The term 'Twee', defined as a British term meaning "affectedly or excessively dainty, delicate, cute, or quaint", is the baby-talk mispronunciation of sweet and is seen in the lexicon as early as 1905. Though the term became derogatory, it was reclaimed by the indie pop music scene in the UK and US.
The aesthetic is characterized by an embrace of imperfection, childishness, whimsy, quirkiness, and being genuine. As described by James Parker of The Atlantic, "Twee’s core values include 'a healthy suspicion of adulthood'; 'a steadfast focus on our essential goodness'; 'the cultivation of a passion project' (T-shirt company, organic food truck); and 'the utter dispensing with of ‘cool’ as it’s conventionally known, often in favor of a kind of fetishization of the nerd, the geek, the dork, the virgin.'"
Visually, the aesthetic involves out-dated habits that become novel because of how unique it is in comparison to mainstream trends. Idiosyncrasy and eclectic blends of color and vintage objects are the most popular indicators of Twee.
It came to prominence in the late 2000s, and was popular on the microblogging platform tumblr. It encompasses multiple expressions, such as in fashion, film, music, and even food trends. Codified in 2014 by Marc Spitz's Twee: the gentle revolution in music, books, television, fashion, and film, it was labeled as "the most powerful youth movement since Punk and Hip-Hop.” People in the Twee aesthetic are often called Hipsters.
The aesthetic gained a minor resurgence of popularity on TikTok.
The Twee aesthetic largely involves a cheerful range of colors, often displayed by Wes Anderson's filmography. Saturated pastels, home-y shades of tan and brown, and bright primary colors are some examples. These are color coordinated to an un-naturalistic extent, creating an idealized, perfect image. For example, a room made up of only cherry red, arsenic green, and gold is considered Twee.
The visuals of Twee involves an amalgamation of different vintage objects. Outdated technology is also appreciated over its modern counterparts because of their uniqueness and aesthetic value. Rotary phones, vintage bicycles, vinyl record players, typewriters, and telegrams are some examples of this. Curios such as taxidermy, ornate vases, dollhouses, etc. are also appreciated. In general, appearance is valued over practicality.
General 2014 trends are also in this aesthetic. For example, fairy lights, potted plants and succulents, and mason jars are common.
Fashion is heavily influenced by the styles of the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s.
On screen, twee fashion tends to be influenced by the "character uniforms" common in Wes Anderson's films, a practice which was influenced by the films of Jean-Luc Godard. A young school girl, for example, wears a white blouse, pleated skirt, knee socks, and Mary-Janes.
Patterns are incredibly important in the Twee aesthetic, and can often be contrasted with each other. Polka dots, stripes, herringbone, etc. are some examples, but Twee fashion companies often create their own novelty patterns, such as ones with cats, flowers, food, etc.
- Yellow Raincoats
- Cateye glasses/sunglasses
- Glasses with thick frames in black or tortoiseshell or bright colors
- Pussy bows
- Bowler hats
- Knit hats with pom poms
- F.E. Castleberry
- Princess Highway
- Lotta From Stockholm
- Unique Vintage
- Miss Patina
- Simple Retro
- Rowing Blazers
- The Society of the Crossed Keys
Twee home decor is a mixture of the old and antique, and the bright and "new" (in reality retro pieces from the 1960s-1980s) and heavily influenced by the Mid Century Modern design aesthetic. Retro technology like rotary dial phones, record players, and radios frequently appear.
- Zooey Deschanel
- Wes Anderson
- Greta Gerwig
- Michael Cera
- Lenka Kripac
- Nancy Drew in Nancy Drew (2007)
- The Eleventh Doctor and Clara Oswald in Doctor Who
- Jessica Day in New Girl (2011)
- Charlotte Charles in Pushing Daisies (2007)
Many children's book illustrations embody the twee aesthetic.
- Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh
- Curious George books by H.A. Rey
- Doctor Seuss books
- Roald Dahl books
- Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson
- My Father's Dragon series by Ruth Stiles Gannett
- Moomin series by Tove Jansson
- Paddington book series by Michael Bond
- Madlenka and Madlenka's Dog by Peter Sis
Books for adults
- The Rosie Project series by Graeme Simsion
Twee movies tend to be coming of age stories, where a character is caught between childhood and adulthood. The main character is often an unusually precocious child or an unusually childish adult who refuses to grow up.
- Adult Life Skills (2016)
- Because of Winn-Dixie (2005)
- Elf (2003)
- Elizabethtown (2005)
- Flipped (2010)
- Garden State (2004)
- Gentlemen Broncos (2009)
- God Help the Girl (2014)
- Greenberg (2010)
- Juno (2007)
- La La Land (2016)
- Lady Bird (2017)
- Little Miss Sunshine (2006)
- My Neighbor Totoro (1988)
- Matilda (1996)
- Nacho Libre (2006)
- Napoleon Dynamite (2004)
- Nick and Nora's Infinite Playlist (2008)
- Paddington (2014) and Paddington 2 (2017)
- Pirate Radio (2009)
- Pushing Daisies (2007-2009)
- Submarine (2010)
- The Adventures of Tintin (2011)
- The Sandlot (1993)
- The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012)
- Up (2009)
- Waitress (2007)
- Wes Anderson's entire filmography
- Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971)
- Wonderstruck (2017)
- Where The Wild Things Are (2009)
- A Series of Unfortunate Events (2017-2019)
- Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency (2016-2017)
- John Mulaney and the Sack Lunch Bunch (2019)
- Mister Rogers' Neighborhood (1968-2001)
- The Mysterious Benedict Society (2021)
- Portlandia (2011)
The music of Twee is incredibly diverse, but in accordance with the ethos and aesthetic, is typically under-produced, with acoustic instruments and imperfect vocals. There is a strong emphasis on music that is performed live, with the recordings often including these imperfections. One of the most common stereotypes of Twee is the "ukulele girl" and "guitar guy," where an amateur (typically a teen or young adult) strums the instrument in a public place and sings a simple, mellow song for leisure. Some songs can also take on a campfire song-esque tone, with duets, clapping, and talking that is not part of the song. Some examples of songs are Ho Hey by the Lumineers, White Winter Hymnal by Fleet Foxes, and Northern Downpour by Panic! at the Disco. This genre is typically indie folk.
Indie pop is also popular in the community, as the mid 2010s saw a general rise in popularity of this type of music, especially on tumblr. However, it contrasted with the contemporary top 40s, and it was still considered niche. Some examples of these songs are Tongue Tied by Grouplove, Chocolate by The 1975, and 1901 by Phoenix.
Instruments can also be unusual and vintage, such as accordions, bongos, and xylophones. Like the visuals, this lends eclecticism and an emphasis on going against the grain from "modern" music.
Lyrically, these songs can take on a childish tone (You and I by Ingrid Michaelson and New Soul by Regina Spektor), demonstrate an appreciation for a specific person, and yearning.
Popular music of prior decades and obscure songs are also incredibly popular, and being a music "nerd" is highly valued in the community. This is incredibly broad, and Britpop (especially The Beatles), musical theater, classic rock-and-roll, pre-1950s music, jazz, etc. are common. The value of uniqueness leads to any non-popular genre to technically fit into Twee. However, music that is typically associated with darkness, loudness, and heaviness (such as metal, rap, and dark electronic) are not deemed Twee.
- Vance Joy
- Belle and Sebastian
- The Pains of Being Pure at Heart
- The Vaselines
- Calvin Johnson
- Mumford and Sons
- Gregory and the Hawk
- Peter, Bjorn, and John
- Neutral Milk Hotel
- She & Him
- Kate Nash
- Fake Love Letters, Forged Telegrams, and Prison Escape Maps by Annie Atkins (props designer for many Wes Anderson films)
- Twee: The Gentle Revolution in Music, Books, Television, Fashion, and Film by Marc Spitz