Move over Cottagecore! The Goblincore aesthetic is here to stay…
What is the Goblincore Aesthetic?
Goblincore is a subculture centered on the celebration of natural elements not typically considered to be beautiful; snails, earthworms, fungus and dirt are just a few aspects commonly seen throughout. This aesthetic allows nature to bleed into every aspect of a person’s life, often through fashion, lifestyle and decor.
Trend expert, Sabrina Faramarzi, says “Goblincore is cottagecore for those that actually spend time in nature,” it is for those who “know that nature is not sunlit wheat fields but gnarly forests and chaotic animals. Often referred to as dark cottagecore, the aesthetic also picks up some of the occult.”
The Goblincore community take inspiration from the Goblin itself. This is a creature common in European folklore, known for collecting objects, an unusual appearance and a playful unpredictability. Foraging, collecting and spending time in nature are key activities for members of this movement.
Today’s aesthetic is goblincore !— aesthetic of the day!! 💌 (on break) (@aestheticotd) July 24, 2021
This aesthetic mainly consists of forest related imagery such as mushrooms, elf ears, and lakes !! pic.twitter.com/31LJW5YoMl
The term first appeared on TikTok and Tumblr in the late 2010s. Former Head of Editorial at Tumblr, Amanda Brennan, noted the trend “started picking up in spring 2019 and hit full steam in 2020 as people stumbled upon it during the pandemic.”
As of January 2023, r/Goblincore has 68.3K members on Reddit, while hashtag #Goblincore has 1.4B views on TikTok and 587K posts on Instagram. E-commerce company Etsy reported a 695% increase in Goblincore related searches in June 2021.
Goblincore clothes are a curated mix of cozy, oversized and thrifted pieces, often paired with accessories found around the woods or bought second-hand. Looking fresh and clean is not a priority for this movement, tattered or worn out clothing is preferable and clashing patterns are more than welcome. Imperfection is the goal!
A typical outfit might include a chunky knit cardigan, layered over a mushroom motif dress, with leg warmers and ripped fishnets. Jewellery would consist of crystals and bones, with feathers or beads braided into the hair and elf ears to top off this whimsical look.
Small business owner, Jane Geloso, sells nature inspired jewellery through her Etsy store, The Palm Tree. She says, “I’ve been tagging some of my pieces as goblincore for over 18 months but recently it seems anything frog, snail, moss or mushroom related has exploded.”
TikTok user, @Psychara_, is known for her Goblincore inspired looks:
@psychara_ outfit 🧙🏻♀️ #witchtok #witchy #goblincore #witchesoftiktok #grunge ♬ Secunda – Jeremy Soule
Colour palettes are mostly neutral, black or combined with natural colours such as dark green and brown. Gold, silver or brass accents are also commonly present.
Goblincore is a style based on a love for nature, as such clothes and accessories which are eco-friendly or slow fashion will feel right at home.
Like Goblins, this community are known for collecting, as such they are often seen carrying a leather satchel or belts with alchemy pouches.
The maximalist Goblincore home should look cluttered, cozy and bring multiple aspects of nature indoors. Any true collector knows how to hoard, this means every surface should be full to the brim with intrigue. Think rock collections, botanical wall art, wooden ornaments and handwoven coasters.
Secondhand furniture is an essential; preferably layered with knitted blankets and mismatched cushions. Shelves and tables could also be handcrafted from collected wood, craftsmanship plays a huge role in this lifestyle and adds to the unique nature of the Goblincore look.
Plants and vines should be displayed throughout; potted trees, herb collections and mossy terrariums would all work well. Perhaps invest in a mushroom grow kit for a unique and useful addition to the home.
Ensure a comfy atmosphere with ambient mood lighting. Coloured bulbs, salt lamps or fairy lights provide a magical vibe while staying away from the sterile feel of an overly bright room.
Why the Rise in Popularity?
It seems Goblincore rose in popularity as a direct rebuttal to the Cottagecore aesthetic. The latter paints a stunning scene of elaborate dresses, perfect hair and picnics in the scenic countryside. While both beautiful and escapist aesthetics, one movement is by no means accessible to everyone.
Cottagecore is based upon the romanticisation of a simple and self-sufficient life, however the scenes depicted often carry a certain elitism and mostly reflect middle to upper class rural living. Where one subculture is inherently aspirational, another takes us straight back to our inner child. Who doesn’t fondly remember the carefree innocence making mud-pies and collecting worms?
“It is accessible. Almost anyone can go outside and find a plant or a snail and take a minute to appreciate it”, states the illustrator behind The Mushroom Babes, Georgia McGain-Harding, “Wildflowers and white linen dresses are wonderful but Goblincore is staining that same dress with mud and moss and watching snails and slugs eat the wildflowers,”
In today’s world we are blessed to be connected online, this allows users to find likeminded groups that accept one another for who they are. Throughout lockdown many were trapped in their homes and longing for a connection with the outside world, Goblincore provides this through walks in nature and interpersonal interactions.
Farmarzi commented, “after long lockdowns, perhaps spending lots of money collecting and surrounding ourselves with a bunch of things we don’t need, wearing loose, neutral clothing and taking lots of walks, I think we all feel a little bit like goblins right now.”
In the hangover of this time, it makes perfect sense people are looking towards living self-sufficiently and regaining a sense of childlike wonder regarding the natural world. This anti-consumerist lifestyle may be particularly appealing in a time hounded by the Cost of Living Crisis and global economic despair.
It has also been noted that this subculture is particularly popular in the LGBTQ community, especially among non-binary, transgender or demigender members. A common catchphrase used online is, “no gender, only bugs”.
Brennan says, “there’s something incredibly freeing about Goblincore. Mushrooms are huge in the community and some species of fungi have thousands of sexes – it’s just about vibing and existing, not fitting into a mould.”
The Problem with Goblincore
While Goblincore is known to be an inclusive and accepting community, issues have been raised with the term itself. The negative attributes associated with goblins have been used since medieval times in offensive and antisemitic caricatures; in particular being greedy or possessive over shiny things, or being portrayed as gruesome or unattractive.
These types of depictions have been famously criticised as unacceptable in pop culture, for example, J.K. Rowling’s shockingly offensive characterisation in the Harry Potter series. This is due to a global awareness of historical antisemitic propaganda and the horrific damage it can cause.
“The important thing is to educate yourself to the point where you can recognize the negative caricature/stereotype in something that you come across, and to not create any new media containing the stereotype.”– Jewish Blogger, @the-kazoo-kid
Behaviours to avoid include the overt collecting of ‘shinies’ or displaying greediness or selfishness over found items. It has also been suggested to veer away from the ugly goblin stereotype with exaggerated features, as this has come directly from these caricatures.
There are also several other names associated with this lifestyle that avoid the issue completely. For example, Gremlincore, Crowcore, Mushroomcore, Feralcore, Cottagegoth or Dirtcore.
The goal of antisemitic ideologies are to dehumanise a group of people that have been continually ostracised throughout history, this seems to be the exact opposite of what this community is trying to project. It is promising these issues are being discussed in a movement which is so young, to tackle these issues from within and improve the culture going forward will only create more awareness and support for it’s members.