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I Can’t Shut Up About ‘Coastal Grandmothers’

Photo-Illustration: The Cut. Photo: Columbia Pictures

Do you long to quit everything and make big salads by the ocean? Do you find great appeal in putting on a white turtleneck and sitting barefoot in the sand? Does the idea of drinking white wine while sighing wistfully into the middle distance make you … a little horny? Great news, sweetie. You are a coastal grandmother.

The aesthetic — which doesn’t actually require you to be a grandparent or live by an ocean — has been gaining popularity on TikTok with people showing off their fancy cookware, giving tours of their grandparents’ beachy homes, and displaying their collection of striped button-downs. “Coastal grandmother is a lifestyle and aesthetic that embodies elements of coastal living and homemaking,” TikToker Lex Nicoleta, who takes credit for the term, tells the Cut over email. Nicoleta is responsible for some of the most popular videos under the hashtag #coastalgrandmother, giving movie recs, outfit ideas, and kitchen inspo to fellow aspiring coastal grandmas. If you, too, would like to wrap yourself in lightweight sweaters by a beach, here is a guide to embracing your inner coastal grandmother.

What is a coastal grandmother?

The coastal grandmother aesthetic is a mix of caftan energy, loose linens, neutral colors, and affluence. It’s Le Creuset cookware, a chunky crochet blanket, and every throw pillow Anthropologie carries. It’s ceramics, wicker patio furniture, and sitting on a large chair with your feet tucked up. A coastal grandmother smell like fresh herbs and salt water or lavender and freshly signed divorce papers. She wears a white button-down, cozy robe, and flowy pants while the grandkids play in the ocean. It’s drinking iced tea with a lemon wheel on the rim and signing your emails with your first initial. It’s a little flirty, like an Eharmony commercial. It’s Something’s Gotta Give meets Big Little Lies. In many ways, it’s hygge made for boomers but embraced by people decades younger.

The coastal grandmother is sort of the matriarchal evolution of Hot Girl Summer. Though she has similar energy to a middle-age divorcée, you don’t need to have ever been married to embody the coastal grandma. There is no minimum age, and you needn’t have any grandchildren, or kids of your own for that matter. It’s okay if you live in a landlocked state and have never touched the ocean in your life because coastal grandmother is less a rigid style of fashion and more a feeling.

Who is a coastal grandmother?

Nicoleta has previously described the coastal grandmother as “Martha Stewart–adjacent, not fully Ina Garten … Nancy Meyers chic.” Many of the examples are wealthy, white women above the age of 50. However, Florence Pugh making marmalade on Instagram Live is very much “coastal grandmother.” So is Oprah with her bountiful harvest. But the pinnacle of coastal grandmothers, a foremother of the movement, is, of course, Diane Keaton. Her history with enormous pants alone makes her the reigning queen of the aesthetic.

Where and when is a coastal grandmother?

Time doesn’t really exist to a coastal grandmother. She can spend three hours picking fresh basil from her garden or a full day reading a paperback romance in a sunny spot. However, there are preferred locations and times of day: a beach house on a breezy summer morning; a café patio for an early evening cup of coffee — decaf, of course; a post-date nightcap by the firepit with Jack Nicholson.

The coastal grandmother aesthetic is best enjoyed whenever it would also be appropriate to play this coastal grandmother Spotify playlist. Curated by Nicoleta, the playlist includes Natalie Cole’s “This Will Be (An Everlasting Love),” Ray LaMontagne’s “You Are the Best Thing,” and every other song that makes your shoulders shimmy a little bit. You can be a coastal grandmother while chopping vegetables in the kitchen, taking your little white dog for a walk around the neighborhood, or heading to your local farmer’s market.

Why is a coastal grandmother?

Like most everything on TikTok, it’s hard to pinpoint one reason the coastal grandmother trend has taken off. Maybe it’s because Netflix recently announced a new Nancy Meyers movie. Perhaps the quiet suggestion of affluence is a gentle counterpart to the Kardashian-esque opulence that’s been characteristic of the last decade. It could also be a response to pandemic burnout, to the feeling that work is never-ending, to the desire to just be still for one single moment.

“It’s about romanticizing your everyday life and finding beauty in the ordinary moments,” Nicoleta tells me, noting that she first starting using the term “coastal grandmother” three or four months ago. “I have always been drawn to this lifestyle that you find in a Nancy Meyers movie or when you visit your relative that lives at the beach,” she continues. “There is a sense of coziness and safety that comes with it. And it’s something I relate to in my own life.”

I have recently found myself fantasizing about retirement — I am 31. In this way, I am a coastal grandmother. The aesthetic is aspirational but also feels like a satisfying end point. It suggests retrospection at a full and happy life. It suggests autonomy and making choices for you and you alone. Also, it’s fun to wear big, dumb sunhats.

Is there a coastal grandfather?

If there isn’t, I nominate Stanley Tucci.

I Can’t Shut Up About ‘Coastal Grandmothers’