FASHION! 6 subcultures & trends to watch out for in 2022

Fashionistas have been out in force as Fashion Week took place in Paris, New York, and London over the last few weeks. Long sleeves, cocktail rings, bright colours, and bucket hats are all on display as the hot trends for 2022, plus new trends inspired by fashion subcultures.

To celebrate brand-new designs coming hot off the runway across the globe, we decided to take a fresh look at some of the most popular international fashion subcultures and trends that are inspiring a generation. From academia and cottagecore to kawaii, there’s something for everyone.


‘Well-read’ is the goal on the 2022 catwalk and the academia trend can only be described as Gossip Girl meets Harry Potter. Academia, particularly dark academia, is a subculture centred around literary classics and aspirational libraries – as seen on TikTok. It stems from 1950s student fashion – think Harvard and Cambridge, with the colour scheme centred around tasteful earthy tones: black, brown, and tan. On the 2022 catwalk, it’s defined by starched collars, plaid and wool, dainty jewellery, and perfectly distressed leather. Wrap it up with a leather-bound book and you’re good to go.

From an etymology angle, clearly use of the word academia has changed and adapted over the years. Historically, Academia was a name given to the Academy, Plato’s school of philosophy founded in Athens. Around the turn of the 20th century, academia (with a small ‘a’) was being used as a term referring to academics and the academic world. Today, it’s come to be used as a byword for the preppy aesthetic of 2022.


A brand-new addition to Collins Dictionary for 2022, aegyo is a Korean cultural style that emphasises the qualities of being loveable or cute. Aegyo has become more prevalent in Korean culture, and we reckon it won’t be long before it becomes a global trend, as K-pop stars are bringing aegyo into popular culture worldwide.

What does it actually mean though? While it has more to do with gestures, expressions and being upbeat and positive, it also has the potential to feed into new fashion trends. For example, common aegyo expressions include creating heart shapes with your fingers or using heart filters on social media. This idea of cuteness could easily translate into how you express yourself through your clothes, make-up, and interior design.


If retiring to a cottage in the country isn’t quite on your roadmap yet, perhaps cottagecore could help you connect with a more pastoral way of life. Defined as a lifestyle revolving around rural living and simpler ways of life, cottagecore fashion has a dreamy, ethereal quality about it. Prairie dresses, puff sleeves, white nightgowns, and flowers a-plenty, the cottagecore subculture puts nature at its core.

The term is a good illustration of the way the combining form -core is used in today’s English for labelling emerging trends in lifestyle and fashion. Indeed, if cottagecore doesn’t appeal to you, then goblincore or normcore might be more up your street.


Fashion trends come and go, but alternative subcultures are here to stay. The egirl and eboy trend takes inspiration from Scene, Goth and punk culture and is heavily influenced by gamers. This gaming connection gives this subculture a cyber quality: think cat-ear headphones and bold bright colours for hair and make-up, mixed with classic fashion statements such as band t-shirts and fishnets.

The fashion trends associated with the egirl and eboy scene can most often be observed on Twitch, Discord and TikTok, as streamers express themselves through both their make-up and clothes, but also their gaming rigs. Rainbow LED strip lighting, heart-shaped ring lights and customised mechanical keyboards are all likely to feature. Most interestingly, egirl and particularly eboy fashion are already making their way to the catwalk, as seen with Celine’s spring 2021 collection.


Tokyo’s Harajuku district has long been the epicentre of fabulous street fashion and the birthplace of new subcultures and trends. Kawaii, like aegyo in that it emphasises the qualities of cuteness, is another hugely popular international trend that’s influenced fashion as we know it. Kawaii stems from the Japanese ‘ka’, meaning acceptable, and ‘ai’, meaning love.

The origins of kawaii as a trend can be traced back to 1970s Japan, and it has spawned many subcultures since then. While it is largely characterised by vibrant rainbow colour palettes, different Harajuku street fashions also encompass kawaii: for example, the Lolita style inspired by hyper-feminine clothing and accessories to create a doll-like appearance, and Decora, a playful, innocent aesthetic which focuses on lots of neon colours, lots of accessories and cartoon characters such as Hello Kitty and Care Bears.


What goes around comes around, and it seems that Y2K fashion is making a comeback. Y2K is another name for the year 2000 so think metallic puffer jackets, wide-leg denim, tiny bags, and endless velour sweatpants in various shades of pastel.

One might argue that after many months at home during the global pandemic, our newfound obsession with Y2K on the catwalk comes from a desire to continue wearing comfortable clothing with stretchy waistbands absolutely everywhere. 2022’s spin on Y2K is all about bubble-gum colours, bold make-up and endless hairclips. If in doubt, look to the series Euphoria for further inspiration.

Interested in new words or want to submit your own? Check out the latest words submitted to the Collins English Dictionary.

By Rachel Quin
Rachel Quin is a freelance marketer and copywriter with a love of language, books and cats.

All opinions expressed on this blog are those of the individual writers, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions or policies of Collins, or its parent company, HarperCollins.

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