If you’re like me, you find yourself falling down the TikTok rabbit hole relatively often. After swearing off the app for years, I finally caved a little over six months ago and discovered just how much content I had been missing out on. As a self-proclaimed fashion enthusiast, TikTok has since catered to all of my niche interests and then some, even helping inspire some of my own style.
At the time, I was studying abroad in Paris — where fashion felt more timeless than what I would expect in the United States — but I still couldn’t help noticing a lot of the trends I had seen on my For You Page manifesting in street style there. The line outside of the Stüssy store in Le Marais spanned 20 people at any given time of day and all of the thrift stores were picked over as people rushed to grab every vintage gem they could.
When I returned to campus for the fall semester, I was curious to see how big of an effect TikTok would have on 5C style and if it would prove to be as trend-influenced as a typical metropolitan city. Was it influencing people to change their style in any way? Or did all of the popularity I had seen certain aesthetics receive on the app not translate to real life?
My observations around campus were a mixed bag, but I was able to make one conclusion right away — TikTok alone is not powerful enough to completely alter the style of an individual or a school. With its propagation of micro-trends, fashion extremism and overconsumption, style that blows up on the app is often unreplicable, especially for college students with limited budgets.
That said, I did pick up on a number of pieces or styles mainly popularized by TikTok that were popping up on campus a lot more often than I remembered. Generally, items like jorts, soccer jerseys, Adidas Sambas and Onitsuka Tigers are all over each school. These have generally been some of the most prominent items on TikTok over the past six months to a year and are too versatile to really go out of style.
The influence of TikTok I spotted at individual schools mostly built on that school’s stereotypical style. To me, this was most recognizable at Scripps College and Pitzer College— crop tops and big pants thrive at both schools. While Scripps embraces long, flowy dresses and low-rise jeans, Pitzer leans into Y2K and punk aesthetics with platform shoes, denim and mesh or sheer tops.
“TikTok alone is not powerful enough to completely alter the style of an individual or a school. With its propagation of micro-trends, fashion extremism and overconsumption, style that blows up on the app is often unreplicable, especially for college students with limited budgets.”
Pomona College was more difficult to characterize – the diversity of the student body is reflected in their varying outfits. Harvey Mudd College and Claremont McKenna (CMC) have not changed much from their ordinary style, but with the ease of virality on TikTok, Mudd-core and CMC-core could probably become trends in and of themselves — does anyone have a pair of khakis I could borrow?
Speaking of trends, one of the main consequences of TikTok is its contribution to the shortening of trend cycles online. Trends become saturated so quickly on the app that the rush to find something new (or old) for people to wear is practically never-ending. And because there are so many different sections of fashion TikTok, these trends can coexist with each other seamlessly.
This usually means that in order to stand out, fashion influencers are forced to seriously commit to the aesthetic they’ve developed, which results in some incredibly over-the-top looks (check out Wisdom Kaye’s page for examples). Typically, the 5Cs are not lacking in self-expression or self-confidence, but the influence of these ‘fashion extremists,’ despite its literal inimitability, further encourages style individuality, which I have seen a lot more of around campus. While fashion should ultimately be more fulfilling to the person wearing the clothes than anyone observing them, it helps to know that there are creators out there who are successfully taking risks to help develop their identity.
In a world where trends are cycling in and out faster than we can keep up, personal style is a long overdue focus. And there’s no better canvas for its influence than at the Claremont Colleges, where each school and each individual expresses themselves so differently. TikTok is a great place to catch up on what’s ‘in’ and gawk over unaffordable outfits, but its true value comes in the advancement of this personal style.
On TikTok, certain people and aesthetics may receive more praise than others, but in Claremont, you never know who might walk by and appreciate the effort you put into what you’re wearing. Regardless, after having obsessed over fashion and perception of clothing for years, I can confidently say that as long as it makes you happy, that’s all that really matters.