The winter season is upon us and we’re getting ready to freeze our butts off in style, again. Like clockwork, we’re leaving the meme-born Christian Girl Autumn season behind us, ready to embark on our habitual social media scrolling to rejuvenate our winter wardrobe. Up next on our TikTok ‘For You’ page is Russiancore. Haven’t heard of it? Think white furry Moonboots, glamorous woolly gilets, and classic ushanka hats, all against the backdrop of a snowy wonderland.
TikTokers have branded these beguiling winter pieces as ‘Russian’ and swiftly added the signature ‘core’ suffix to create its own category. However, while the aesthetic seems harmless fun, the trend has been criticised for glamorising Russian stereotypes and portraying Slavic women as ‘bimbos’ when using the hashtag, #RussianBimbo. The disapproval from many TikTok commentators – both of Russian and Slavic heritage – begs the question, how far should fashion trends go? Is Russiancore problematic?
@valentinapage if u know this song????let’s be besties #russianbimbo #wintercore #bimbocore #russian #aesthetic #MakingTheCut #foryou #GetYourJeansOn #fyp #f ♬ Ya Soshla S Uma – t.A.T.u.
In the past few months, several TikTokers have fed into the trend. By creating icy moodboard clips depicting furry-clad women standing in snowy forests and Russian town squares. Other creators took to styling videos and explained the signature paradox of Russiancore, which matches moonboots to miniskirts and fur hats to sunglasses. Amber Ramon, owner of @timelesswear Depop shop, defines the trend as, “a more curated aesthetic of traditional winter items we have been wearing for years in fashion and are designed for regions in the world with snow.”
At first glance, the style-board videos are snappily edited and typical of TikTok, which millions of people use to creatively express their vision. And rightly so.
@amberramon_ When the audio matches the fit #outfitinspo #russiancore #y2kfashion ♬ Ghost – Machine Girl
At the same time, however, the comment sections are sceptical. “I am Slavic, living in a Slavic country and I have never seen anyone dress like this,” one person commented. “As a Russian can we gatekeep this please,” wrote another. It appears that the people the trend references don’t recognise its origin or, quite frankly, don’t like it. There’s no denying that fashion trends, at times, test the limits of cultural appropriation and mockery. In the case of TikTok-born trends – how far is too far?
Biz Sherbert, Culture Editor at The Digital Fairy, explains how the trend “perpetuates Western stereotypes […] while simultaneously inviting non-Russians to participate in said stereotypes. ” She continues: “It often verges on costume, or some argue, cultural appropriation.” Even more so it could be argued that the trend obliterates existing cultures and makes up its own distinction. “The aesthetic also tends to blur the lines between Russian cultures and cultures from other distinct regions in Eastern Europe, essentialising nuanced and diverse traditions and characteristics into one uniform caricature,” Sherbert argues.
Furthermore, Xena Makeyeva (@belovedhestia), a Russian student of classics and politics, believes that the fascination with the Russiancore aesthetic sustains wrong and hurtful clichés. “There is nothing distinctly ‘Russian’ about the fashion itself. It is simply winter fashion, but because of a certain stereotypical presupposition of Eastern Europeans, it is made to be Russiancore,” she says.
Visually pleasing or not – the fashion in question resembles that of the Anna Karenina-esque upper class at best. Branding these curated outfits as ‘Russian’, and therefore including the working-class, suggests that all Russians dress in luxurious furs and skimpy dresses.
Besides the faulty fashion representation, TikTok has been known to glamorise Soviet architecture and communist structures in similar slideshows. Xena also notes that conceptualising brutalist buildings, landscapes and fashions into an aesthetic adds to the “romanticisation of the post-USSR collapse 1990s,” which entailed high crime rates and poverty. A surge of criticism followed here as well with people commenting “my country and culture isn’t your aesthetic.”
@slavic…aesthetic After i arrived to Poland to spend summer break.. i felt i belong to Russia. #slavic #aesthetic #slaviccore #russia#poland #ukraine #slovakia #czech #cyka #home #slavicaesthetic #transslavic #slav #belarus #polishcore ♬ original sound – ali
Still, the biggest controversy stems from the addition of the ‘russianbimbo’ hashtag – also coined #bimbocore. “While there is nothing substantially wrong with dressing in fashions prevalent from Eastern Europe, tacking on monikers such as ‘bimbo’ feeds into the negative stereotypes that are associated with Russian women. Especially immigrants in the West,” Makeyeva explains. “The whole ‘bimbo’ label is a product of how westerners often assume that Russian/Eastern European women immigrate to the West in search of husbands, are uneducated gold diggers.”
With this in mind, this trend turns out to make a mockery of Slavic peoples. And takes its inspiration from ungrounded ideas of what Russian culture and fashion actually are. Indeed, there is nothing inherently wrong with wearing fur hats, coats, and boots in colder weather. But in simple terms, stamping ‘Russiancore’ on these looks implies that “the whole Russian/ Slavic culture is an ‘aesthetic’ which demeans what it really means to be a part of that identity,” Depop seller Ramon says. Instead, she suggests changing the name altogether.
In a y2k-crazed world that also favours snazzy accessories, furry hats and earmuffs, and loves to pair miniskirts with ‘boots with the fur’, the Russiancore trend could simply be renamed ‘y2k winter fashion’. Already, there is a whirlwind of 2000s-adjacent winter fashion out there to gain inspiration from. Several TikToks cited the Ozlana A/W 21/22 collection: think pastel-coloured fur coats, tiny denim skirts and glam knitwear. And let’s not forget House of Gucci’s après-ski moments, which gave us all the stylish winter cabin vibes we needed.
@mod3ls the #OZLANA “NEW ERA” FW21/22 show #fashion #fyp #foryou ♬ baby you the baddest girl – sienna
If you’re a TikTok trooper and still in need of a signature ‘core’ suffix: how about ‘cabincore’ or ‘snowbunnycore’? Whether that cringes you out or not, these options would avoid the negative critique and age-old stereotypes that ‘Russiancore’ bears. So, wear all the furry layers and accessories (preferably faux or vintage) you want, but let’s leave the cultural ignorance and profiling in the past.