The Rise of Aesthetics on YouTube

The Rise of Aesthetics on YouTube

Have you ever heard of “Bardcore” or Cottagecore” on YouTube? You might have heard such niches but do not have a total understanding of them. These are aesthetic channels on YouTube. Being a rising trend in digital culture, they have allowed diverse identity types. As such, these YouTube channels flourish by expressing their unique creativity. 

A video marketing agency Hong Kong has noted that the video-sharing platform’s latest culture and trends report highlights the rise of aesthetics on YouTube. Gen Z is the newest generation, being born between 1997 and 2012. More than 72% of them spend their free time online. As they stream roughly 23 hours per week, YouTube becomes an ideal platform to build their identities. 

Gen Z’s core pursuit in creating an online identity is not a destination but rather a journey. Because of the ever-changing technology, they learn how to apply aesthetics on YouTube. These actions result in the rise of the following aesthetic trends in the platform.


Bardcore is a medieval-inspired musical remake of popular songs. The Medieval Ages spanned from the 5th century to the 15th century. The first record of Bardcore aesthetics was published on YouTube in December 2017. It was the “Toxicity” playlist by Algal the Bard. But the rise of Bardcore aesthetics on YouTube was credited to Cornelius Link, a German YouTuber. He released “Astronomia (Medieval Style)” on 20 April 2020. It gained widespread attention and the style was followed by many Gen Z creators. A digital marketing speaker Hong Kong notices that adding a classic rework to modern songs warped the concept into a unique experience. Viewers experienced new sounds by using harps, fiddles, and lutes.  


Dating back to 19 August 2019, a YouTube creator by the name of Caroline Elizabeth uploaded a video with the word Cotagecore in the title. According to a social media agency Hong Kong, YouTube did not know that such aesthetics will rise in the spotlight today. Cottagecore has been a popular themed content on most social media platforms. From memes to videos, it triggered the rise of aesthetics on YouTube. Cottagecore evolves into comfortable and simple home living that is close to nature. It highlights a slow pace of living in contrast to the hectic pace of city life. During the COVID-19 pandemic, people find a way to escape boredom, fright, and worries through Cottagecore.

Dark Academia

Locked up at home without the freedom to shop in physical stores, the COVID-19 pandemic gave rise to a major fashion trend – Dark Academia. Such aesthetics first became a popular TikTok theme but has also risen on YouTube. The trend heavily relies on 2nd-hand finds and thrift stores. It is because the theme revolves around prep school uniforms during the 1940s. Dark Academia is all about argyle sweaters, black turtlenecks, knee-high socks, plaid skirts, and wire-rimmed glasses. Their prominent colors are black, brown, and tan. Their followers love ancient arts, Greek architecture, and mythology. Recently, brands like Brandy Melville, COS, Ralph Lauren, and Uniqlo are nailing such looks. On YouTube, Dark Academia is a gothic college mystery to solve crimes in the middle of the night.


Royalty core revolves around the refinement of behavior, elegance, intelligence, morality, and skills. Like the European royalty in the Arthurian times and Belle Epoque, these rising aesthetics on YouTube focus on arenas, castles, gardens, and knights. The playlist commonly features classical music. While its fashion highlights high-quality fabrics like fur, silk, taffeta, velvet, and wool. Burgundy, gold, and purple colors dominate the scene. These colors were only affordable to those of high status in the past. On YouTube, Royaltycore explores the dark vibes of the monarchy. It features a playlist of dressmaking and waltzing.


Y2K, also known as Kaybug, rose as aesthetics on YouTube from 1995 to 2004 and is now coming back as an aesthetic trend.  It is characterized by hardware design and tech optimism. Most Y2K aesthetics elude a futuristic look. Blobitecture, juicy tracksuits from Paris Hilton, leather pants, Oakleys, shiny clothing, and silver eyeshadow represents Y2K fashion. The earliest definer of Y2K is the Designer Republic, a Sheffield-based design studio. They are best-known for the Wipeout artwork and video games. On YouTube, Y2K includes a playlist of closet essentials, how-to’s, and thrift flips.


Aesthetics have been around since time immemorial. It has evolved in different ages and places. But as they say, history repeats itself. At YouTube, aesthetics is very popular right now. Bardcore, CottageCore, Dark Academia, Royaltycore, and Y2K all relive the creativeness and grandeur of the past. From 2020 to 2021, these aesthetic themes have surpassed 5 million annual views on YouTube. Their very defined genre of sounds and visuals have captured the hearts of GenZers. 

The rise of aesthetics on YouTube just shows that the platform is a great avenue to explore endless creative variations. With a large breakdown of aesthetic videos by categories, marketers will surely find inspiration to transform their video ads into unique presentations.


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