How Charli XCX’s 'Brat' Got the Boys Dressing Wilder

How would you define the look of “Brat summer,” the phrase inspired by Charli XCX after dropping this year’s most re-playable record? It’s not easy to define in clear terms. That’s because it’s less of a look and more of a general vibe. Motorcycle jackets and nothing underneath. Tiny shades (or huge ones!). Tramp stamps. Maybe a Von Dutch cap pulled down low. Sweat and poppers and jock straps and Marlboro reds and traipsing through downtown at 2 a.m. dressed like you’ve just walked off the set of Furiosa. Charli XCX herself defined Brat summer as “a pack of cigs, a Bic lighter and a strappy white top with no bra.” Essentially: hedonism, fun and an Aperol spritz to go. Or, as she drawls herself on the track “360”: “That city sewer slut’s the vibe / Internationally recognized.”

But Brat summer didn’t just randomly show-up, and it didn’t just arrive solely thanks to XCX’s Brat. We were already sort of hurtling that way. This summer feels like what last summer was supposed to feel like, post-post-lockdown. Pop music has never sounded better. Nightlife is having an unexpected renaissance (is it just me, or is everyone a DJ again?). And the cleaner, preppier looks that defined the colder months have been replaced by all manner of slutty little items: short shorts, leopard print, glitter, low-rise jeans, and tanks that make your arms pop. It’s the Roaring Twenties again, but this time it’s called Brat summer. That’s what they’ll refer to it as in the history books.

Troye Sivan and Charli XCX in New York City on April 29.

Raymond Hall

The thing is, unlike the first Roaring Twenties, Brat summer isn’t defined by a period of economic prosperity. Kind of the opposite, actually. Despite the fact we should all be feeling a sense of change and liberalism in the air—we’re inches from a new government, and we’re no longer forcing Covid tests up our nose—it doesn’t really feel that way. Our rents have never been higher. The cost of living keeps shooting upwards while salaries stagnate. Owning a house has, for Gen Z and millennials especially, become a distant myth unless you have the knee-up of family wealth. All of this has bred a sort of fuck-it mentality. We’re never going to become the “proper adults” of prior generations, so we may as well get dressed up in our trashiest outfits, get mashed, and dance to “club classics.”

But Brat summer isn’t just for the youth youth; XCX is 31 years old, and sings a lot about being unsure if she should grow up or just go clubbing. And it’s not for one specific gender, either—anyone can be a brat, and anyone can wear a strappy white top. In fact, if anything, Brat summer has come for the boys, too. Women have long played with this sort of hedonistic Y2K revival on nights out, but now we’re seeing their guy friends take the plunge as well. Menswear has become a lot more futuristic and risk-taking, all tight tanks and freaky sunglasses and little shorts that wouldn’t look out of place in the crowd at a Troye Sivan show. It’s hard to pinpoint why this grody-glam aesthetic has made its way to the men too, but if Brat summer is about wearing you want as the world goes to shit then it makes sense for guys to throw caution to the wind in this pre-apocalyptic party.

Indeed, the pure hedonism of Brat summer—and the trashy aesthetic that goes with it—is for everyone. We’re all feeling it, and we’re all dressing like it’s the end of the world. It doesn’t have to be any deeper than that. As Yung Lean raps on XCX’s “360” remix alongside Robyn: “Three white lines split the lime and the Barcardi / Icons in the flesh, you’re just a demon at a party.”

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