What Brands Can Learn from the “Cool Girl” Aesthetic

There’s a trend on Instagram we’ve had our eye on—you may not have noticed it, but it has always been there. What started on niche accounts has spread to the personal feeds of celebrities and beyond like a cool kid virus (looking at you, Balenciaga!), with symptoms ranging from out-of-focus content and extra-detailed shots to intimate photos with that vibe of 1992 meets 2020.




You may be wondering, “Wait, isn’t that just Instagram?” In a sense, yes. But it can also be interpreted as an aesthetic rebellion to the oversaturated and crowded accounts of the world wide Instagram web. Because doing social media, without seeming like you’re doing social media, has become the new norm. It has practically redefined what goes on the ‘Gram. After analyzing the accounts of Kylie Jenner, Glossier, fashion bloggers, editors and everyone else in between, we’ve compiled a list of the five things to keep an eye out for—helping you and your brand tap into the nuanced army of the coolest girl you probably follow.


1. Intimacy Is Key:

A simple image and caption can actually make you feel something, and as we know, nailing that #Mood is vital to a brand’s success on social media. Having images that are literally “lived in” is a hallmark of this trend. A simple photo or video that isn’t too polished, yet comes off as completely “real” invites an individual or customer to see the world from your point of view. It’s like offering them a peek inside your actual brain—something they shouldn’t technically be able to see but hey, we’re living in the future, people.



2. Capitalize on #Mystery

Just because Instagram is a visual platform doesn’t mean you can’t make things a bit unconventional. We’re not saying you should build another full grid on your account with each image creating a puzzle. Instead, this is about not giving the context of who, what, when, where, and why to your audience, as so many other accounts do willingly. Tight detail shots and crops, undisclosed locations, random poses, and even the (sometimes crappy?) outtakes are all a part of what makes this trend interesting. Just like the “feeling something” note in bullet #1, the mystery around Instagram posts allows you to start zooming in for Easter eggs, writing your own captions, reading other’s comments, engaging directly, and going down the “Rabbit Hole” of what the heck is going on.



3. Reality.

Eva Chen, head of fashion partnerships at Instagram, always says it best: “Instagram is not supposed to be editorial. Instagram is supposed to be more reflective of real life.” And what comes off as more “real” than sharing moments that are the opposite of perfect? Polished is too passé; raw is refreshing. Creating a more human experience—even for the biggest accounts on Instagram—is the new norm. Sleep is chic, masks are mellow, and the unglamourous moments that depict the lives of models, influencers, and even brands should be upfront and center.



4. Consider Going #FilterFree.

No filter, no worries. The easier and more casual the photo, the better. Images that showcase a sense of cool and calm usually perform best. Like the reality aspect in bullet #3, posting without overediting (and better yet—posting raw, no filter iPhone shots) works wonders for engagement. It’s like eating McDonald’s in a Rolls-Royce—consider it the high-low Instagram example that still feels luxe.



5. Utilize #FoundObjects

A trend I’ve come across is making everything feel like it’s part of a museum. Like the popular hashtag #FoundObjects, quirky, untraditional shots are becoming a way to bring intimacy to objects and showcase them in a way that pops on the feed. Brands like Jacquemus do an excellent job at this, and everyone from bloggers to vintage shops seems to own this aesthetic by playing with composition in unique ways.



So, while some accounts cherry-pick elements and forgo others, perhaps try looking at your own Instagram feed with a closer eye. You’d be surprised. You may start to notice things you haven’t before.

Happy scrolling!


Header image: @alwaysjudging


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instagram content strategy