Mushrooms, toads and moss might not be the most celebrated of nature’s creations, but thanks to goblincore, an aesthetic that is blossoming online as well as in forests, the danker, gnarlier side of nature is enjoying a moment in the sun.
According to the TikTok user @froggiecrocs, AKA Parker, who has more than 90,000 followers who tune in for his goblincore content, it “romanticizes the ugly, lesser appreciated parts of the natural world”. Its trappings include animal skulls and earthworms and its influences range from David Bowie in Labyrinth to the Twilight Saga. According to the trends expert Sabrina Faramarzi, it is about “chaos, dirt and mud”.
The hashtag has more than 498m views on TikTok and is a rising trend on Pinterest in the UK. On Reddit, the r/goblincore subreddit’s 19,000-strong membership has increased its subscribers by 395% year-on-year, with one recent poster hoping for an exchange of their “tiny mice and vole bones in vials” for other goblincore items.
Goblincore fashion and paraphernalia are selling well. On Etsy, there has been a 652% increase in searches for related items in the last month compared with the same time last year. Individual sellers attest – at the Divine Occult Shop there has been a dramatic increase in sales of elf ear cuffs; while goblincore is the top search term at the Mushroom Babes, which sells body-positive mushroom art.
“I’ve been tagging some of my pieces as goblincore for over 18 months but recently it seems anything frog, snail, moss or mushroom related has exploded,” says Jane Geloso, owner of the Palm Tree Art gift shop. Moss quartz earrings are her quickest selling product.
According to Amanda Brennan, a former trend expert at Tumblr – often cited as the birthplace of goblincore – and now senior director of trends at XX Artists, it originated “sometime in the 2010s, but started picking up in spring 2019 and hit full steam in 2020 as people stumbled upon it during the pandemic”. Now, she says, “Google Trends is predicting it to be on the rise again”.
People have differing reasons for coming to it. For Geloso it was “the previously overlooked creatures such as snails being celebrated, and as a vegan that made me so happy”. For Georgia McGain-Harding, the illustrator behind the Mushroom Babes, “it is accessible. Almost anyone can go outside and find a plant or a snail and take a minute to appreciate it.”
According to Brennan, it can be tied to queerness and anti-capitalism. In relation to queerness in particular, she says, “there’s something incredibly freeing about goblincore. Mushrooms are huge in the community and some species of fungi have thousands of sexes – it’s just about vibing and existing, not fitting into a mould.”
Although the scene is all about inclusivity, awareness of historical antisemitic references to goblins has led some, including McGain-Harding, to substitute other terms, such as mushroomcore or mosscore.
A close but more feral cousin to cottagecore, a trend for a stylised, agrarian way of life and its aesthetic – prairie dresses, jam tarts, thatched cottages and strawberry motifs – that was big last year, goblincore is, says Brennan, more “rough around the edges”.
“Wildflowers and white linen dresses are wonderful but goblincore is staining that same dress with mud and moss and watching snails and slugs eat the wildflowers,” says McGain-Harding, who thinks it harks back to the way you appreciate nature as a mud-pie-making child.
“Goblincore is cottagecore for those that actually spend time in nature,” says Faramarzi. Members of the community “know that nature is not sunlit wheat fields but gnarly forests and chaotic animals. Often referred to as dark cottagecore, the aesthetic also picks up some of the occult.”
Experts and devotees have theories as to why goblincore might be providing solace and joy for so many people at the moment. “It celebrates imperfection,” says Parker, who found within it a “community that shared my love for nature and dressing slightly unconventionally”. There is, he says, “no pressure to have perfect skin and designer clothes, it’s a very accessible thing to enjoy”.
For Faramarzi, there is an apt anti-consumption message: “After long lockdowns, perhaps spending lots of money collecting and surrounding ourselves with a bunch of things we don’t need, wearing loose, neutral clothing and taking lots of walks, I think we all feel a little bit like goblins right now.”
Brennan thinks goblincore’s “spooky and cozy nature” will only make it more popular in autumn. Plus, with life still in a state of flux, she believes it can “feel good and safe to retreat back to nature … everyone’s feeling a little scattered, people just want to let things go and vibe. Why not do it while laying in the grass and picking out cool mushrooms?”