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From Addison Rae to King Kylie, 2014 Tumblr is back in a big way

Every few years, millennials and Gen Zers revisit the early 2010s Tumblr aesthetic. Here's why some say 2014 remains a significant year in our collective cultural imagination.
Photo Illustration: Kylie Jenner, Lana Del Rey, and Addison Rae in the style of a 2014 Tumblr Collage
In the words of Kylie Jenner, it's "2014 vibes" this year.Justine Goode / NBC News; Getty / Instagram

Addison Rae is posting pictures from an iPhone 4. Vintage-inspired photos of Lana Del Rey are dominating our timelines. Kylie Jenner has pastel pink hair

There’s no doubt about it: 2014 Tumblr is back.

The once-pervasive aesthetics of the influential blogging site have made their way back to some of the internet’s biggest influencers, signaling the arrival of a messier, edgier and looser aesthetic in the mainstream.

For some, that means a return to a bygone era of the internet, a time when monetization was not the primary goal of posting.

“If I had to sum that all up, I’d say people just miss having fun, and Tumblr was a lot of fun,” said Gabi Abrão, a writer, digital creator and artist known as sighswoon online. “People haven’t been having fun online for a while. It’s like a job for everyone. You don’t even have to be trying to be famous and it feels like a job for people.”

Tumblr launched in 2007 and quickly rose in prominence for its focus on visuals and its creative community. There was a time when the platform was mentioned alongside Facebook and other buzzy social media startups. But Tumblr, which in 2013 was purchased by Yahoo for $1.1 billion, never figured out how to monetize content effectively and it fell behind competitors as the creator economy grew. 

Still, it remains as an enclave of the internet where fandoms and artists like Abrão say they can express their creativity without the expectation of internet clout. 

In the early 2010s, Tumblr was filled with a variety of different popular trends that featured pastels, hazy filters, grunge clothes and vintage aesthetics. “2014 Tumblr” is an amalgamation of these trends. Rae’s and Jenner’s recent posts evoking this style have inspired articles and TikToks, with many, including Jenner herself, declaring that “its 2014 vibes this year.”

The 2014 Tumblr girl has been making a comeback in various online circles for several years now. Trend forecaster Mandy Lee, better known as oldloserinbrooklyn, first predicted the revival of this style in fashion, which she described as indie sleaze on TikTok in late 2021. But the adoption of this aesthetic by big influencers signals a full arrival of the trend in the mainstream. 

MJ Corey, who has grown a following of over 189,000 on TikTok by posting analysis about the Kardashians, said the reality TV show family has often been used to certify trends.

Jenner was considered a major trendsetter among teens on Tumblr in 2014. Corey, who is known as Kardashian Kolloquium online, said Jenner’s recent pink hairdo is a nod to that time in her life, which fans label the “King Kylie” era.

Meanwhile, Kim Kardashian recently tapped Del Rey for the latest ad campaign for her shapewear brand Skims, a choice that also leans into the 2014 nostalgia. The singer had performed at Kardashian’s wedding to ex-husband Ye that same year.

Skims has “become a sort of cultural document, a cultural archive,” Corey said. “To see Lana in a super romantic, pre-Valentine’s Day, hyper nostalgic campaign speaks to the candy-colored Tumblr era.”

Others, like TikTok user Sapida De Souza, 25, have credited Addison Rae — who is ranked No. 23 on Forbes’ 2023 list of top creators — as a leader in the 2014 Tumblr era revival. 

De Souza, a TikTok creator who posts pop culture commentary, made a video that went viral about how she believes Addison Rae’s recent photo carousel on Instagram has helped set the tone for this year’s trends. It featured images of Rae in a fur coat with jean shorts over sheer tights, stylized with a hazy filter akin to photos popular on 2014 Tumblr. 

De Souza believes that the rise of the “mob wife aesthetic” and “indie sleaze,” two recent trends that look grungy and edgy, are distillations of popular Tumblr trends updated for 2024. 

The desire for these looks has increased as the “clean girl aesthetic,” characterized by its  minimalist, pristine style, has started to fall out of style. Interest in “clean girl” posts have been declining by 16% every day since Jan. 1, according to Data but Make it Fashion, a popular Instagram account dedicated to fashion analytics.

While De Souza likes the “clean girl” trend, she said embracing Tumblr aesthetics feels like a refreshing rejection of the “perfection” clean girls project. 

“You don’t have to put in that much effort in order to achieve an [indie sleaze] look,” she said. “You can pull things out of the closet that you have right now in order to achieve that look. Whereas for the clean girl aesthetic … trying to keep up with that is a lot harder and more expensive.” 

Tumblr remains a source of creative inspiration for many, including artist Abrão, who has been using the platform since 2009. She said that she believes the 2014 era of Tumblr continues to inspire ex-users because it was home to artistic types at the time.

“It was a container for some of the most experimental and sensitive people really,” she said. 

Abrão said she feels there’s a desire for a more “honest” and less perfect internet. Tumblr was, and is for a lot of its remaining users, a place to experiment with ideas and aesthetics. 

Whether Tumblr experiences a revival remains to be seen. The platform said that 2014 Tumblr “never truly went away.”

“We regularly see things that fit under the category of 2014 trends on Tumblr: Photosets of aesthetic fashion with 2014-style filters, GIFs of Lana Del Rey, text posts wistfully remembering users’ teenage years, and more posts about Taylor Swift and 1989 than you could imagine,” a Tumblr spokesperson said in an email. “Tumblr has also seen steady growth in new users since 2019 with many of those users creating posts and entire blogs leaning into the 2014 trend and aesthetic.” 

While people look to the past for inspiration, even Addison Rae avoided saying that “2014 is back.” Instead, when asked by a fan on Tumblr if 2024 was going to be the new 2014, she wrote back, “2024 is the new 2024 … bigger better more beautiful more love.”