Imperfectionist influencers: Why brands shouldn’t sleep on the ‘rat girl’ trend
Isabella Fernandes of gen Z agency Seed (part of the Amplify collective) argues that TikTok’s ‘rat girls’ represent far more than a trend: a shift toward imperfectionism in gen Z.
What does the rat girl aesthetic say about gen Z consumers and their relationship with brands? / Credit: Lola Kolade
Many gen Z-ers, fed up with having to maintain ‘perfect’ narratives, are becoming more spontaneous and creating a new breed of imperfectionists.
Enter the ‘rat girls’. Non-judgemental, rat girls embrace inclusivity, self-expression, and living life on their own path. Go to a rave? Be open to the unexpected. Sleep in your make-up afterward? No problem. Straight from the airport to the office with no sleep? Go for it.
If brands want to capitalize on this generational rejection of perfectionism, they need to understand the rat girl aesthetic inside and out. Let’s spill the tea.
Girlism for beginners
My TikTok For You Page (FYP) is often taken over with ‘girlisms’: young women’s new rules for living. It’s like the seasonal weather forecast for gen Z, but with better fashion and more rules. The predictions embrace self-proclaimed feelings that merge into lifestyle trends like Lola Kolade’s viral rat girl summer.
@lolaokola #ratgirlsummer #rodentenergy #summervibes #summer2023 #weoutside #selfcare ♬ RAT GIRL SUMMER - lola
Last year, my version of girlism saw me strive to wake up early and get my sh*t together. I even invested in an overpriced notebook and an artificial sunrise lamp. These purchases now languish at the bottom of a draw. This is why the rat girl aesthetic is so appealing: it gives us permission to just let go, channel rodent energy, and reclaim messiness.
Rat girls in culture
This rebellion against perfection might conjure up wild Euphoria-like TV references. But the Rat Girl era is more subtle. It’s about embracing life’s journeys, learnings and yourself.
Daisy Jones and the Six is the embodiment of effortlessly cool girls. Messy hair? Tick. Smeared eyeshadow? Tick. But it’s not just about aesthetics. It’s about killing the cringe of going for something you want: an artist pursuing your passions.
Netflix’s Sex Education, about to hit our screens again, encourages experimentation, finding your own tribe, and exploring taboo topics. The transition into adulthood in a judgement-free zone is perfect rat girl material.
The rat girl code is refreshingly simple; it’s spontaneous and driven by gut instinct. As Rat Girl pioneer Kolade says: "You think a rat thinks twice before stealing a slice of pizza and scurrying across the subway platform? No, we're going with our gut. We’re going with our intuition.”
Uncut Gems star and cultural icon Julia Fox embodies this self-driven lifestyle. From her drawled words becoming TikTok audios to smeared eyeshadow tutorials, she champions carefree experimentation that feels authentic. Her celebrity feels incidental. Her chaotic energy remains in spite of her fame.
Can brands embrace the rat girl trend?
Rat girls look for products and services that benefit their freedom-leaning lifestyle. It's all about catering to the community's desire for effortless experiences.
As a tool of convenience, the viral cabin bag resonates by tapping into the freedom to pack what you want, in turn letting you travel and explore with ease, and all while saving the cabin bag fees. It’s not about materialism, but owning a select few items that let you enjoy the life you want.
And for convenient aesthetics, 4AM Skin is the new makeup fad letting you go out, party, and return home under the guise of skincare.
Apps like TicketSwap and Dice, which facilitate last-minute peer-to-peer ticket purchases and streamline sign-ups with just a phone number, are another big hit.
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How can brands tap into this trend authentically?
Creator Alix Earle is a great example of successful brand collaboration. A young woman and student, she’s becoming one of gen Z’s biggest influencers. Her content brings brand deals into a Miami party scene with defiant behavior: dragging herself to the library hungover, sandwiched between #ad content. Her candid portrayal of youth culture might stand at odds with a corporate brand guideline book. This is precisely why it works.
Heaven by Marc Jacobs, the gen Z-friendly younger sister of Marc Jacobs, has even released a rat girl baby tee.
Has the rat girl aesthetic got staying power? Absolutely. Why? Because it’s all about an adventurous sense of self. A timeless rule for life.
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