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The independent news website of The Kent Stater & TV2


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OPINION: 2020: The year of nostalgia

KentWired Illustration by Sydney Spickard

In the midst of a global pandemic, social media, particularly TikTok, gained widespread attention in 2020. 

Although nearly four years have passed since quarantine measures began, there has been a sudden surge in nostalgia for the trends of 2020.

For many people, 2020 was a year marked by social distancing, political unrest and disruptions to education and healthcare. However, COVID-19 brought about significant shifts in digital and cultural norms worldwide. 

With everyone confined to their homes for months on end, the need for human connection drove many to social media, sparking an abundance of microtrends on platforms like TikTok.

While today, Stanley Cups are all the rage, Hydro Flasks flew off shelves in 2020 — or, rather, into online shopping carts. Teens posted overly-saturated photos and spent hours making string friendship bracelets. Alternative styles like e-girls and e-boys flourished and dances catapulted influencers like Charli D’Amelio and Addison Rae into fame. 

The quarantine period offered a unique opportunity for people — especially teenagers and young adults — to explore their self-expression without fear of judgment. With fewer social obligations and more time spent at home, platforms like TikTok became an ideal place to experiment with fashion, music taste and personal identity. Many of the trends of 2020 were born from this freedom.

While 2020 was undeniably a challenging period of recent history, the abnormality of the year also brought about unexpected opportunities for self-discovery and creativity. Those who feel nostalgic for quarantine do not reminisce about being trapped in their homes or fearing for their loved ones’ lives. They miss the freedom from constant perception and outside judgment. 

This longing demonstrates the complexity of nostalgia. At its core, nostalgia embodies the age-old adage: people want what they can’t have. However, it also represents the human experience. 

As humans, we crave comfort and familiarity. Nostalgia speaks to our intrinsic desire for connection and belonging — themes that can be clearly identified in the trends of 2020. 

It seems bizarre that a time as tumultuous as the COVID-19 pandemic would provide comfort for anyone, but its uniqueness reveals the beauty of being a human. In the midst of fear and uncertainty, we reached for each other. We made friends online and followed trends started by strangers; we explored our identities and encouraged others to do the same.

Despite the challenges of the time period, the nostalgia for 2020 is not misplaced, nor is it an anomaly.

Trends from previous decades undergo constant recycling and re-imagining. Music of the ‘70s and ‘80s is still loved, with iconic artists like Queen, The Beatles, Michael Jackson and Madonna maintaining their popularity. Fashion of the ‘90s and early 2000s has had a resurgence through clothing like baggy jeans, crop tops and platform sneakers.

Nostalgia can also be seen in the rise of “aesthetics,” such as the Y2K aesthetic or grunge. At one point, low rise jeans and pencil thin eyebrows were viewed as fashion mistakes, but now they’ve made a comeback.

Perhaps this phenomenon embodies a notable strength of Gen Z: the desire to learn from the past yet recreate and rebrand its successes, particularly in the fashion world.

In essence, sentimentality for the trends of 2020 represents a longing for connection. The quarantine period contained countless hardships and challenges, but it also fostered a sense of resilience and solidarity.

While feeling nostalgic for an era less than four years old seems irrational, it speaks to the complexity of being human. After all, when have humans truly been rational?

Grace Claxon is an opinion writer. Contact her at [email protected].

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