From The Dress Code

{{Style |era=2010s |image=[[File:Vaporwave .jpg|250px] }}

Vaporwave is a microgenre of electronic music and an Internet meme that emerged in the early 2010s. The style is defined by its borrowing of 1980s and 1990s mood music styles such as smooth jazz, elevator music, R&B, and lounge music, typically sampling or manipulating tracks via chopped and screwed techniques and other effects. Its surrounding subculture is sometimes associated with an ambiguous or satirical take on consumer capitalism and pop culture, and tends to be characterized by a nostalgic or surrealist engagement with the popular entertainment, technology and advertising of previous decades. It also incorporates early Internet imagery, late 1990s web design, glitch art, anime, 3D-rendered objects, and cyberpunk tropes in its cover artwork and music videos.

Originating as an ironic variant of chillwave, vaporwave was loosely derived from the experimental tendencies of the mid-2000s hypnagogic pop scene. The style was pioneered by producers such as James Ferraro, Daniel Lopatin, and Ramona Xavier, who each used various pseudonyms. A circle of online producers were particularly inspired by Xavier's Floral Shoppe (2011), which established a blueprint for the genre. The movement subsequently built an audience on sites, Reddit and 4chan while a flood of new acts, also operating under online pseudonyms, turned to Bandcamp for distribution. Following the wider exposure of vaporwave in 2012, a wealth of subgenres and offshoots emerged, such as future funk, mallsoft, and hardvapour.


Vaporwave is an Internet-based microgenre that was built upon the experimental and ironic tendencies of genres such as chillwave and hypnagogic pop. It draws primarily on musical and cultural sources from the 1980s and early 1990s while also being associated with an ambiguous or satirical take on consumer capitalism and technoculture. Critic Adam Trainer writes of the style's predilection for "music made less for enjoyment than for the regulation of mood," such as corporate stock music for infomercials and product demonstrations. Musicologist Adam Harper described the typical vaporwave track as "a wholly synthesised or heavily processed chunk of corporate mood music, bright and earnest or slow and sultry, often beautiful, either looped out of sync and beyond the point of functionality."

The style's visual aesthetic (often stylized as "}} ", with fullwidth characters) incorporates early Internet imagery, late 1990s web design, glitch art, and cyberpunk tropes, as well as anime, Greco-Roman statues, and 3D-rendered objects. VHS degradation is another common effect seen in vaporwave art. Generally, artists limit their source material between Japan's economic flourishing in the 1980s and the September 11 attacks or dot-com bubble burst of 2001 (some albums, including Floral Shoppe, depict the intact Twin Towers on their covers)


2009–2011: Origins and early scene

Vaporwave originated on the Internet as an ironic variant of chillwave, Ash Becks of The Essential notes that sites like Pitchfork and Drowned in Sound "seemingly refused to touch vaporwave throughout the genre’s two-year 'peak'."

The template for vaporwave came from the albums Chuck Person's Eccojams Vol. 1 (Daniel Lopatin as "Chuck Person", August 2010) and Far Side Virtual (Ferraro, October 2011). Eccojams featured chopped and screwed variations on popular 1980s pop songs with album artwork that resembled the packaging of the 1992 video game Ecco the Dolphin, According to Stereogums Miles Bowe, vaporwave was a fusion between Lopatin's "chopped and screwed plunderphonics" and the "nihilistic easy-listening of James Ferraro’s Muzak-hellscapes". A 2013 post on a music blog presented those albums, along with Skeleton's Holograms (November 2010), as "proto vaporwave".

(2011) by Macintosh Plus features elements that would come to exemplify the vaporwave aesthetic, including retro computer imagery, Japanese lettering, and pixelated graphics.

Inspired by Lopatin's ideas, suburban teens and young adults used Eccojams as a starting point for what would become vaporwave Vaporwave artists were "mysterious and often nameless entities that lurk the internet," academic Adam Harper noted, "often behind a pseudo-corporate name or web façade, and whose music is typically free to download through Mediafire, Last FM, Soundcloud or Bandcamp."

2010s: Popularity

Vaporwave found wider appeal over the middle of 2012, building an audience on sites like, Reddit and 4chan. After a flood of new acts turned to Bandcamp for distribution, various online music publications such as Tiny Mix Tapes, Dummy and Sputnikmusic began covering the movement. In September 2012, Blank Banshee released his debut album, Blank Banshee 0, which reflected a trend of vaporwave producers who were more influenced by trap music and less concerned with conveying political undertones. Bandwagon called it a "progressive record" that, along with Floral Shoppe, "signaled the end of the first wave of sample-heavy music, and ... reconfigured what it means to make vaporwave music."

Following the initial wave, new terms for offshoot genres were invented, some of which indicate the non-seriousness of vaporwave, such as "vaportrap" and "vaporgoth". Vice writer Rob Arcand commented that the "rapid proliferation of subgenres has itself become part of the "vaporwave" punchline, gesturing at the absurdity of the genre itself even as it sees artists using it as a springboard for innovation." In 2015, Rolling Stone published a list that included vaporwave act 2814 as one of "10 artists you need to know", citing their album . That same year, the album I'll Try Living Like This by Death's Dynamic Shroud.wmv was featured at number fifteen on the Fact list "The 50 Best Albums of 2015", and on the same day MTV International introduced a rebrand heavily inspired by vaporwave and seapunk, Tumblr launched a GIF viewer named Tumblr TV, with an explicitly MTV-styled visual spin. Hip-hop artist Drake's single "Hotline Bling", released on July 31, also became popular with vaporwave producers, inspiring both humorous and serious remixes of the tune.

Critical interpretations

Vaporwave was one of several microgenres spawned in the early 2010s that were the brief focus of media attention. Also from Pitchfork, Patrick St. Michel calls vaporwave a "niche corner of Internet music populated by Westerners goofing around with Japanese music, samples, and language". Michelle Lhooq of Vice wrote that "according to commenters in various music forums, it's 'chillwave for Marxists,' 'post-elevator music,' "corporate smooth jazz Windows 95 pop". She explained that "parodying commercial taste isn't exactly the goal. Vaporwave doesn't just recreate corporate lounge music – it plumps it up into something sexier and more synthetic."

Music writer Adam Harper of Dummy Mag describes vaporwave as having an ambiguous or accelerationist relationship to consumer capitalism, writing that "these musicians can be read as sarcastic anti-capitalists revealing the lies and slippages of modern techno-culture and its representations, or as its willing facilitators, shivering with delight upon each new wave of delicious sound." He noted that the name itself was both a nod to vaporware, a name for products that are introduced but never released, and the idea of libidinal energy being subjected to relentless sublimation under capitalism. Music educator Grafton Tanner wrote, "vaporwave is one artistic style that seeks to rearrange our relationship with electronic media by forcing us to recognize the unfamiliarity of ubiquitous technology ... vaporwave is the music of 'non-times' and 'non-places' because it is skeptical of what consumer culture has done to time and space".

Speaking on the adoption of a vaporwave- and seapunk-inspired rebrand by MTV International, Jordan Pearson of Motherboard, Vice technology website, noted how "the cynical impulse that animated vaporwave and its associated Tumblr-based aesthetics is co-opted and erased on both sides—where its source material originates and where it lives". Critic Simon Reynolds characterized Daniel Lopatin's Chuck Person project as "relat[ing] to cultural memory and the buried utopianism within capitalist commodities, especially those related to consumer technology in the computing and audio/video entertainment area". Speaking about the "supposedly subversive or parodic elements" of vaporwave in 2018, Reynolds said that the genre had become redundant, in some respects, to modern trap music and mainstream hip hop: "What could be more insane or morbid than the subjectivity in a Drake record or a Kanye song? The black Rap n B mainstream is further out sonically and attitudinally than anything the white Internet-Bohemia has come up with. Their role is redundant. Rap and R&B ... is already the Simulacrum, is already decadence."

In 2017, The Brooklyn Rails Scott Beauchamp proposed a parallel between punk's "No Future" stance and its active "raw energy of dissatisfaction" deriving from the historical lineage of Dada dystopia, and vaporwave's preoccupation with "political failure and social anomie". Beauchamp writes that vaporwave's stance is more focused on loss, the notion of lassitude, and passive acquiescence, and that "vaporwave was the first musical genre to live its entire life from birth to death completely online". He suggested that expressions of hypermodulation inspired both the development and downfall of vaporwave.


  • Vaportrap integrates trap beats.
  • Mallsoft magnifies vaporwave's lounge influences. It may be viewed in connection to "the concept of malls as large, soulless spaces of consumerism ... exploring the social ramifications of capitalism and globalization".
  • Future funk expands upon the disco/house elements of vaporwave. Most of these samples are drawn from Japanese city pop records from the 1980s.
  • Simpsonwave was a YouTube phenomenon made popular by the user Lucien Hughes. It mainly consists of videos with scenes from the American animated television series The Simpsons set to various vaporwave tracks. Clips are often put together out of context and edited with VHS-esque distortion effects and surreal visuals, giving them a "hallucinatory and transportive" feel.
  • Fashwave (a portmanteau of "fascist" and "synthwave"), is a largely instrumental fusion genre of vaporwave and synthwave With political track titles and occasional soundbites, The Guardians Michael Hann notes that the movement is not unprecedented; similar offshoots occurred in punk rock in the 1980s and black metal in the 1990s. Like those genres, Hann believes there is little chance fashwave will ever "impinge on the mainstream".
  • Hardvapour emerged in late 2015 According to Vices Rob Arcand, the genre lies somewhere between vaporwave and distroid, writing that hardvapour uses similar music software tools "not out of any special fixation with them, but simply because they're now the cheapest and most accessible tools around."
  • According to Bandcamp Dailys Simon Chandler, as of 2016, there also existed "broken transmission" (or "signalwave"), "utopian virtual", "post-Internet", "late-night lo-fi", and "vapornoise".


Laborwave, sometimes known as ANTIFAwave, is a style of dress that combines the aesthetics of vaporwave fashion with visual elements of politically liberal and left-leaning agendas. It can be seen as the antithesis of Fashwave.


When it comes to Laborwave visuals, there tend to be different variations of Laborwave; some have a focus on popular Communist figures like Karl Marx (who many consider to be the Father of Communism), Vladimir Lenin, Chairman Mao, Fidel Castro, Kim Jong Un, and Joseph Stalin. Some also pick the particular aesthetics often associated with a communist country (Soviet Union, North Korea, and Communist China lend themselves particularly well to Laborwave's aesthetics), and some will focus on modern-day communist leanings (Antifa and Nazi-Punching).

Laborwave fashion may take some style cues from Vaporwave, but since so little actual Laborwave fashion exists, Laborwave fashion borrows heavily from Communist Chic, which ironically has just commodified communist iconography into another element of the capitalist system that many of them want to completely overthrow.  So expect a lot of Laborwavers to wear shirts with Che Guevara, the hammer-and-sickle, and other examples of communist iconography.


Laborwave is a derivative of Vaporwave that is less subtle about its critiques of capitalism and take advantage of this aspect of Vaporwave to promote a communist or socialist agenda (or any sort of post-capitalist socioeconomic theory). Those in the Laborwave community may not like this, but in a lot of ways, Laborwave is very similar to Fashwave (especially in terms of it being very low-effort), and both seem to have a nasty habit of confusing the Synthwave aesthetics and the Vaporwave aesthetics.


Fashwave is a derivative aesthetic of Synthwave or Vaporwave that is associated with the alt-right that combined the aesthetics associated with the aforementioned and mixed with promoting fascism, white supremacy, and the core tenets of the alt-right as a whole.


Fashwave fashion is, much like its music, an alternative version of Synthwave and Vaporwave although it tends to take more cues from vaporwave in this instance, combining the aesthetics often associated with the two with symbols often associated with white nationalism, white supremacy, and fascism. What can make Fashwave more intricate, however, is the fact it can be claimed to be done "ironically", taking cues from the ambiguity often associated with vaporwave.