First Nations creators call out ‘Naarmcore’ TikTok fashion trend

Spend enough time watching TikTok videos from Melbourne and you might come across the term ‘Naarmcore’.
In contrast to the ‘cottagecore’ visual and lifestyle aesthetic where some don traditional, Victorian era-inspired dresses in cottage-like settings, and the whimsical ‘fairycore’ which is inspired by the fantasy character, ‘Naarmcore’ is the trending word being used to describe a particular style most commonly seen on the streets of Melbourne.
Popularised on TikTok, ‘Naarmcore’ uses the traditional Aboriginal name for Melbourne, Naarm, to describe the street style. Puffer jackets, cargo pants, hiking boots and beanies are all staples of the look.
But since its popularisation, some First Nations people have started voicing their disapproval of the trending term, saying Naarm had now become detached from its meaning.
Aboriginal fashion label Clothing the Gaps, a social enterprise celebrating Aboriginal people and culture, last week penned a letter explaining why it was putting the term “in the bin”, urging others to follow suit.

“We love when people switch out names of places for its Traditional language place name. It makes Aboriginal people feel seen and heard and is a piece of the truth telling that needs to happen in this country,” the statement from the company which is Aboriginal-led and majority Aboriginal-owned, said.

But the group said “genuine decolonising practices” needed to go further and deeper than simply calling Melbourne, Naarm.
“If we make the time and effort to understand the history and meaning behind Aboriginal languages and places we can decolonise the way we think and act.
“Using Aboriginal language to fit a trending aesthetic dismisses the 65,000 years history and depth of Aboriginal cultures, languages and practices.”

As explained by the group in the statement, Naarm (also spelt Nairm, Narrm) is used by the Woiwurrung and Boonwurrung language groups as part of the wider Kulin Nation.

‘Naarm is a place name. It’s not your little fashion moment’

Tariq Ismat, a Pakistani and Aboriginal model and content creator, told The Feed he was delighted by the move last year by Australia Post to allow for after a campaign by Gomeroi woman Rachael McPhail.
“Even sometimes the smallest of representations are enough.”
But he said the term “Naarmcore” had become so far removed from its origins that it had lost its true meaning.
The 21-year-old said the name “Naarm” had even sprung up in conversations to describe something as “very Melbourne”.

“Our culture is still here but you’ve just turned it into this aesthetic, which completely takes away from what it really is,” he said.

In his TikTok video, now approaching 100,000 views, he said: “The problem is that people do the bare minimum and use Naarm [instead of Melbourne], but that’s not enough.”
“Naarm is a place name. It’s not your little fashion moment,” instead naming Blak-owned businesses that provided true representations of “Naarmcore”.
Another TikTok user also shared a video expressing her concern with how the name had been appropriated.
“Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s great that everyone is using Naarm more than Melbourne… but are we kind of reclaiming that term and not actually acknowledging it as an Aboriginal place name?” she said.
“It feels like now Naarm is more of an aesthetic than a place name.
“Are we kind of redefining Naarm for a white aesthetic?”
Mr Ismat said while he is happy to help others understand why the term is being misused, he wished others would take more care and initiative.

“There are so many resources out there. I’m sure people hear this a lot, but Google is free.”

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