Before TikTok teens and well-meaning fashion designers ruled that cottagecore was the vibe of our current moment, there was one sad forest nymph singing in a mysterious, forgotten bog. That sad boi was Hozier, and the world will never be the same. Most remember Hozier for his hit song “Take Me to Church,” which forced radio listeners of 2013 to hear their parents sing about explicit sex and the Catholic church for a very long time.
But besides his hit tracks, Hozier created a much larger cultural conversation, taking on a mystifying, god-like-shroud that continues to envelop the Irish singer to this day. So why are we all so obsessed with Hozier?
As an artist, Hozier’s biggest fame comes not from his awards, but from his peculiar, fairytale-like persona. A singer whose original name (Andrew John Hozier-Byrne) sounds like a reading of an Irish baby census, Hozier’s god status rarely matches his actions. He is active on social media. He is often seen at places as mundane as ice cream shops. He sometimes accidentally posts horrible Instagram filters on his stories. He looks like a man who would offer you homemade beeswax soap at a Brooklyn farmers market. He’s as normal as can be.
But if you look at social media posts about the singer, most imagine him as a fae-like deity, creating songs of woe and longing in a mythical forest, free from the trappings of truly corporeal life, but ready to kick the ass of unjust institutions and be back in the bog by tea time. It’s this very reliance on a nature-based aesthetic that gave Hozier the unofficial title of King of Cottagecore.
Those on TikTok and other platforms use his name to describe a certain type of longing aptly named cottagecore, one that filled For-You pages with sheets of flower-decorated focaccia and homemade oat milk, all served on wood tables surrounded with light, friends and the gentle majesty of the great outdoors. In the midst of a global pandemic, it’s no wonder that Hozier’s lyrics about destined love and nature would mesh well with an aesthetic named for its depiction of a quiet, simple life. But while cottagecore thrives on a present fantasy, Hozier’s importance comes in when cottagecore turns into its truest, gayest form.
Cottagecore relies on a sunny fantasy, one where the world is only as big as the farm you wished you lived on and as small as the loaf of sourdough rising in your duplex oven. But when the aesthetic starts to waver, you’re left in a world that can’t be fixed with a woven flower arrangement. But gay cottagecore doesn’t just know this: It was built on it.
Hard to distinguish as separate from our current understanding, a queer take on cottagecore goes deeper into the movement. In his creation of gay cottagecore, Hozier’s biggest advantage isn’t his gentleness, but rather the space he allows for passion and rage, artfully twisting them together to create and sustain absolute magic. With lines that borrow from literary masters like W.B. Yeats and Oscar Wilde, Hozier’s songs compel an ethereal yet ancient feel. It’s a gorgeous, mythic melancholy, where rather than be perfect, the world can be filled with battles to be won and dinners to be made. Gay cottagecore knows there are bigger things in the world — that’s why the rest it brings is important.
Beyond a simple aesthetic, gay cottagecore exists as a much-needed respite from the world around us. Mostly filled with queer teenagers or budding adults, the queerness in Hozier’s work allows for a simple, but important duality. In gay cottagecore, believers don’t rely on making the world smaller. Instead, people used to constantly fighting for their existence are given a chance to feel it all — the pain, and sorrow, and passion, and lust, and rage, and infatuation — and then choose, just for this moment, to focus on the moss growing beneath their toes. In Hozier’s work, there is space for both supernatural love, violent revolution and the chance to heal — all things that can seem desperately out of reach for queer youth.
Gay cottagecore isn’t just eating with friends, but relishing in a meal shared with chosen family. It isn’t $100 decorations from Anthropologie, but giving back to a land that was stolen. It’s food made with shaky hands and fruit that would’ve gone bad next week. It’s a chance to take a break, not a way to leave the world you’re in, but to celebrate what it’s already given you. Hozier’s songs remind you to do your best. Breathe in, breathe out. Celebrate the things that grow and die beneath you. The world is much larger and epic than what you can fight today. Break bread, break memories and start again on the very next song.
The world will wait for dinner.