Frazzled Englishwoman, goblin mode, butter boards, cabbage circles – can you spot the odd one out? | Arwa Mahdawi

As a miserable year limps towards its end, let’s talk about the silly trends that have cut through the gloom. Sorry if you came here for geopolitics

Want to play a fun end-of-2022 game? That was a rhetorical question, I’m afraid. You have no choice. They’re compulsory at this time of year. In this game you have to answer the question: “Is this the name of a trend widely discussed by the media in 2022, or is it a deranged combination of words that I just made up?” Four of the following are the former and one is the latter. Here we go: 1) frazzled Englishwoman, 2) goblin mode, 3) butter boards, 4) cabbage circles, 5) quiet quitting.

Before I reveal the answer, I want to point out that this was a surprisingly difficult quiz to devise. I’d think of something ridiculous, then Google it and find out that it was an actual trend. (And by “trend” I mean a phrase that a TikToker coined and content-hungry media people, such as myself, wrote frantic thinkpieces about.) But the answer, before you all die of suspense, is number four. Yep, even the frazzled Englishwoman trend was real. Apparently an Australian TikToker went viral with an observation that her fellow Australians were suddenly dressing like middle-class Englishwomen in Richard Curtis films from the noughties: sensible, charity-shop-chic vibes, eclectic scarf collections, damp air of worry. Anyone who has ever met a middle-class Englishwoman will immediately recognise this aesthetic and wonder why it never had a name before.

There’s always some killjoy who gets snobbish about these silly little trends with silly little names and angrily asks why anyone would bother writing about such tosh instead of, you know, geopolitics. I’ll tell you why: because geopolitics are depressing as hell and it’s nice to distract yourself with frazzled Englishwomen and butter boards. I love spurious trends. They attach catchy new labels to things you had previously taken for granted; they spark interesting and sometimes enlightening conversations; they provide much-needed light relief in increasingly dark times.

So what spurious trends does 2023 have in store for us? There is plenty more nonsense to come, I’m delighted to report. One prediction I find particularly exciting is that fashion types are going to stop putting the word “core” at the end of everything (think: normcore, cottagecore, goblincore) and use “sleaze” as the suffix-du-jour instead. “Sleazes subvert their source material, making it grungier and edgier, rather than attempting to capture the purest essence of an aesthetic, the way ‘-cores’ do,” a trend forecaster explained to Vice. If you say so, ma’am.

Vice also predicts that we should expect 2023 to usher in the rise of “slobwear”, described by a trends forecaster as the “quiet quitter of aesthetics”. (I would have described it as the slothsleaze of workcore myself.) While I do love the idea that we have licence from the fashionistas to dress as if we just rolled out of bed, I’m pretty sure we have been talking about slobwear since the beginning of the pandemic. This trend feels a tad lazy. Which, perhaps, is on brand.

You know what I hope we don’t hear anyone talk about in 2023? You know what I hope is consigned to the trashcan of trend history? The bloody metaverse. Nobody really knows what the metaverse is (right now, it’s just a pretty unexciting virtual reality video game) but lots of people spent much of 2022 yapping on about it: metaverse came in second place for Oxford University Press’s word of the year, losing out to “goblin mode”. The metaverse isn’t all bad, I’ll concede. It did provide some moments of comic relief in 2022. There was the time, for example, when Meta (formerly known as Facebook) proudly announced that the avatars in its Horizon Worlds virtual space would finally get legs – they had previously just been hovering torsos. A few days later the company was forced to admit that, actually, it would be a long time until you could have legs in the metaverse. “Legs are hard,” Mark Zuckerberg said. Puns about the metaverse not having legs, on the other hand, are easy.

  • Arwa Mahdawi is a Guardian columnist


Arwa Mahdawi

The GuardianTramp

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