Terry Nguyen in Vox:
One of the recent trends on TikTok is an aesthetic called “night luxe.” It embodies the kind of performative opulence one usually encounters at New Year’s Eve parties: champagne, disco balls, bedazzled accessories, and golden sparkles. “Night luxe” doesn’t actually mean anything. It isn’t a reaction to wellness culture, nor is it proof that partying is “in” again (has partying ever been “out”?). It’s just one of many aesthetic designations for which the internet has contrived a buzzy, meaningless portmanteau. Rest assured that night luxe will likely have faded into irrelevance by the time this article is published, only for another meme-ified aesthetic (i.e., coastal grandmother) to be crowned the next viral “trend.”
The tendency to register and categorize things, whether it be one’s identity, body type, or aesthetic preferences, is a natural part of online life. People have a penchant for naming elusive digital phenomena, but TikTok has only accelerated the use of cutesy aesthetic nomenclature. Anything that’s vaguely popular online must be defined or decoded — and ultimately, reduced to a bundle of marketable vibes with a kitschy label.
Last month, Harper’s Bazaar fashion news director Rachel Tashjian declared that “we’re living through a mass psychosis expressing itself through trend reporting.” There is, I would argue, as much reporting as there is trend manufacturing. No one is sure exactly what a trend is anymore or if it’s just an unfounded observation gone viral. The distinction doesn’t seem to matter, since TikTok — and the consumer market — demands novelty. It creates ripe conditions for a garbage-filled hellscape where everything and anything has the potential to be a trend.