What did you wear this decade? And will you wear it again?
Regardless of where you fall on those Qs, it’s clear that our collective fashion and beauty choices were defined by contradictions throughout the entire 2010s. For every crop top, there’s a parka, every spandex dress, an over-scruffed hipster beard and every “no makeup-makeup” look, a perfectly contoured face. And while many of the biggest trends were returning favourites from years past (see: bike shorts), there are plenty that remain unique to this strange, in-between, middle-sibling decade that was just trying to figure itself out.
So to help toast the years that have gone by, and cleanse our closets for the decade to come, we’ve rounded up some of the most iconic fashion and beauty trends of the 2010s. Our list is by no means comprehensive or a searing takedown — but rather, a celebration of a few memorable moments in sartorial history. Read up on them below, and be sure to let us know where you stand.
Ah, peplum. An early 2010s trend that evokes one of the fashion industry’s true, unwavering loves: placing a ruffle where a ruffle should never live — in this case, right around the waistline. While the hip-accentuating trend is said to date back to Ancient Greece, where it was used to add shape to boxy tunics and togas,the 21st century iteration seems to have been ignited by designer Jil Sander’s Spring 2011 collection. From there, it popped up on just about every piece of clothing that covers the torso, from going out tops, to pencil skirts to formal red carpet gowns, before sputtering out around 2015. Of course, like most trends that cause us to groan in retrospect, this one seems to be headed for a comeback in the new decade.
The bandage dress
“Mummy, but make it sexy” is perhaps one of the most succinct ways to sum up this spandex-laden style, which started showing up on red carpets around 2007 but became truly ubiquitous in 2010. Often featuring plunging necklines and exposed metal zippers amidst its strips and strips of body-hugging fabric, the style experienced its first wave of popularity in the ’90s thanks to designer Hervé Léger. Its rise in the 2010s perfectly coincides with the alleged “discovery” of the big butt as a marker of attractiveness, and the Kardashian family’s total pop culture takeover. Kim favoured the trend so strongly that it was immortalized in her Madame Tussaud’s wax figurine, and was declared “dead” when she stopped wearing it around 2014. For those of us who don’t have wax likenesses to remember the trend by, we’ll just have to resort to old Facebook albums from nights out at the club.
If the aughts had our bottoms creeping lower and lower beneath the hip bones, we reversed course entirely in the 2010s, opting for the highest rises possible. Our pencil skirts became high-waisted, as did our shorts, skinny jeans and wide-leg trousers, and in 2014 the Mom Jean made its triumphant comeback, bringing the trend to its peak — but certainly not its end.
Anyone who colours their hair regularly can tell you why the ombré hair trend caught on so quickly after being spotted on fashion darlings like Lily Aldridge and Alexa Chung at the beginning of the decade: it’s low maintenance (and cost-effective) as hell. An antidote to both the dreaded horizontal root line and the chunky highlights of yesteryear, the style uses a subtler, painted-on dyeing technique called balayage and generally preserves the wearer’s natural hair colour at the top of the head, getting gradually lighter toward the ends. That means trips to the salon can essentially be cut in half without sacrificing your style. So unlike some other cool-girl, “I woke up like this” beauty trends (looking at you, no-makeup makeup), this one actually lives up to its promise — and that’s a legacy we can get behind.
Our attitude toward scarves this decade will forever be embodied and immortalized in one 2012 candid shot of singer Lenny Kravitz grocery shopping in New York City. After that, the general rule became: the chunkier the knit, the longer the length, the better. And while few of us could truly take it to the level Lenny did, let alone the heights (and widths) of the memeified iterations, between the early-decade rise of the slouchy Pinterest favourite Infinity Scarf and the mid-decade dominance of the shawl-like Blanket Scarf, bigger remained best from top to bottom.
The man bun (and top knot)
What is there to say about the man bun that hasn’t already been said? It’s been proclaimed this generation’s mullet, and has now become synonymous with a certain type of man who was growing out their “high and tight” hairstyle around the years 2013-2015. It appeared in many forms, from a loose, wispy low bun to a tight, slicked-back top knot (which also happened to be a big trend for women around the same time — remember those “hair donuts” that promised the most buoyant ballet bun around?), and for a time existed as a practical yet highly fashionable way to delay washing one’s hair. After popping up on everyone from celebrity hunks playing mythical super humans on-screen (and carry the same vibe IRL) to members of Leonardo Dicaprio’s Pussy Posse, the craze is said to have culminated with the late 2015 appearance of Portland’s Hipster Santa, but can still be seen occasionally out in the wild today.
Another true decade-spanner, the over-the-knee (or thigh-high) boot reigned supreme throughout the entire 2010s, replacing the classic riding boot and giving our legs a little extra leather to sweat in. Though they technically made their grand entrance in the late aughts, absolutely dominating the Fall 2009 runway shows, 2010 was the year they trickled out of the designer realm and into stores more of us could afford to shop in. The style morphed ever so slightly as the years passed, transitioning from skin-tight leather to slouchy suede and even adopting more untraditional fabrics, but never really wavering in popularity. We would argue, however, that the truly remarkable thing about the thigh-high was not the boot itself, but the way it assisted the rise of so many other 2010s trends — from skinny jeans, to the lace-up craze to the ever-present “no pants” look.
Athletic clothing as a fashion choice is not necessarily something that’s unique to the last decade — the ’70s had their Ralph Lauren polos and tennis shoes, the ’80s leg-warmers and the aughts had wide-flare Lululemons messily tucked into Uggs. But this decade, athleisure was christened with a name of its own, and not only took over streetwear, but workwear and travel wear and everything in between. The moment that cemented the trend’s true dominance is undoubtedly the 2016 launch of Beyoncé’s then-TopShop collaboration line Ivy Park, which lended athleisure some real celeb cred and firmly put the focus on style (and sex appeal) over substance. Then came all the sub-trends: tracksuit fever, straight-outta-the-90s bike shorts, fashion joggers, logo-laden sweats and sneakers for every occasion — just to name a few. Some explain athleisure’s seemingly indefinite popularity as all about the comfiness factor, while others point to a more insidious unconscious desire to show off one’s commitment to a societally-approved conception of thinness. Either way, the trend has made one thing extremely clear: we may never love anything as much as Armie Hammer loved his Adidas tracksuits in early 2018.
If you ever felt a burning desire to expose the tiny triangle of skin between your second and fifth ribs, then boy did this decade present you with an offer that’s impossible to refuse. Yes, somewhere around 2014 we decided to start incorporating geometric slashes and cuts — often enough to form a pattern of sorts — in everything from workout tops to cocktail dresses. This, of course, gave way to a sub-trend deemed the Cold Shoulder, where cutouts were relegated to the tops of the arms, and its more daring cousin, which we’re calling the Cold Cleavage for… obvious reasons.
Between the all the jumpsuits, onesies, rompers and RompHims, it’s safe to say this was a decade we decided to ignore our bladders and throw our whole outfits on at once. After appearing on a slew of Spring 2010 runways, the classic jumpsuit made its official transition into formalwear, becoming a staple of wedding season throughout the entire 2010s (and even inciting an internet frenzy in 2019 after a particularly coveted style was sported by Phoebe Waller-Bridge in the television show Fleabag). After the initial, more polished, wave came the playful shorts iteration, the waffled PJ version and the more utilitarian coverall, which seems to now be paving the way for a whole new decade of all-in-one outfits.
The hipster beard
Did every man grow a beard in the 2010s? It certainly felt like it. But despite the universality the trend eventually reached this decade, it’s still most associated with a certain type of white male Brooklanite The New York Times had been documenting since 2006 — one who preferred his facial hair slightly unkempt, only shopped thrift and always had a Paul Thomas Anderson anecdote at the ready. At first, the hipster beard seemed to be definitively anti-corporate, signifying a post-financial crisis departure from slicker, office-appropriate scruff. But upon reaching the masses toward the middle of the decade, the hipster beard ended up defying its origin story and creating a mini industry of its own: one devoted to bespoke beard oils and other various facial hair grooming products.
If you made it out of the decade without owning a pair of white sneakers at some point, I have questions — simply because the trend showed itself in so many different ways, it was almost impossible to ignore. The earlier parts of the 2010s were all about dainty-soled Keds and skater staples like Converse and Vans. In 2013, Stan Smiths became a street style and runway darling, prompting Adidas to rerelease the then-off market style the following year. Then, Balenciaga released the Triple S sneaker in fall of 2017, ushering in the resounding return of the ugly-on-purpose, oversized Dad Shoe. As a whole, this decade was the one where the white sneak firmly transitioned into an every-occasion shoe that was acceptable to pair with everything from denim cut-offs to work dresses to three-piece suits.
When Instagram launched back in October 2010, we had no idea that it would end up shaping the way we did our makeup this decade. But really, there’s no way of separating the renewed popularity of the makeup technique known as contouring, which sculpts and shines-up the face into its most photogenic self, from the social media platform that turned selfies into a form of currency. Of course, contouring is not new — it’s said to date back to the stage plays of Elizabethan England and has been used by drag performers for decades — but thanks to the influx of online beauty tutorials, influencer takeover and perhaps Kim Kardashian, performing for an audience of followers went mainstream, and looking the part was key.
From blanket scarves to Dad Shoes to puffer coat redux and even the 2019 comeback of JNCO jeans, it’s safe to say our fashion has been supersized all throughout the 2010s. Whether it was influenced by street style stars like Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen, whose drapey, boho layering became every NY fashion girls’ uniform earlier in the decade, the designer runways, which have been favouring Michelin Man-style coats and pants wide enough to fit four legs for a few seasons now, or is simply a case of skinny jean and crop top fatigue, one thing is for sure: clothing described as bedding isn’t going anywhere soon.