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From Sleepytime Bear to grandpacore, 2024 is brewing some cozy pop culture trends

We saw big shifts in the pop culture landscape in 2023. Twitter became X, Taylor Swift inspired a new generation of NFL fans and there was simply no escape from artificial intelligence. 

So, what does 2024 have in store for us? To find out, The Show spoke with Amanda Kehrberg, a Ph.D. student at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication studying digital culture. 

LAUREN GILGER: So before we get into some 2024 pop culture predictions, let’s start with a little bit more about 2023. I mentioned Twitter. I mentioned Taylor Swift, obviously A.I. But what’s your sense of like, what’s your thesis on what 2023 was as year?

AMANDA KEHRBERG: 2023 was definitely the year of the girl. We had girl math. Girl dinner. It was a year of kind of indulgence, enjoyment. A little self-care, you know, little treat. We all deserve a little treat.

GILGER: Live concerts?

KEHRBERG: Yes. Yeah. Going out. Staying out late. Partying, cocktails, mocktails. Not so much Nero fiddling while Rome burned, but maybe Nero having, like, a little nice girl dinner as a treat.

GILGER: OK. So does that intend there to be, you know, is there going to be a shift in 2024 because of that?

KEHRBERG: I think so. That’s kind of how I approached it that my best friend always reminds me, I think of culture as kind of like a Hegelian dialectic. … I know, we have fun.

GILGER: That’s very academic of you. I love it. Yes, yes.

KEHRBERG: Yeah. So there’s like a little bit of a reaction. And so I think if we were going out, staying out late, indulging in girl dinner, treating ourselves to girl math and whatever it said, then this year is staying in. It’s kind of the homebody year. So I think if we look at like Beyoncé, Taylor Swift, the girly girl Barbiecore as 2023, then my icon for 2024 would be the Sleepytime Tea Bear.

GILGER: I love that bear. OK. So what is this going to look like? This desire for coziness and the new year?

KEHRBERG: Yeah. So basically, if you look across industries, trend reports and experts are kind of aligning with this idea of staying home, kind of cuddling into bed. The Hilton Traveler profile for 2024 is someone who values sleep. They want to make sure that you’re going to have their nice little bedtime routines, that you’re going to have a mattress they like — not too soft, not too hard — and, you know, good pillows, that kind of thing. New York Times is predicting that the fruit of the year is going to be soup.

GILGER: That says a lot. That says a lot.

KEHRBERG: Very cozy. Very cozy. And then we move on to Pinterest trend reports, which along with other kinds of fashion reports, are saying that this is the year of grandpacore.

GILGER: OK, so an entire talking point unto itself. Grandpacore. Explain this to me, Amanda.

KEHRBERG: OK, so grandpacore. Think of it like thrifting oversize sweaters, comfy slacks, nice shoes. Kind of like just something that you want to cuddle into and have. Have some soup. If you look at the Sleepytime Tea Bear, he is serving grandpacore. Got his little nightgown, his little hat.

GILGER: He has a cap on. He has a night cap on. That’s adorable. OK, so less alcohol, more cafes?

KEHRBERG: Yeah, that’s what they’re saying. Also, in terms of drinks, we’re going to move back to cafecore. Yeah, we’re going back to coffee. We did see a lot more mocktails this past year. So out there there was a difference in the way that we went out partying — sometimes more responsibly. But yeah, that we’re going to make kind of more of a space to really indulge in coffee at home.

So we’re also looking at spending more time in your kitchen, thrifting stuff, making stuff, crafting stuff for your home. So a kind of cozy maximalism. So like the oversize sweater becomes, you know, the oversize couch, the oversize cushions, oversize blankets.

GILGER: I can see how this spins out. OK. It’s reminding me of, like, what we were doing back in 2020 or 2021 when it was kind of the pandemic. And we all had to cozy in. This is cozying in but in a more, maybe we’re choosing it kind of way.

KEHRBERG: I think so. I think there’s kind of — in a sense, I felt like 2023 was like finally releasing a lot of built up tension that we had from those pandemic years. And I think that was so important because we really needed that. But it’s also okay to take a step back and say like, OK, let’s kind of snuggle in with some cardigans and some board games now. And like if 2023 was our Saturday out, then 2024 is our lazy Sunday in.

GILGER: And and the trends really roll from that too. I have to ask you, so you mentioned like a couple of really kind of like almost statistic sort of predictors of this, like the Pinterest predictions there was the New York Times thing. There are real ways of measuring these trends now. Have these always existed?

KEHRBERG: A lot of it goes back to that we can track so much stuff digitally. So if you look at what people are searching for — because people are searching for “grandpa cardigan.” And that is going up and up and up. Or people are searching for, you know, “coffee at home,” “better ways to make coffee at home,” “How do I do an at-home espresso?” “How do I take my lavender oat milk latte into my own kitchen?” and that kind of thing. Or like, “thrift stores near me.” You know, thrifting has become so much more important. We’re still seeing a big trend towards sustainability, things that last.

And I think again, that feels a little like grandpa. You know, my grandpa had his toaster his whole life. I would love to have a toaster that could make it through five years, let alone a lifetime.

GILGER: Is there a level of sustainability here?

KEHRBERG: I think so, yeah. Which doesn’t mean necessarily that fast fashion won’t catch up and we won’t see like a mimicry of of this kind of thrifted homemade core. But I think that we still see, especially with the younger generations, that so much of their social media time, their consumerism overlaps with a sense of social justice and sustainability and environmental activism. So those still feed into the kinds of trends that emerge.

GILGER: Yeah, it makes a lot of sense. Yeah, we will leave it there. Amanda Kehrberg, thank you so much for coming in.

KEHRBERG: I appreciate it as always. Thank you so much.

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Lauren Gilger, host of KJZZ's The Show, is an award-winning journalist whose work has impacted communities large and small, exposing injustices and giving a voice to the voiceless and marginalized.