When Starbucks launched their Unicorn Frappuccino in April 2017 the world as we know it, and social media in particular, went crazy for Unicorns. Of course, if the world wasn’t already crazy about unicorns Starbucks wouldn’t have had a hit on their hands in the first place. The coffee chain was merely tapping into something which was already massive across popular culture and social media and looking to capitalise on it. With the Unicorn Frappuccino however Starbucks were onto a winner, even if reportedly their baristas were less than happy as the drink itself was notoriously difficult to perfect. By creating something as photogenic, as sparkly and desirable as a unicorn coffee and selling it to the Instagram generation, Starbucks were guaranteed a massive hit.
Since then there have been numerous articles written about how we have reached ‘peak unicorn’ and that the trend has ‘maxed out’ and is about to be replaced with something else. I read this in 2017, in 2018 and for that matter in 2016 before the Unicorn Frappuccino had even come into being. It appears that there is a sector of the media who want to chase the Unicorn back to the enchanted forest and hope it stays there. Fortunately for the rest of us, the naysayers keep getting proved wrong. Don’t they know that unicorns are immortal?
Here is our round-up of who/what the style gurus and cultural commentators have tipped in recent times to steal the crown from the unicorn and take over in the popularity stakes. We’ve given each of them a score out of 10 based on attraction, staying power, aspiration and uniqueness.
Four Hot Trends Tipped to Overtake the Unicorn
Hot on the hoofs of the unicorn, comes another legendary creature – the Mermaid. 2018 was officially the year of the mermaid and undoubtedly the mermaid motif was highly visible and still is. Like unicorns mermaids have a long history in folklore, fairy tales and popular culture. Honestly, if you could be a mermaid AND ride a unicorn, why would’t you? The fact is however mermaids would struggle on the back of a unicorn, they would have to ride side-saddle, like in the olden days before it became acceptable for women to wear trousers.
Disney’s The Little Mermaid (1989) remains a great favourite with children and adults alike as the original audience have grown up and introduced the story to their own children. Not forgetting of course the brilliant soundtrack! Slightly older readers may remember the 1984 movie Splash where the gorgeous Daryl Hannah flips the fairy tale on its head and it is the object of HER affections who leaves dry land to live with the mermaid under the sea. Either way mermaids are romantic, active and feisty but they have a dark side too. In folklore mermaids got their kicks by luring unsuspecting sailors to their watery graves just for the fun of it. In Hans Anderson’s original fairy tale, The Little Mermaid, our heroine meets a tragic end and doesn’t even get the guy.
Whilst mermaids are fabulous and also offer an inspiring role model for little girls learning to swim, there is an element of sadness and loneliness to the mermaid that means they don’t have the universal appeal of the unicorn. Having a tail instead of legs though is definitely fun, even if it is just a sparkly throw to curl up in on the sofa. There is definitely unlimited opportunity for glitter and sparkle as a mermaid, and if a blue/green palette suits you then mermaids are for you.
Attraction – Mermaids are certainly beautiful and have fabulous hair.
Staying Power – They have stood the test of time and are probably immortal like unicorns.
Aspirational – Lots of people would like to be a mermaid, mermaid cosplay is fun and there are lots of cute accessories available.
Unique – There are no other creatures like them, apart from seahorses perhaps.
Unicorn Everything Rating 8/10
The Llama trend is another one which has been around for a few years now, most noticeably in clothing, accessories and home decor. According to Urban Dictionary a Drama Llama is someone who randomly throws their drama onto other people the way a llama randomly spits for no apparent reason. Let’s face it, spitting is not attractive, and neither is throwing a hissy fit or blowing minor inconveniences into full-blown dramas. No wonder the No Drama Llama memes abound on the internet and on T-shirts too.
Perhaps we are giving the llama an unfair rap here. Unlike the unicorn a llama is a mere mortal creature after all, and there are plenty of people who find them to be quirky and cute with their foppish hairdos and dopey-looking faces. Aside from farmers and zoo-keepers however there are very few people who would wish to share their lives with an actual llama. They don’t make great house-pets! Their unusual appearance and association with South American culture however do make Llama inspired decor particularly attractive when creating an exotic theme for the home, restaurant or a party.
Attraction – Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but don’t stand to close while you decide or you may get spit in your eye too.
Staying Power – We predict this one will fade into the background.
Aspirational – You might wish to own one, but would you want to be one?
Unique – Can you tell the difference between a Llama and an Alpaca?
Unicorn Everything Rating 6/10
Creeping in, literally and very very slowly, is the Sloth. It’s not hard to see why these strange but adorable creatures are gaining in popularity. In a world where everything is moving so fast and there is pressure to do more, achieve more, strive, consume, it is reassuring to know that there is one creature bucking the trend and just taking life slow. Really need a duvet day? Look to the lovable lazy sloth and he will nod in approval. If he can be bothered that is. The sloth is a kindred spirit to those suffering from burn-out or simply wanting an excuse to put it off until tomorrow. Ask yourself, “What would sloth do?” answer – nothing.
2018 saw an explosion of sloth videos circulating on social media and with their unique look, mannerisms and lifestyle no wonder people are being drawn into the laid-back world of the sloth. Etsy is championing 2019 as the year of the sloth and believes they will take over from unicorns. Whether sloths can actually be bothered to compete however is a different matter altogether.
Attraction – Definitely cute, but a little bit creepy too.
Staying Power – They can stay for hours, days probably, without moving but unlikely ever to enter our culture or storytelling beyond a few memes.
Aspirational – No. It’s OK to be a sloth for a day, but it would soon get boring.
Unique – Definitely!
Unicorn Everything Rating 7/10
Yes, you read that right. Hot for 2019, according to some pundits, is dinosaurs. I’ll say that again in case you didn’t hear me right. Dinosaurs. Dinosaurs are invading our living spaces. As early as 2017 Houzz magazine were touting Dinosaurs as the new trend to topple unicorns in the home decor stakes.
The team behind Spring Fair 2019 which showcases the hottest new products and brands in the UK marketplace, have revealed that dinosaurs have invaded the show this year with everything from planters, lamps, jewellery, home furnishings, artwork and accessories. Spring Fair suggest that because dinosaurs died out such a long time ago they have entered the realm of myth and legend naturally populated by mermaids and unicorns. It will be interesting to see how they cross from children’s toys, which is where dinosaurs have long been a favourite, to sophisticated interior design icon, but as every unicorn knows, anything is possible.
Attraction – In a scary sort of way.
Staying Power – They ruled the earth for millions of years but now they are all dead. People will always be fascinated with dinosaurs.
Aspirational – No. Dinosaurs sadly would not make good pets, they had very small brains so conversation would be limited. They probably smelled bad.
Unique – Yes, there may be animals alive today who remind us of dinosaurs but none will ever grow to the size of a brontosaurus.
Unicorn Everything Rating 6/10
Other contenders in recent years have been flamingos, narwhals, who are of course the unicorns of the sea, rainbows – on absolutely everything, and of course, cats and dogs, especially Pugs and French Bulldogs because these are our most popular pets.
You can’t outrun a Unicorn
Lovely as many of these alternatives are, there is one thing they all have in common which proves that they will never replace unicorns in the hearts and minds of the true believer. Each and every one has at some point wanted to be a unicorn. The internet is awash with pugicorns, llamacorns, slothicorns, mermicorns and dinocorns. In America, there is even a breakfast cereal called Caticorns. Everyone it seems wants to be a unicorn and every single one of these wannabe contenders has at some point donned a unicorn horn and dreamed the unicorn dream. As the saying goes, ‘If you can’t beat them, join them.’
The popularity of unicorns as we know them today originated in the late 80s and 90s with the popularity of Lisa Frank artwork. Currently enjoying a resurgence in popularity, possibly fuelled by nostalgia, The Lisa Frank Corporation launched a clothing range in 2011 and even partnered with Reebok in 2017. Instantly recognisable for its psychedelic designs, bubblegum-rainbow colours and adorable doe-eyed creatures of every kind especially unicorns, the Lisa Frank brand was the ‘go to’ choice for pencil cases, posters, schoolbags, lunchboxes and basically every accessory a school-age girl could need.
Suddenly My Little Pony exploded onto the scene and with a myriad of ponies, pegasi and unicorns in every bright and pastel shade, and now there was a pony for every little girl who ever wanted one. With more accessories and life choices than even Barbie herself, My Little Pony opened a world of imagination that endures 40 years later. The franchise has regained popularity in recent years with the re-boot of the original TV series and My Little Pony – The Movie (2017) starring Princess Twilight Sparkle who is of course a winged unicorn. Add the internet, social media and fandoms into this colourful mix and you have the perfect environment for unicorns to venture out of the forest and into every sphere of modern life. What’s more, those original fans never gave their unicorns up. They kept them in their hearts for their children and their children’s children and for themselves. If this were not the case unicorns would never have made it off the toy shelves and onto the rails of women’s fashion stores and other retail departments like decor, home-ware and even alcohol.
Viva La Unicorn
Despite what the pundits would love you to believe, unicorns are not a trend, a fad, a phase or in any way transient. To try to replace the power and meaning of the unicorn with mere mortal animals, or even mermaids, will never be enough to inspire people beyond creating motifs on artifacts. They simply don’t have the depth of meaning to inspire people to create new styles in food, hair colour, cosmetics, fashion, storytelling, films, art, or philosophy.
The unicorn is the emblem and spirit animal of a whole generation who dare to dream bigger, think bolder and change ourselves and our world. The message of the unicorn is to be yourself, be a little crazy, be proud to be different, to buck the trend. It is no coincidence for example that the unicorn, with it’s association with rainbows, has been adopted by the LGBT community. It is the empowering message of the unicorn which inspires so many people in many different ways which means this so-called trend is not going away any time soon.
Tell us what you think. Do you agree with the results of our round-up of trends? Have you spotted any other trends which you think will be as big as unicorns in 2019? Lets us know in the comments below.