What The World Needs Now Is Whimsy?

Ever since Starbucks debuted the psychadelically colored unicorn Frappuccino last week, people have been shaking their heads. How did this unicorn craze come about? What’s with all of the kiddie colors? Why … just why?!

Starbucks' Unicorn Frappuccino
Photo: Starbucks

But this isn’t just the coffee chain’s Q2 sales gimmick: It’s evidence of a larger trend happening worldwide, fueled partially by social media (making everyone a photographer/videographer/artist with a need to create and share content). It’s also just a move in general toward anything that’s fun, playful, and whimsical.

Blogs and food websites — Delish included — have been all over unicorn everything, which essentially means turning any treat pastel tie-dye and covering it in a variety of sprinkles. But it’s not just unicorn — “mermaid” everything (from blue-green, bee pollen-flecked toast to waist-length beachy waves) has been such a hit it’s become the punchline to Iliza Schlesinger’s standup. Dusty pink-bordering-on-rose-gold has gone from Pantone’s 2015 color of the year to trendy hair color, now sold in shops well beyond Spencer’s, making the shade practically mainstream. If Walmart offers three ways to ombre your locks, it’s no longer a fringe interest. These days, the shade’s been dubbed “milliennial pink,” and it’s become the base for most unicorn treats, thanks largely to Creme & Sugar’s Unicorn Hot Chocolate, a blush-tinted hot cocoa that went viral this past December. (The name itself, “millennial pink,” may be a bit tongue-in-cheek, given how the soft, delicate color echoes the common “special snowflake” fragility of the generation.)

Creme & Sugar's unicorn hot chocolate (Photo: Candace Braun Davison)
Creme & Sugar’s unicorn hot chocolate (Photo: Candace Braun Davison)

Beyond that, since the rise of Pinterest in 2011, people have been crazy about pinning ombre and rainbow cakes, and who can forget the rainbow bagel craze last summer? It’s like we’re finally saying it’s okay to have fun with your food. And just be a little more lighthearted in general.

Culturally, the pivot makes sense. While New York Magazine cited gender fluidity as one reason for the rise of “millennial pink,” I think the whole movement toward whimsical sweets, beauty, and fashion is the result of a craving. A desire to escape the mundane of everyday life, be it feeling stuck in the rut of a 9-to-5 you hate, or just needing a temporary, dopamine-inducing distraction as we climb out of the recession — and still grapple with issues of racism, economic disparity, global warming, and well, everything else that makes you go “What is happening with the world?!” when you watch or read the news. That’s not to say the world’s worse than ever, or that you should stick your head in an Alice in Wonderland-inspired rabbit hole any time the real world gets a little too real for you.

Creme & Sugar's Unicorn Shake (Photo: Candace Braun Davison)
Creme & Sugar’s Unicorn Shake (Photo: Candace Braun Davison)

In some ways, it may underscore that millennial complaint, that our generation is always chasing happiness — no matter how fantastical or trivial — but really, what’s wrong with trying to add something special to your everyday life? If that means buying a hot pink latte, so be it. Whatever brings you a little joy.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *