The Absurdist "Cursed Image" Look of the 2000s Is Back, and These Brands Nail It

Fashion is at its best when it doesn't take itself too seriously, and the comeback of the early internet aesthetic, an extension of the Y2K resurgence, represents just that. You may not believe that mall-kiosk slogan T-shirts and WordArt graphics are in style, but after we wore sweatsuits for a year, truly anything can happen. The nostalgic trend pays homage to the early days of the internet and all of the absurdity, overdone graphics, and sayings that came with it. The trend is confusing to define (it doesn't really have a name) but easy to spot: think T-shirts with aggressive and/or hyper-specific slogans on trendy Gen Z influencers.

I prefer to call it "cheugy-core": it is taking something that would otherwise be "cheugy" (or sometimes just absurd) and wearing it with intention and irony. The back of your closet and your local thrift stores should be your first stop to authentically embody the trend. However, a few brands get the phenomenon correctly, even adding in updated pop culture references and tying in other current trends. Plus, most of the items are super comfy. It's camp for the new generation!


If you've ever wanted a way to rep celebs like Lizzo, Andy Samberg, or Taylor Swift in a way no one else has before (and how could we not?), look no further than BugGirl200. Their tongue-in-cheek T-shirts are ridiculous in the best way — this one says "I would commit tax fraud for Lizzo." Olivia Rodrigo recently posted a Twilight shirt made by the brand, tagging friend Iris Apatow. Plus, the company is eco-conscious and fully run by women!


Los Angeles/New York label Praying is at the forefront of absurdist Y2K-inspired fashion, as proven by their viral "Brangelina Bag," worn by Devon Lee Carlson. A celebrity favorite is the brand's cheeky "God's Favorite" pieces, as seen on stars like Chantel Jeffries and Megan Thee Stallion. The brand is not without controversy, as a bikini printed with "Father," "Son," and "Holy Spirit" caused a stir on TikTok. Still, cofounder Alex Haddad defended the company as it tries to "present, very clearly, something ambiguous" . . . and isn't that what this trend is all about?

Yung Reaper

Nothing screams Y2K more than over-the-top airbrush designs, and Yung Reaper elevates this by including super-cool iconography and details — like the water on this tee. Keke Palmer rocked their "Heartbreaker" tank in a TikTok, proving that an airbrushed tank, a denim skirt, and a pair of tinted sunnies is the perfect outfit. Many of the brand's other pieces are butterfly-heavy and Paris Hilton-inspired — an eye-catcher for celebrities like Kylie Jenner, who stepped out flaunting their KJ Kitty Dress.


Instagram influencer @_milkshakespeare embodies the Y2K aesthetic, so it only makes sense her shop, MilksMerch, would do the same. Created by a "girl who loves the y2k era but couldn't express it because she was too young at the time," these tee shirts reintroduce Bratz-doll-inspired graphics with fun, girly fonts.

Local Heroes

Local Heroes combines this trend with cottagecore with this hoodie that kindly states, "Leave Me Alone I'm Having a Crisis" with an image of a baby deer. It's unexplainable, potentially satirical, and just so cute, making it the perfect fit for our list.


Omighty is known for its edgy graphics, like the ones on this Hellbound Glitter Crop Tee ($46). The orange-and-blue color combination adds an extra flair to the graphic, as does the seemingly inverted photo. Influencers like Genevieve Vandam and Hadar Lavy paired theirs with equally Y2K bottoms like long jean shorts and detailed cargo pants. The brand's downside is that it is considered fast fashion, so hit Depop for its cutest shirts first.


Technically Reductress isn't a brand, but the woman-targeted satire organization has some pretty funny merchandise that fits this aesthetic by directly making fun of it. This tee shirt has one of their iconic fake headlines on it — some other standout pieces are their "tragically pale" and "cool teen" hats.

Dolls Kill

Dolls Kill is sort of the main character when it comes to niche edgy internet-era fashion, so it's no surprise that they slay the over-the-top spray paint look. Their Dolls Kill x Bratz Strike a Pose Denim Set ($47, originally $78) is adorable, as is the Expensive Taste Glitter Belt ($35) paired with it. The company is fast fashion, so check out Depop first for their older drops.