no small feat for an independent, sustainable brand that’s worn pretty much exclusively by downtown darlings. Miu Miu has never been afraid to lean into the weird, but this past season, the brand swapped its cutesy ballet flats and miniskirts for a quirked-up secretary vibe that’s almost pervertedly prim, complete with intentionally windswept hair and BTS selfies shot on digital cameras. And Maison Schiaparelli, once a forgotten brand, has become the most sought-after red-carpet brand for those who want to make a statement.
At this point, weirdness is so common that it’s actually almost basic. “Dark Bimbo” Gabbriette clones are a dime a dozen, and bleached brows and wacky thrifted accessories are just as common among influencers as snaps of coffee orders and OOTD picks. But the pendulum may be just about ready to swing the other way: Discussions of “quiet luxury” are dominating TikTok, while celebs opted for dressed-down jeans and T-shirts at Coachella this year, which was once a place to let your freak flag fly. But here’s the thing: True weirdness shines no matter what you wear—think about how Aubrey Plaza’s grown-up Wednesday Addams schtick works even when she’s wearing a cocktail dress. Whatever the trends may be, weirdness is forever, whether you dress the part or not.