HomeLifestyleFashion & Beauty

Aesthetic Detective: Kidcore

Aesthetic Detective: Kidcore

Each month, Jenessa Williams explores the fashion trends that are appearing across our social media. This month, she explores Kidcore, a colourful return to simpler pleasures

Where does this trend come from?

Kidcore aesthetic

Pull & Bear Dungaree Shorts, Puma Trainers, Ralph Lauren Top, Moschino Bubblegum Parfum, Tamogotchi, Lazy Oaf Hat, Dr Seuss’s Green Eggs & Ham book 

As far as aesthetic trends go, this one is incredibly simple; it’s dressing for your younger self, uninhibited by drab office wear or "adult" standards of formality. As the younger end of millennials reckon with their looming 30s, kidcore adopts some of the colours and trends of the 1990s—Hello Kitty, Furby, TY Beanie Babies, Mr Men and so on—and celebrates them with a unashamed sense of wonder, proving that you’re never too old to be creative with fashion.  

While nostalgia-based fashion trends are nothing new, kidcore has been a driving force for a variety of mainstream trends, such as the ugly-fashion revival of Crocs, as well as novelty hair clips, puffy sleeves and embroidered or patchwork denim. 

"You’re never too old to be creative with fashion"

Amidst all the puffy-paint and glittered friendship bracelets, TV has also had its influence; during pandemic home-schooling, many of us were watching (and enjoying) cartoons with our children, while the popularity of teen-high-school setting shows like Stranger Things and Sex Education have had us coveting a certain summer-camp aesthetic of youth. While the residents of Hawkins or Moordale Secondary School don’t exactly have it easy, the ways that characters are styled offers a version of kidcore that hooks in vintage-loving fans of a good adventure story.  

What does it look like?

Kidcore aesthetic

Hollister Top, Colourful Standard Shorts, Crocs Shoes, Rockamilly Care Bears Tote Bag, Elastoplast Disney Plasters, Retroandme Etsy earrings, Ian Charms Necklace, Claire’s accessories Slap Bracelet, Obey Hat, Arthur DVD

Though the trend has many subtle sub-divisions (“pastel kidcore”, “Japanese kidcore”, and “spooky kidcore” to name but a few), the basic kidcore aesthetic relies on bright colours and high-contrast patterns—stripes, spots, stars, smiley faces, rainbows. Given that children are often dressed for the practicalities of play, kidcore fashion often favours garments like oversized t-shirts, dungarees and loose shorts, although matching sets can also be brought in for a touch of the "cute" factor.  

"The basic kidcore aesthetic relies on bright colours and high-contrast patterns"

Labelled as an "extreme extension" of normcore, kidcore also offers a semi-ironic celebration of consumerism, with an enthusiasm for classic, world-renowned branding that boomed in the information age. Whether that be a Coca Cola sweatshirt or a McDonald’s Happy Meal-shaped bag, clean, recognisable logos and graphics are to be celebrated, and used as a form of accessorizing.  

How can I embody it for myself?

Kidcore aesthetic

Monki Jacket and Skirt, Monki Hair Clips, Converse Trainers, TeePublic Strawberry Shortcake T Shirt, Loungefly Winnie the Pooh Pin Badge Backpack, Yours Crochet Bandana, Kero Kero Bonito ‘Bonito Generation’ album, Revolution x Coca Cola Lipgloss

What shows did you watch as a kid? What games did you like to play and what characters would you draw? Thanks to streaming services and online simulators, it has never been easier to get back in touch with past hobbies and styling inspiration. If you’re not sure where to start, shows like Arthur, Sesame Street and Rugrats can give you a good idea of colour palettes and playful ideas, while toys like Cabbage Patch Dolls are frequently dressed in kidcore styles.  

To get into the musical mind state of kidcore, try out some sugary pop-punk. Olivia Rodrigo’s recent album Sour borrows heavily from kidcore, with its glitter-sticker-adorned artwork and bold expulsions of angsty power pop, building upon her origins as a Disney artist. British indie-pop band Kero Kero Bonito, heavily inspired by Japanese pop and electro, also feel inherently kidcore, with sugar-rush choruses and fantastical lyrics that would suit a cartoon series. 

"Go authentic by searching online for second-hand and creatively upcycled trinkets"

For basic clothing staples, look out for all-American kid-friendly brands such as Osh Kosh B’Gosh, Gap and Lisa Frank, although the latter can be quite pricey thanks to the revival of the trend. Sites like Truffle Shuffle or Hot Topic are great for retro memorabilia, but you can just as easily go authentic by searching online for second-hand and creatively upcycled trinkets; barbie shoe earrings and polly pocket purses anyone? Given how many 1990s and 2000s items were modelled out of colourful plastic, it’s great for the environment to give these things a second life rather than buying new.  

If you’re worried about your wardrobe looking a little bit too immature, embody the trend as a state of mind. Try to carve out more space in your life for hobbies, or build some small quirks into your everyday wardrobe. Treat yourself to a nostalgic phone case, add a pin to a denim jacket or treat yourself to some stickers in your work diary—no matter how small the act, any trend that encourages us to embrace our inner child is one worth trying out.  

Keep up with the top stories from Reader's Digest by subscribing to our weekly newsletter