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3 Stats Show How Social Media is Influencing Young Europeans’ Style

Social media dominates young Europeans’ fashion behaviors and choices—and is changing the rules of fashion for their generation and for brands…


TL;DR

  • Social media has democratized the fashion world, and it’s now young people’s No. 1 source of fashion inspiration 
  • Young Europeans are dressing up for the feed—and dressing down for real life
  • Social media style doesn’t necessarily reflect reality, and brands have an opportunity to tap both IRL and social styles

We probably don’t even have to say it, but we will anyway: social media has fundamentally changed fashion for Gen Z and Millennials, a topic YPulse dug into in our recent WE Fits For The Feed trend report. These days, their feeds are where they express their style, spark new fashion trends and drive viral styles into the mainstream. The result is a democratized fashion world, where the gatekeepers of old—a.k.a. fashion magazines and runways—no longer write the rules of what young consumers wear, or what brands produce. Instead, these gens say it’s individuals like them that are creating today’s fashion trends—and brands need to follow their lead.

At the same time, though, our recent WE Fashion Preferences and Style report shows that when it comes to style, Gen Z and Millennials in Western Europe say they aren’t looking at what’s trending—they’re looking for self-expression. So how do trending aesthetics play into their fashion choices? And how exactly are they using social media to show off their ‘fits? These three stats from our Fits For The Feed trend survey tell the story:

More than half of young Europeans are getting fashion inspo from their feeds

When we ask young consumers where they’re turning for fashion inspiration, very few report muses of old—i.e. magazines and celebrities. Instead, the top place they’re turning for ideas is social media, with more than half saying this is where they get their inspiration. And while it would be easy to assume that this means Gen Z and Millennials are turning to influencers and other social media fashion “experts,” the reality is that they’re looking to each other for inspiration. Hashtags are driving their fashion, and the #cores and #aesthetics that go viral seemingly every week bubble up from these gens themselves, who can push a trend to get millions of views before it’s snatched up by a celeb or brand. Now, 61% of young consumers consider themselves to be part of at least one trending aesthetic (think #cottagecore or #darkacademia). Even if they aren’t going full prairie girl chic, these trending styles are influencing their fashion choices.

For both Gen Z and Millennials in Western Europe, Instagram is the top place they’re turning for fashion inspiration, which makes sense: Instagram is still the most popular platform in the region. But as TikTok starts to dominate Gen Z’s social media habits, the platform has become a close second to Instagram for where they’re getting inspo. TikTok has become a hub for content of all sorts, but hashtags around hauls and new aesthetics thrive on the app, helping to spread new fashion trends at record speeds.

But social media is about more than just flipping through FYPs to find their next favorite ‘fit or brand. It’s actually shaping how they choose to present themselves to the world…

One-third say their social media style is different from how they dress IRL

With social media becoming a hub for fashion, young people are dressing up for the feed—and dressing down for real life. In addition to one-third saying their social media style is different than their day-to-day style, 40% say they put more effort into looking nice for social media than they do in person, and 44% care more about how they present themselves on their feeds than IRL. Now, young Europeans are using their style on socials to curate the version of themselves they want others to see—or one they might not be willing to show off in real life. In fact, many say that their style on social media better represents their personality, and they use the words “trendy,” “expensive,”and “chic” to describe how they dress in their social posts.

IRL, however, comfort rules all. When asked to describe how they dress day-to-day, young Europeans say “casual,” “basic,” and “normal” above all else—the total opposite of what they’d prefer to wear on socials. While this may seem confusing, the reality is that social media style is used as a form of self-expression for Gen Z and Millennials while real life is, well, just real life.

Now, social media has its own style standards

All of this means that those over-the-top, bold outfits you see under hashtags like #baddie and #barbiecore are most likely not going to be the outfits you see in the wild. More than their own style being different on socials, the majority of young Europeans say that style more generally has different standards on the feed. In fact, nearly three-quarters agree that some outfits only look cool on social media, and two-thirds agree, “A lot of what people wear on social media is more of a costume than day-to-day fashion.”

This may be confusing for fashion brands trying to stay on-trend. But what this means is that there’s a market for both the extravagant ‘fits young people are wearing on their feeds and the comfy, casual clothes they’re wearing in real life. Brands that can do both will win favor with these fashion-forward gens.

YPulse Western Europe Business users can access the full WE Fits For The Feed trend report and data here.

Don’t have a YPulse Western Europe Business account? Find out more here.