Aughust 10, 2022
If you aren’t one of the 183 million viewers of 26-year-old Lex Nicoleta’s coastal grandmother TikTok video—first posted in March and now trending everywhere—we have the lowdown, thanks to both The Star and Business Insider.
According to The Star, coastal grandmother is an appealingly attainable way of life—and if you have time to read a newspaper you’re likely halfway there. You own a couple of button-down cotton shirts, which you button up. You’re not shy around a bucket hat, preferably in white; or a bottle of wine, which you open at 4 p.m. and finish that night—even on a Tuesday, because there are no days in this world of timeless ease.
You may garden or walk on a beach, if you happen to live near one (not a requirement for the CG); maybe there’s a dog and a zippy car. Extra points if you own and use an extremely heavy orange Le Creuset casserole (check!).
Diane Keaton in “Something’s Gotta Give” and Meryl Streep in “It’s Complicated” are the often-cited original models for the coastal grandmother and, like them, you wear your privilege on your loose linen sleeve. But you don’t have to be a grandmother to be a coastal grandmother, any more than you must be beachbound: Anne Hathaway, Selena Gomez, and Taylor Swift have all posted their CG looks, and a large and merry band of under-25s have joined in the fun. As Nicoleta says: Coastal grandmother “is for anyone and everyone.”
Indeed, Business Insider writer Allison Kenien says she grew up with her own coastal grandmother. “Looking at the viral TikTok videos,” Kenien says, “I see a glamorized version of ocean life.”
The videos glorify an affluent lifestyle that is commonly associated with seaside communities. But real coastal culture, in Kenien’s opinion, is not about money—it’s about experiences: combing the beach for shells, feeling the rush of big waves, breathing the salty air, watching the sunrise with the fishermen, and eating the freshest catch at sunset.
She agrees that the coastal grandmother aesthetic on TikTok focuses heavily on white or cream clothing—and there is a good reason for that: Conventional wisdom is that the colors repel sunlight and catch the breeze; keeping you comfortable all day, from the sand dunes to the salt ponds.
In addition, Kenien notes, “You can score bonus points for wearing vintage yacht club clothing, which shows that you’ve been hanging around the water for a long time.”
However, in her experience, the aesthetic is more varied than TikTok would suggest: “In the fall, winter, and spring, coastal grandmothers add color to their wardrobe. I like to keep my nautical look with blue, gray, and red clothing; gold accents; and patterns with ropes, stripes, or waves. For the coldest months, we wear fisherman sweaters, cozy socks, and a warm wool coat. “
And when coastal grandmothers go home, they enjoy neighborhoods with a distinctive look. American flags are common in traditional coastal towns—and coast homes are typically sided in distinct cedar shingles that get a faded, weathered look over time. Compared to traditional siding, these shingles are more resistant to rotting caused by ocean air.
One common decor item mentioned on TikTok that is definitely accurate is having a bowl of lemons to decorate the kitchen counter. This isn’t just about aesthetics though, says Kenien. She explains, “It’s because we frequently eat seafood, which is traditionally served with lemon in order to neutralize the ‘fishy’ taste and give dishes a fresher flavor.”
“My great grandmother’s favorite meal was Block Island swordfish, which is locally sourced from Rhode Island,” she recalls. “Nearly a century later, we still serve it to guests and share stories about my grandmother’s tradition of eating swordfish with gherkin pickles.”
And paper plates won’t do: Nicoleta mentions serving these coastal recipes on good china, “which.” Says Kenien, “is spot on in my community, where coastal families often have special serving dishes, usually passed down through the family.”
Finally, she recalls, “My grandparents made the ocean magic last all year long, even when the glitz and glimmer of the summer season had ended.”
At the heart of the coastal grandmother is sharing the spirit of the seaside with others. You can carry that warmth and love anywhere, through any season.
Research contact: @BusinessInsider