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  • Writer's pictureHYSTERIA BY GIRLONFILM



Indie Sleaze. If you’re chronically online, you’ve probably heard this term repeatedly, but what exactly is Indie Sleaze?

Indie Sleaze is a term coined for the messy and unholy amalgamation of 80’s extravagance and an overall feel firmly rooted in 90’s grunge. It began in 2006 and died down around 2012.

Daniel Rodgers of Dazed describes Indie Sleaze as "grubby, maximalist, and performatively vintage.”

There were no rules to fashion; think Jeffrey Campbell litas, graphic tees, and American Apparel disco pants. Bloghouse music was an essential and amateur style of complexion-annihilating flash photography that took over (watermarks encouraged). Indie Sleaze is a trend that has yet to be entirely revisited, unlike many other trends we’ve seen pop up recently. In my opinion, we are about to see a significant shift in fashion, music, and photography towards the era that was Indie sleaze. Taking on an “anything goes” mentality, Indie Sleaze and everything it was is slowly gaining momentum on social media.

Instagram account @indiesleaze depicts imagery of the era at its peak, and it's pretty addictive for anyone who took part in the trends the first time around. @indiesleaze states it's “documenting the decadence of mid-late aughts and the indie sleaze party scene that died in 2012.” The feed is filled with opulent nightlife and progenitors of Indie Sleaze. Many include Alexa Chung, Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, and designer Jeremy Scott. Jeremy Scott, known for pushing fashion boundaries, is arguably the indie sleaze fashion designer. Other progenitors of the Indie Sleaze scene are Sophia Lamar, Santigold, Leigh Lezark, Geordon Nicol, and Cory Kennedy. As well as artists such as Katy Perry, M.I.A, and Sky Ferreira.


The music during this era is seeing a resurgence as well. There has been a renewed interest in bloghaus (bloghouse) and electroclash music. While there isn’t a particular sound to this genre, it was an all-encompassing sound that was messy, gritty, chaotic, and glitchy. The music was fun and had an over-the-top electronic maximalism garishness. It’s a combination of party sleaze and twitchy electro-funk. Think late-aughts indie acts like Lykke Li and La Roux and electroclash-inspired bands like Club Eat.

Here's a playlist that feels like an auditory flashback:


The Indie Sleaze era was a maximalist approach to fashion. Think Richie Tenenbaum headbands, deliberately mismatched clothes, messy hair, bodysuits, messy black eyeshadow, and tights with holes. A designer bag could be paired with dirty converse, cutoff shorts, and an oversized fur coat (faux, hopefully), and no one was judging you. Much like the “2014 Tumblr girl” and “Rockstar GF” trend, the Indie Sleaze style rejected perfection and was a reflection of personal style. While exploring the re-emergence of this trend, we can see overlaps between the indie sleaze and the Y2K trend. For example, one of my favorite trends, the tacky and obnoxious early 2000s slogan pieces, has recently taken the fashion industry by storm. The slogan tee (which also existed largely on Myspace) was a staple in the style that was indie sleaze. Brands like Wildfox had graphic tees, sweatshirts, and pullovers that were explicitly a reflection of your personality.

One of the first things that come to mind regarding Indie Sleaze fashion is American Apparel. Although recently entwined with the downfall of the founder, Dov Charney, American Apparel leaned heavily into the indie sleaze scene. The brand at its peak consisted of effortless basics aimed at urban, edgy, and casual individuals between the ages of 16-24. Their most notable products included the iconic zip-up hoodie, disco pants, tennis skirts, leg warmers, and bright-hued tights. When it came to American Apparel, sex was sold, and it was known for its risqué and suggestive advertising. The advertising included overexposed lighting and candid, caught-in-the-moment images of models often photographed in provocative poses.

American Apparel went against traditionally glamorous ads and embraced the low production value aesthetic instead. There were few recognizable faces within the well-known ads, and the “sets” consisted of white walls, beds, and couches. These ads were highly controversial as they were deemed “voyeuristic” and “overly sexual.” Yet, American Apparel remained a staple. The informal and non-traditional type of advertising we saw within American Apparel advertising is making a significant return on social media. This brings up the topic of low production value ironicism.


In the era of Indie Sleaze, nights out were captured with digital cameras- flash photography was a must. We’re seeing brands shy away from the polished and traditional ads that have been a staple within the fashion industry. Brands such as Praying and OGBFF trigger an ironic sense of urgency through their advertisements and pieces. Much like the pieces we’ve seen recently based on early 2000s slogan pieces, Praying’s inventory consists of pieces with sayings such as “Dudes= Hot” and “Give girls money” boldly written across them. As well as tights that bring back nostalgia for statement tights that say “God’s Favorite.” While the brand OGBFF has bold pieces with emblazoned slogans such as “Cancelled Adjacent” and the tee that says “Ironically Hot.”

(photo by @praying)

Praying and OGBFF emphasize a sarcastic edge through their low production value ironicism. It’s similar to the advertisements that American Apparel was once known for. They exemplify a larger cultural shift toward cynicism and irony. We’re also seeing the style of photography on Instagram switch in this direction. Low production value ironicism. Low production value ironicism is perfectly captured by photographers such as @stolenbesos and @chesssssssa on Instagram. It consists of performative effortlessness that has an ironic feel to it. Personally, I’m in love with it.

So, indie sleaze is on the brink of a revival; what does this all mean? Expect a massive resurgence in nightlife photography, flash photography, specifically digicams, and low-production value ironicism. Think physical party fliers, a rise in blogging, and a rebellious attitude toward mainstream culture. In addition to a major switch in the fashion and beauty trends, we are about to see. Almost a decade after its prime, the indie sleaze revival is a reinterpretation of the first iteration of indie sleaze.


If you want to be an early adopter of the indie sleaze revival, here are some must-have items that are a veritable Tumblr time capsule.

  • Sheer/statement tights

  • Mini skirts

  • Faux fur

  • Fringe and studded pieces

  • Combat boots

  • Layered necklaces

  • A good black eyeshadow

  • Bright hued sunglasses

  • Tacky jewelry

  • Most importantly, a digital camera.

Are you excited about the indie sleaze revival? Let me know!

For now.



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