Goodbye clean girl, hello mob wife

The mob wife takes over the internet. Photo courtesy of CNN


The mob wife. Big hair, red lipstick, fur and animal print. She has long been a staple of TV and cinema, but now she has taken over the internet too. 

In early 2024, the mob wife aesthetic began appearing on many TikTok and Instagram feeds. This look includes leopard or cheetah print, bold and dark eye makeup, red lips, big curls, tight silhouettes and — above all — fur coats galore. 

As the name implies, this aesthetic draws inspiration from the representation of wives of mob members or leaders in TV and movies. Edie Falco’s character in “The Sopranos”, Carmela Soprano, is one of the most popular icons, but other characters such as Sharon Stone’s Ginger McKenna from the film “Casino” are also popular influences. 

The influence of these icons is apparent, but what has caused the resurgence of this look? “The Sopranos” has been off the air since 2007, and “Casino” was released in 1995. With a lack of mob-oriented media in recent years, it could be argued that the trend came out of nowhere. Some followers of the trend attribute its success to the escapism it invites. The icons of this trend are powerful, rich women, so it could be viewed as aspirational. 

Fifth-year music education major Sam Hoke said that it can be a costume that inspires confidence. 

“I think it could be people wanting to represent some type of powerful, rich woman who is able to flaunt it,” Hoke said. “I think that’s very common with our generation with all of these recessions we’ve been living through. It’s kind of an escape to look at excess and riches and think about that in a romantic light.” 

Trends imitating the styles of the wealthy are not a new phenomenon, but the style the mob wife emulates diverges from those that have recently been popular. Much of the 2023 trend discourse focused on the “quiet luxury” and “stealth wealth” aesthetics. These were also designed to signal wealth but in a much more minimalist fashion. Staples of these trends included neutral colors, business casual styles and minimal, gold jewelry. 

An article from CNBC hypothesized that Gen Z is done with minimalist makeup and clothes and, instead, is embracing messy glamor. As the economy slowly resurges from the COVID-19 pandemic, some young people finally have resources to spare for the first time in their adult lives. The article stated that this newfound economic security is tied to the bolder, more explicitly glamorous trends, like the mob wife. 

However, the mob wife is not the only style trend that has recently risen in popularity. Aesthetics such as the “rat girl”, “heroin chic” and “soft grunge” are also on the rise. These aesthetics are starkly different from another trend of the past couple of years — the “clean girl.” 

The “clean girl” is defined by minimal, dewy makeup, athleisure, slicked-back hair, white home decor and an overall “healthy” lifestyle. This look has dominated the past couple of years with popular celebrities like Hailey Bieber, Kendall Jenner and Bella Hadid at the forefront. Like quiet luxury and stealth wealth, the clean girl aims to appear effortlessly chic. Given the turn away from quiet luxury and stealth wealth, it may not be shocking that the clean girl is in decline as well. 

Senior music performance major Lexi Scida attributes the rise of the mob wife and its companion trends to a growing disdain for the clean girl. 

“I think it’s a response, and it’s a very kind of different look than the clean, slicked-back looks that we’ve had previously,” Scida said. “I think this is more an answer to that than anything else.” 

Some who have turned away from the clean girl trend and those like it feel as though they are too rigid and unrealistic. Aesthetics like the mob wife or rat girl require less precision and encourage their followers to have fun. Hoke said he welcomes this change. 

“I think the idea of being proper and clean and fresh for everybody is kind of an unrealistic view,” Hoke said. “It’s kind of relaxing to see trashy [trends]. You’re able to look messy and it’s okay … it’s nice to have a viewpoint into the imperfections.” 

As welcoming as the mob wife aesthetic may be, it is not without its critics. The trend takes inspiration from mob styles, primarily those of Italian American women. The Italian mob has long been a staple in American history and pop culture. While the icons for this aesthetic are mostly characters, these characters are based on the lives and styles of real people. 

Some people have criticized the aesthetic and those who follow it for appropriating the Italian American image without understanding its history and influence. This issue is not unique to the mob wife aesthetic. Many trends have come under fire for appropriating cultures and paying little attention to their origins. However, Scida thinks that there are ways to incorporate these styles without appropriating them. 

“There are definitely ways to [incorporate the trend] that people are doing right now that don’t have to rely on elements of other people’s cultures,” Scida said. “Even the language that is used is something that I think is important. If we didn’t call it the mob wife aesthetic and instead it was [something else]. There’s less of a tie to this very specific thing that some people do have trauma from.” 

Keeping these things in mind, the mob wife can be whatever people want it to be. For some, it is a statement against trends of the past, and for others, it is a chance to dress up and escape.


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