Through the phone screen: looking at early quarantine trends and fads


A cup of whipped coffee over ice.

Katrina Sanville, Arts Writer

As the one-year mark for the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic passes, and things appear to be headed towards a life similar to that before the pandemic, it can be nostalgic to reflect on the start of quarantine and all of the fads that came with it. From “Tiger King” to learning to bake bread to family walks, early quarantine’s trends seem like they were light years away.

When quarantine began in March, many took the required time at home to better themselves—physically and mentally. While this did not last long for most people, workout trends like Chloe Ting’s Two Week Shred Challenge, roller skating, family walks, and other fitness fads were all the rage. With nothing else to do besides stay home, many people saw it as the perfect time to finally start getting in shape after saying they would get to it when they had the time, and the time finally fell into their laps. Though this workout craze definitely did not stick, the few weeks in which it seemed that almost every girl had purchased a pair of rollerskates to make TikToks skating to “Girls in Bikinis” by Poppy or “Jenny From the Block” by Jennifer Lopez were certainly fun.

For the less active people, the early days of quarantine were spent in front of screens. The release of “Tiger King” on Netflix had much of the population glued to their screens. Weeks after the release of the series were spent debating if Carole Baskin actually killed her husband or not, even so far as to have the TikTok famous song “Carole Baskin, killed her husband, whacked him” go viral and have an accompanying dance trend. Other shows, such as “The Circle,” “Love is Blind,” and any other mindless television had been used to distract from the outside world as well. On a smaller screen, “Animal Crossing: New Horizons” consumed the attention of anyone who had a Nintendo Switch or could get their hands on buying one.

Younger generations also found themselves on TikTok, scrolling for hours and learning all the latest dance trends. Seemingly overnight, TikTok became the cool app for the young kids to be on, and many teenager and young adults began to post “days in my life—quarantine edition,” which were all too reminiscent of early 2010s YouTube in the ways that they glamorized the day to day lives of these people. Highly saturated, jam-packed videos quickly began to fill up the For You Page, and while they weren’t the most realistic for the average person’s daily routine, most young people have reflected fondly on this time.

Many food trends started in quarantine—mostly due to TikTok as well. Drinks like the dalgona, more commonly known as ‘whipped’ coffee, and food such as homemade breads were all the rage on TikTok, and it was hard to go more than three videos on the For You page without seeing someone’s attempt at making sourdough, banana bread, whipped coffee, or the famous cloud bread.

Makeovers also saw their rise during the beginning of quarantine—both the emotional kind and the physical kind. Like the people who finally saw quarantine as a chance to finally get in shape, many others used the time at home to focus on some self-improvement. Whether this time was spent picking up new skills like learning an instrument, writing a novel, or embroidering, or focusing on inner health, self improvement saw a spike with quarantine.

On a more skin-deep level, fashion subsections like cottagecore, e-girls/e-boys, and academia saw an increase in popularity in the beginning of quarantine. Cottagecore and e-girls especially seemed to skyrocket, since the two were almost polar opposites of each other in their styles and trends. E-girls dominated the world of ‘alt’ TikTok with dances and trends, while the girls of cottagecore filled the For You page with angelic videos of them in fields and floral dresses. These trends then migrated to other social media platforms, like Instagram, and then slowly to the real world, with mainstream brands catering to these fashion styles.

There was also the phase of early quarantine where it seemed nearly every other person had changed their hair in some way—whether that had been hair dye, bleach, or cutting bangs at home with craft scissors. Whether these decisions were due to hair salons being closed, or impulsivity and a need to control something in a time that felt completely out of the common person’s control, most people ended up with a hairstyle they either adored or despised.

While Zoom, Google Meet, and any other video calling platforms seem like second nature a year into the pandemic, it was not too long ago that the services were something society had to figure out. Easter Zoom calls had been all the rage last year, as well as group calls nearly every week to stay in touch with friends. Working from home also seemed like a luxury, and while it definitely still is since many essential workers still need to go into the frontlines every day, rolling out of bed and heading to work has become a lot more accessible.

It has been over a year after the start of the pandemic, and most of the things that were trendy and all over social media now seem like they occurred over half a century ago. Still, some of these fads feel like they had been just last month, and surely we will look back at the current trends—such as fluffy ‘70s hair and vaccination outfits—the exact same way.