2014-era tumblr is one of the biggest influences to the contemporary aesthetics movement. As an image-aggregating site, it allowed people to curate personal reblogs easily. The ability to create a customized theme for the blog also enhanced the aesthetic value of the website. This article focuses on 2014 (although 2013-2016 can be more accurate) because this was the era before -core suffixes existed, tumblr was at its greatest cultural relevancy, and the aesthetic trend was at its infancy.
Popularity and Decline of Tumblr
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Adjective Tags: Before suffixes
Before the aesthetic community largely segmented itself off into aesthetic communities, people would "find" their aesthetic through tags which were based on adjectives and objects that described the photograph itself, rather than an entire community that comes with it. Of course, there are common terms that appeared, such as kawaii, hipster, and grunge, but the extent was not to the one in the late 2010s-2020s. From there, communities were centered around who was following who, without an established name that encompassed all the community.
For example, for Vintage Parisian, one of the aesthetics on that site, people would tag it #pink, #old-hollywood, #feminine, #romantic, #vintage, #parisian, etc. This led to some variation on what appeared in the search bar. For example, the search term "pink" could bring up Fairy Kei, Morute, and Vintage Parisian. Because of this difficulty in finding terms with consistent aesthetics and users, "Follow Forevers" existed. These were lists of users that someone would compile after reaching a certain number of followers. In effect, these popular users were influencers who allowed their followers to find their sources of inspiration, which united the aesthetic further and created a more tight-knit community. An example of a Follow Forever could be found here.
Fandom aesthetics are moodboards, playlists, and edits done based off of the aesthetic of a piece of media with a fandom. Users would take distinct visuals, colors, and attitudes associated with the setting of the work or a distinctive character design. These images would be arranged into either a square grid of nine photos or two columns that can span for however long the user sees fit.
For example, a fan of Harley Quinn would make a moodboard that has an image of a playing card, smudged lipstick, a quote about toxic love, and a strong use of the color red. One of the most popular examples, and arguably a precursor to Dark Academia, are the Harry Potter moodboards, which were very popular due to the diversity of themes such as Hogwarts Houses or important buildings.
The people who create these fandom moodboards were expressing their love of the fandom and both the aesthetic community and the fandom would reblog their work. The presence of fandom moodboards have diminished in the following years, largely because of the rise of aesthetics that are unaffiliated with fiction, the general loss of fangirl enthusiasm (see the section on Dashcon for a better explanation), and migration to other websites.
This also applied to other subjects, such as MBTI types, zodiac signs, and colors. Users often sent requests through asks, and the person on the blog would create their own interpretation. For example, "I love your blog! I am Slytherin, INTP, and Libra." The user would then combine all of those elements into one moodboard like the one to the right.