As the new year settles in, every fashion-forward student has one thing on their mind: pre-empting 2024’s Next Big Things. Oxfordians fantasise particularly eagerly about earning the “I-told-you-so” validation which we so often lack in our academic endeavours – is there any feeling better than being able to correctly say that you liked something before it was popular, and that really, you don’t even have to try too hard (or think too hard) to be the best dressed in the room? You just have a sense about these things. But do you really? Does anyone? Perhaps, you should simply read this article, which neatly signposts the latest trends signalled by Instagram popularity, fast-fashion knock-offs and celebrity endorsement. 

1. The return of chunky tech 

This year will see the dominance of over-ear headphones cemented in popular style. The sleek, shiny Airpod max headsets first revived common enthusiasm for “big” accessory earpieces  three years ago, but their exorbitant price and ties to the Apple ecosystem have thus far prevented them from dominating the market. Simultaneously, the popularity of the more discrete “pod”/”bud”-type earpiece has waned as wearers realise how easy they are to misplace, and how much sound quality and noise-cancelling they are missing out on in comparison to over-ear headphone wearers. The nostalgia cycle has wound back around to the 2000s, and Gen Z is rediscovering their childlike joy for visible technology. 

OB wears pastel blue headphones with earth-toned accessories. Image taken by author.

Hefty, reliable technology is so much more satisfying than lighter alternatives because we can really feel that we own something that will last. In a world where most of us stream media rather than owning it for the long-term, it is a comfort to know that our technology will stay with us for a long time rather than being lost down the back of a train seat, stomped on at a house-party, or blown away in the wind. An anti-social generation, the youth appreciate that wearing over-ear headphones reduces your chances of being talked to on the street – according to Jabra, an audio company, more than a third of young people in the UK wear headphones to avoid engaging with strangers. Big headphones and visible technology signal to the world that you Mean Business – whether you’re furiously cramming in the library or strutting to lectures, this trend is for you. 

Note: the resurgence of wired earbuds depends strongly on whether many other mid-2010s style tropes are also nostalgically reclaimed. 

2. The new “IT” shoe

Dominant shoes, such as the AF1 and the Doc Marten boot, have retained their place on the pavement for too long. The world needs a new “it” shoe, that balances the classic needs of everyday comfort and style. Ticking these boxes, thin-soled, low-top Adidas and ASICS/Onitsuka Tiger models are currently favoured by hipsters and humanities students around Oxford. Not only are they easy to slip on and off, but they look great when they’re a little worn down, and they spark nostalgia for a time that most students were never able to experience- Adidas “Sambas” as we know them were born in the 1970s, whilst the Onitsuka Tiger “Mexico 66” was, naturally, perfected in 1966

Student KS sports leather Adidas “Campus” sneakers. Image taken by author.

An anonymous student shows off their Adidas “Gazelles” with a “premium suede” finish. Image taken by author.

However, the lack of mainstream buy-in for these shoes suggests that their window for going big is closing. Will they take over? Perhaps a past champion, such as FILA or Reebok, will step in to regain some glory, or a newcomer will steal the scene. 

On the opposite end of the style spectrum, sporty and sweet styles are increasingly being mixed together. Simone Rocha’s thick, bubble-soled ballet flats, and Asics’ bow-topped or bedazzled sneakers have been an instant hit with frill-obsessed “coquette” women. 

KW wears silver Onitsuka Tiger “Mexico 66”. Image taken by author.

The practicality and comfort of these shoes could be just what is needed to sustain the momentum of cute fashion. 

3. The death of “coquette”

Super-feminine fashion will die this year. It has to: it has become too mainstream. The knells of doom came as soon as the McDonald’s Instagram was posting bow-laden chicken nuggets. As much as we love the simple romanticism of bows and frills (this is, in essence, what “coquette” styles are all about, though the word originally means a terrible flirt), we are beginning to realise how impractical they are. However, this does not necessarily mean that they will simply disappear. Whether coquette is reborn or rebelled against remains to be seen. 

The appearance of the previously niche hyper-feminine Japanese brand “BABY, THE STARS SHINE BRIGHT” at New York Fashion Week  for the first time this year signals that coquette girls could become even more elaborately feminine, with crinolines and bonnets. 

Baby the Stars Shine Bright Lolita Fashion PMX 2015“. Image credit: Dapper Geek News, licensed under CC BY 2.0.

By contrast, ironic takes on femininity such as “blokette” have retained a strong grip on Oxford students. Blokette, which combines the style tropes and attitude of a typical British sports hooligan with youthful and feminine essentials such as cute skirts and lacy socks, seems to be the ideal style for women to assert their love for cuteness whilst turning away from the male gaze. To easily accessorise the look further, student KS, whose style combines sporty comfort and femininity, is betting on hair jewellery and shiny accessories as the next big thing for Oxford fashionistas. 

For too long, the average fashion trend aimed at women has emphasised not only style but the body that wears it – think crop tops and short skirts. Instead, the ideal take on femininity should be one which any woman can feel comfortable wearing. Long skirts and baggy sweaters are prescribed, but this medicine may not work for a youth that, like the adolescents of any other generation, is fascinated with sex appeal. If the blokettes don’t make it mainstream, then the backlash against coquette style is likely to take a more mature, seductive, and corporate form. 

Student KL pairs a comfortable leather jacket and sporty Onitsuka Tiger sneakers with a delicately patterned maxi skirt. Image taken by author.

4. Colourful tights

As feminine styles undergo this metamorphosis, skirt-wearers will be in need of something to keep their legs warm. Colourful, block-colour tights allow the wearer to stand out, stay warm, and avoid association with the cringey galaxy-print tights of our tweenage years. Furthermore, student KM is expecting sheer fabrics to gain popularity this year, and professional trend-spotters such as Hypebae support the claim. Semi-transparent fabrics allow the wearer to build interesting textures and create delicate layering, so they are ideally placed for both blokettes and sophisticates. Such material can be cheaply made from low-density knitted synthetic fibres, and can be tweaked to keep the wearer warm or to let in more air, meaning that this trend will be easily accessible.

SW pairs opaque pink tights with colourful tartan. Image taken by author.

An anonymous student wears blue tartan and lace trousers. Image taken by author.

5. The effect of Saltburn 

Oxford students, of course, will be susceptible to the glamour of a film that idolises and disparages them. It’s weird. It’s nostalgic. It’s sumptuous but so, so, sordid. Students are more likely to imitate the film’s upper-class “it”-boy, Felix, who is beloved both by characters within the film and by audiences worldwide. To directly follow Felix’s style cues would involve knitted V-necks and subtly-branded rugby shirts, but these are by design expensive and inaccessible to many students. Instead, it’s more likely that we’ll see a more general appreciation of the glorious “trashy” 2000s style that Saltburn’s costume designer, Sophie Canale, wanted to pay homage to. This brief is a lot easier to fill: useless belts, leggings, low-rise trousers and slouchy jeans are already to be found filling racks at the many charity shops around town. 2000s nostalgia is nothing new, having first flared up during the pandemic, but an outbreak of men’s eyebrow piercings – again, imitating Saltburn’s golden boy Felix – would certainly grab our attention. 

6. Will men learn to get a little weird too? 

The past few years have shown a trend towards more individualistic, bold fashion choices for women, but the same effect has not been so strong on men. We saw no substantial hyper-masculine response to hyper-feminine fashion trends, and the average stylish Oxford man only needs to wear a little more jewellery than his peers to stand out; This seems grossly unfair. Personal conversations with the men in my life suggest that the average man will not try something new for fear of being perceived as a try-hard, and consequently damaging his social and romantic life. A major societal shift is needed so that men are comfortable to experiment, and conversely so that women do not feel that they need to participate in every new trend. 

The steadfast anti-fashion attitude of most male Oxford students can however be praised for its relative environmental sustainability. This year, all of us should aim to only buy a handful of clothes that we will love and wear for many years to come.