Is ‘Indie Sleaze’ the New Y2K? Here’s What You Need to Know About This Tumblr-Era Fashion Trend

Very few things about the past two years have felt normal. And while there is a working theory that fashion trends tend to resurface every 20 years or so, we still didn’t quite believe that the butterfly tops, glitter eye shadow, platform sandals and low-rise jeans of the Y2K era would actually make a return. But return they did, and now their even more questionable successors are primed and ready for a comeback as well. That’s right, we regret to inform you that ‘Indie Sleaze’ is on the rise once again.

So what exactly is Indie Sleaze, you ask? According to Mandy Lee, a trend forecaster who goes by @oldloserinbrooklyn on TikTok, it refers to a specific early 2000s style that you likely associate with Tumblr. Think high-flash photography, electro-rock dance halls, imprecise eyeliner, old American Apparel ads, mussed up hair and side-swept bangs. Like an Urban Outfitters model but more dance club and less cabincore. It was a combination of Brooklyn hipster style and ’70s/’80s electro-rock and relied heavily on the look of someone who partied hard and often, preferably at a club that would later post watermarked photos of the evening on MySpace. Or even better, on The Cobra Snake’s Tumblr.

For those who lived through this, shall we say, eclectic aesthetic the first time around, you may be wondering how on earth someone could update Indie Sleaze in a way that actually feels cool and fun for the current ’20s era. Even more confusing, perhaps, is how this hard-party vibe might fit into a world where we put so much emphasis on wellness and self-care. Just the thought of going ham at the hottest club and waking up in the same makeup from the night before makes us want to immediately begin our beloved 12-step Korean skincare routine.

But in much the same way that the Y2K revival stuck to only the best trends of the era (with the major exception of low-rise jeans which still illicit a strong and visceral cry of “never again!” from most millennials), we expect Indie Sleaze 2.0 will also focus on the good things from early 2000s fashion. And, yes, there were actually some good trends to come out of that era.

This second round of early 2000s fashion is only just starting to emerge, so we’ll have to wait to see exactly what form it takes. But if we had to guess, we’d say it will start with a spin on the thrown-together outfits of the early 2000s. Back then it was ripped skinny jeans, oversize tank tops worn under fitted blazers and the addition of a thin, raggedly scarf draped around your neck. Toss in some chunky, brightly-hued sunglasses, a headband worn across your forehead like a sweatband or a long pendant necklace, and you were ready to party. Now, however, we predict these power clashing outfits will feature more streamlined silhouettes—sleek bodysuits replacing loose tanks, ’90s-esque sheaths replacing babydoll dresses and vibrant statement jewelry replacing wasteful plastic party accessories. The messy hair and makeup, however, will remain the same (more than a year of staying at home has killed any desire we once had to spend half an hour contouring our cheekbones).

Blame it on the natural cycle of fashion trends or the pandemic-influenced desire for comforting nostalgia, but Indie Sleaze will be back in one way or another. Let’s just hope the obsession with mustaches—specifically inner finger mustache tattoos—doesn’t make it back around this time.



Abby Hepworth is an RRCA-certified running coach who has worked in fashion for over 10 years. Want to know what shoes are in this season? She's got you. Need recommendations on...