Every summer, young people look for a new aesthetic to define their style, and this year it’s the “Coconut Girl.” The fashion trend originated on TikTok and is mainly defined by the hibiscus flower print, a motif associated with Hawaiian shirts (also called Aloha shirts) that originated as early as the 1920s in Hawaii, along with surf-inspired graphics, puka shells, crochet details, halter tops, and platform sandals in bright colors.
“The Coconut Girl trend is a product of post-COVID dreaming and youthful summer optimism. After all, who doesn’t want to be the girl with the coconut, smiling for pictures on a tropical vacation?” says Carrera Kurnik, director of culture and consumer insights at Fashion Snoops. “The Coconut Girl aesthetic borrows heavily from Y2K nostalgia and is a flirty mix of maximalist pastels and youthful tackiness. Compared to more dystopian aesthetics like punk, e-girl, goth, and grunge fairy, Coconut Girl is carefree, naive, and optimistic.” With this, wearers can step into a youthful mindset and get a much-needed break from an otherwise harsh reality.
Saisangeeth Daswani, head of advisory – Fashion, Beauty & APAC at trends intelligence company Stylus, says the Coconut Girl is an evolution and amalgamation of Y2K fashion and the VSCO Girl. For sartorial inspiration, shoppers will dive into throwback surf brands, like Roxy and Billabong, as well as fashion catalog-turned-brand Delia*s. Going one step further, coastal-based shows and movies from the late ’90s and early 2000s, like Zoey 101 (Southern California), Aquamarine (Florida), The O.C. (Orange County), and Blue Crush (Oahu), can also provide style ideas for the beach-friendly trend.
Then there’s Gen Z’s obsession with TikTok, which has become a new go-to source for discovering fashion and style outside of just Instagram and Pinterest. It’s no wonder the Coconut Girl look took off in the first place: “The reason TikTok has such power over the current trend cycle is the platform’s ability to create captivating aesthetic moodboards,” Kurnik says, adding that the Coconut Girl hashtag boasts videos of slideshow images to dreamy tropical songs, with some users even providing their own aesthetic analysis via voiceover. “It’s the kind of creative functionality and communal discourse you just can’t get from Instagram and Facebook.” TikTok, she believes, is like the scrapbook collages of the magazine cutouts and moodboards we made as teenagers, updated for the digital era.
There’s also the fact that the Coconut Girl trend highlights a cultural moment where people are daydreaming of a summer that’s carefree and removed from the troubles of our current times. As a response to that, Daswani says, fashion is looking joyful and optimistic at the moment. “As some markets, hopefully, come out of the pandemic, there is a growing need for products and aesthetics that promote hopefulness and positivity.” This, she says, is one of the reasons why we’ve seen such a huge burst of color on the runways recently. For example, Christopher John Rogers’ Resort 2022 collection was an explosion of rainbow hues in playful and voluminous silhouettes, while Bottega Veneta’s Spring 2021 show featured saturated pops of teal and kelly green.
There’s a dreamy vacation vibe to the Coconut Girl, too. “It takes inspiration from beaches and that disposable camera finish,” says Daswani. “It’s about halter tops and miniskirts, pastel colors, glitter tattoos, floral prints, and Claire’s-inspired accessories. It’s equal parts escapism and joy.”
As for what comes next for this trend and beyond, Daswani expects Gen Z to continue looking to the ’80s, ’90s, and 2000s for inspiration. “Although the aesthetics change, the general feel [of every trend] is around optimism, self-expression, ease, and comfort.” Kurnik believes, like so many TikTok trends in the current warp-speed fashion cycle, that the Coconut Girl will last a couple of months before people get sick of it and move on to the next flashy and novel aesthetic. Plus, summer only lasts for so long.