It’s not surprising when you consider how often fashion, beauty and popular culture are influenced by nostalgia, vintage and retro-isms – things we remember from our childhoods and often think of fondly.
Take the current cyclical revival of late 90s and early 2000s trends. Inspired by the early fashion of Bratz dolls, shows like Lizzie McGuire, the Rainbow Magic story books and celebs who launched their careers on the Disney Channel, a brighter and more experimental approach to dressing has returned. It’s a re-emergence of maximalism in every corner of fashion.
Social media has a big hand in fuelling fashion trends like these, especially TikTok. Home to some of the strangest content online, TikTok has been responsible for bolstering many a micro trend: fashion movements that burn bright for a short amount of time and then die. Think the House of Sunny Hockney Dress, the Honey top or the “coconut girl aesthetic”.
Because micro trends move at such a rapid rate, these pieces are often made quickly and cheaply, encourage overconsumption, and end up contributing to excess waste. None of which is good for the environment.
But that’s not to say all TikTok trends are bad. Sometimes the app births something that is equal parts weird and wonderful – and oddly positive for the planet. Enter the “Thneed” trend.
Lately, TikTok users may have noticed the rise of #Thneedtok, influenced by the Dr Seuss children’s book The Lorax.
In the story, Seuss’s fictional character the Once-ler describes a Thneed as a highly versatile object knitted from the foliage of the Truffula tree. Its shape can be changed to suit different purposes, but its default form resembles a sweater. Basically, a Thneed can be worn as just about anything from a shirt and a scarf to a pair of gloves or pants: it’s versatile in every sense of the word.
TikTok’s modern interpretation of #Thneeds is any garment that is multi-use and adaptable which can be styled and shaped in a variety of ways – not dissimilar to the way a Thneed in the original story is used and worn. For instance, a knitted scarf being worn as a top or a strapless bodice that can double as a miniskirt.
Before it was a hashtag on TikTok, the trend initially blew up was thanks to the immensely popular knitted Simonett Nanu Top.
Simonett’s genius design enables wearers to tie and re-tie a collection of delicately knitted panels in a variety of ways – encouraging individuals to put their own spin on how they actually wear and style it. Along with the Nanu Top, other trends like the DIY balaclava, the Y2K wrap miniskirt and the scarf halter top also began to feed the fire of #Thneedtok.
Before long, TikTokers had adopted this trend, with a growing collection of users showing how they style their own Thneeds in various ways, and some even dedicated to spotting acts of “thneedery” out in the wild (others either intentionally or unintentionally styling Thneeds).
Self-described “Thneed Girl” on TikTok, user @rachleahx began commenting on and stitching videos featuring Thneed-like garments, quickly becoming synonymous with the trend.
Beyond its roots on TikTok, in a wider sense the Thneed trend taps into the current “subversive basics” trend which has been circling around the fashion scene for the past couple of years and often appears as layered and deconstructed clothing.
The subversive trend blends with the Thneed trend in the way they both utilise clothing in unconventional ways, breathing new life into designs and changing the way we think about our existing wardrobes.
When able to replace the need for multiple items, multifunctional garments become a more sustainable option. They encourage individuals to look beyond the singularity of clothing items, invest in higher quality pieces and, in the long term, buy less.
It’s another reason TikTok users have gotten behind the trend. It’s not about buying more items; it’s about embracing what people already own and showcasing self-expression and creativity. The trend is also appealing for an increasingly values-driven generation because it still gives people the opportunity to experience the feeling of having something new – without needing to make a purchase.
Thneeds have technically existed right under our noses for years and most of us would be housing a few in our wardrobes – maybe we just didn’t have a name for them until now.
Perhaps you have a knitted scarf that you’ve never thought to wear as a wrap top? Or a maxi dress with a touch of stretch that you could turn into a miniskirt. Even a button-up shirt that you could wrap around your body and style as a corset top. Once the barriers around what pieces of clothing “should” be are taken away, there’s freedom for the wearer to reappropriate items how they wish and the options are limitless.
Unlike other micro trends, participating in the Thneed trend doesn’t require any fashion prerequisites. Instead, it’s a way to consider how you enjoy wearing your clothing: what’s most comfortable, what allows you to express your individuality and what do you feel best in?
When you see garments in this light – as pure potential – it takes away from the importance of trends, instead allowing space to get creative with styling and comfortable with expressing yourself.
Have a look through your closet for a Thneed-resembling garment, and, if you can’t find one but want to participate, think about purchasing pieces that are not only ethically and sustainably made, but also incredibly durable so they can withstand being worn a variety of ways.
Also consider fabrics when sourcing a Thneed: something stretchy like bamboo is great for this purpose, and also better for the environment. Even a handmade crochet garment, whether you DIY or purchase from a small business, would allow for Thneed styling possibilities without the guilt of contributing to environmental waste.