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From Gorpcore to Recession-Core: How Fashion Can Predict Economic Changes

Who needs a psychic when fashion can predict the future?

Image: triocean/Shutterstock

Since 2017, trends like Gorpcore fashion have been on the rise. More and more celebrities and influencers are incorporating traditionally practical and utilitarian clothing into their looks. This fashion trend has been seen throughout history, most recently in the movement from maximalism to minimalism following the 2008 financial crisis. So, what’s next?


You know those people that always go hiking, nibbling almonds, and are never without a raincoat in their bag? They’re the kind of people Gorpcore was first coined for in 2017. The name was inspired by trail mix (the almond fan’s favorite snack) or under its more colloquial name “good ol’ raisins and peanuts” (g-o-r-p).

Gorpcore represents fashionable but functional clothing and was particularly popularised by the growth in outdoor activity with the 2020 Coronavirus pandemic. Walking down the street today, it’s nearly impossible to avoid a fleece, some stompy hiking books, or what are effectively full-size sleeping bags.

But what’s interesting about the rise of gorpcore is its price. These are not cheap items for the masses. This new wave of luxury wants to be associated with the least luxurious of past times, camping. Surely this tells us something important about the uber-wealthy need for relatability, exacerbated by rising living costs, environmental issues, tech lay-offs, and a potential recession in sight…


On the January Golden Globes red carpet, many fans noticed a distinct lack of statement jewelry. The term ‘Recession-core’ is beginning to be seen across the internet as the booming designer maximalism of the pandemic is being overtaken by more subtle, minimalist hints at wealth. This can be seen in less flashy jewelry, less importance on logos, or even just more muted colors.

The growing norm “core” trends of “cottage-core”, “royal-core”, “rom-com-core” or whatever else the next big aesthetic niche becomes, has grown to a point of satire online. The Gen Z reliance on comedy as a coping mechanism couldn’t be fitter for “Recession-Core”. One TikTok user in the comments even said, “Me living paycheck to paycheck: recession core”. Whilst another said, “me saying recession core while holding back tears in the grocery store line”.

How has fashion been affected by economic changes in the past?

Before the 2008 financial crisis, fashion was all about bling, bright colors, and gold. However, when millions of people lost their jobs and were forced to reduce their spending, retail companies were also affected. The wealthiest individuals continued to buy luxury goods however there was a noticeable shift in favor of subtle designs. It’s rumored that Hermes, a luxury bag brand, even started using understated brown bags rather than their traditional bright orange to support self-conscious consumers.

In the 1920s Great Depression, re-invention and ingenuity were thought to be the way out of economic collapse. To get people to buy new products, they needed to be different in some way – more modern, more useful, and more appealing. This led to sleek looks with rounded edges which are now associated with modernist design.

The same sense of stripped-back, simple design can be seen everywhere from packaging to interior design. Is gorp-core, recession-core, and minimalism more generally a hint at what’s to come?

Let’s Predict the Future

Sadly, in a World Economic Forum poll, two-thirds of economists think there’s going to be a recession in 2023. Whether these economist intellectuals decided this because of a rise of puffer jackets or a drop in jewelry is up for debate… However, there is nevertheless a link between finance and fashion that is useful to consider.

Whilst recession can cause great hardships worldwide it is also an opportunity to re-invent and re-consider everything – from politics to business, to even your very own aesthetic. Coupled with the environmental consequences of our consumerism, perhaps (to find some glimmer of light in an otherwise gloomy prediction) the planet will thank us for our more mindful and considered purchases in the future.

Written By

Lucy Rowland is an English Literature student who is interested in current social media trends and what they can tell us about the society we live in.

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