still trying to wrap your head around 2016? here's an a-z to help

WTF happened? Let us break it down for you in digestible form.

by i-D Staff
27 December 2016, 9:54pm

A is for... Activism 
From Brexit and burkini bans, to the situation in Syria and Black Lives Matter, young people have continued to take to the streets, fight for a cause and make their voices heard. Remember: great things never come from comfort zones. It's important to wear your beliefs where we can see them.

photography christelle de castro

B is for... Blonde
We waited four long years for Frank Ocean to announce the follow-up to his stunning 2012 album Channel Orange, and then we waited some more, with varying levels of patience. After April's cryptic promise of "twooo versions" and a July release date from Frank, fans waited with increasing dismay and desperation as the midsummer days passed, finally losing their collective mind as August arrived with absolutely zero versions. Ocean came through though, releasing the surprise visual album Endless on 19 August, followed 48-hours later by Blond/e and its zine/actually-really-heavy-book companion Boys Don't Cry. Finding Ocean in a more contemplative mood, the record muses on love and loss, with inserts on the perils of drugs and Facebook politics, and a credit list that's a who's who of pop culture, with Beyoncé, Bowie and Kanye rubbing shoulders with Anna Wintour and Jenny Holzer.

C is for... Climate Change
This September saw climate change go beyond the point of no return. Atmospheric carbon dioxide failed to drop below 400 parts per million, and according to NASA's chief climate scientist, it is highly unlikely to dip below it again in our lifetimes. Even if the world stopped emitting CO2 tomorrow, that which we've already put in the atmosphere will hang around for decades to come, slowly but surely increasing the temperature of our poor planet. With President-elect Trump something of a climate change denier, and considering pulling the US out of the Paris agreement, things aren't looking great. News just in: apparently it's now causing reindeer to shrink too. Merry Christmas everyone.

D is for... Demna Gvasalia
As i-D's Fashion Features Director Anders Christian Madsen recently attested, 2016 was the year the Gvasalias conquered fashion. Recognised for their massive influence at this year's Fashion Awards (the pair won Best International Urban Luxury Award for Vetements), Demna also took home International Ready-To-Wear Designer for his work at Balenciaga. "I have been enchanted with the Gvasalia effect throughout 2016," wrote Anders. "Why? Because the breakthrough of Vetements in 2015 represented a bright new light in a fashion industry often too focused on the establishment."

Photography Willy Vanderperre. Styling Alastair McKimm.

E is for... Europe
We changed our Facebook profile pictures to Wolfgang Tilmans' pro-EU posters, waxed lyrical about the many and various good reasons to stay in the EU, and fielded questions from our baffled European friends about what on earth was going on in the UK, but alas, the tide of false promises, decades of xenophobic tabloid press and a spineless political establishment flirting with the far right just clinched i,t with 52% voting for Brexit, despite 75% of young voters opting to remain. In or out of the EU, we will remain proud Europeans, loving, working and clubbing with our continental friends for ever more.

Wolfgang Tillmans

F is for... Fabric 
What a rollercoaster of a year it's been for London's favourite late-night institution. After having their licence revoked in September following a series of drug-related deaths, the last few months have been seen petition after petition to #savefabric, before finally winning the right to reopen under the condition that the club put in place an ID scanning system, covert surveillance, and give anyone found with drugs a lifetime ban. London Mayor Sadiq Khan, who we may or may not regularly see lurking in the shadows of room three, said he was "delighted" with the news.

Photography Vanessa Galvin

G is for... Grime
If 2015 was the year that Grime became the sound of young Britain, 2016 was the year that Skepta, Stormzy, Novelist et al went overground, spilling out from the streets and onto your radio, your television set, your awards shows. Hell, our very own Hattie Collins even released a definitive tome on the genre (and an excellent Christmas present it is too, if we may say so ourselves).

Photography Oliver Hadlee Pearch, Styling Max Clark

H is for... Heroes
A driving factor in the pretty much universal acknowledgement that 2016 was the worst year ever, is the loss of some of our greatest musical heroes. The passing of Prince, Bowie and Leonard Cohen each dealt a devastating blow. Having these geniuses no longer among us made the world feel that little bit less magic. Thankfully, these creative giants left musical legacies that continue to sustain us through this apocalypse.

I is for... Instagram stories
Because let's face it, all Snapchat has going for it these days is dog filters and voice changers.

J is for... Jaden (and Willow) Smith
The coolest brother-sister duo this side of the millennium, the Smith's took their stardom stratospheric in 2016. Willow became a Chanel ambassador, her brother the face of heritage house Louis Vuitton, and the year saw them both grab headlines, magazine covers and a joint gong for New Fashion Icons at December's Fashion Awards. In 2016, the future wasn't just bright, the future was Smith.

Photography Columbine Goldsmith, Styling Djuna Bel 

K is for... Kanye West
Never mind his questionable palling around with Donald Trump, Kanye West should rightly be credited with redefining both the fashion presentation and album launch with his epic Yeezy Season 3 / The Life of Pablo event at Madison Square Garden during New York Fashion Week in February. An enormous cast of professional and street-cast models, including supers Naomi Campbell, Veronica Webb, Liya Kebede and Alek Wek, posed in a truly gargantuan set by artist and long-time Kanye collaborator Vanessa Beecroft, while the audience of 18,000 fans, Kardashians, and Anna Wintour looked on and listened to the first play of TLOP. Kanye gets bonus points for live-updating TLOP after it had been officially released — redefining the temporal concept of an album for the digital age.

Photography Jeff Rogers

L is for... Lemonade
On 23 April, TIDAL subscriptions spiked. Following an HBO premiere, Beyoncé released her hour-long visual album Lemonade exclusively on the streaming service and it was awesome. Based on "every woman's journey of self-knowledge and healing," the record told tales of infidelity and had the world speculating just how personal the narrative actually was, whether Jay was cool with the accusations, and more importantly, who the hell this Becky was. While all tracks were created equal, Formation was undoubtedly the powerful political crown, featuring sample vocals from NoLa celebrity Messy Mya, who was murdered in 2010, references to Katrina, and police in riot gear lined up against a young black kid dancing in front of the graffitied words, 'stop shooting us'. Co-stars came in the form of Amandla Stenberg, Chloe and Halle, Ibeyi, Quvenzhane Wallis, Zendaya and Serena Williams. Beyoncé made a visual album and then everybody wanted a visual album. Also A-Z worth is Leonardo Di Caprio's Oscar. Winning Best Actor for The Revenant, his acceptance speech turned the attention to climate change and the importance of protecting our planet. Good things comes to those that wait their entire careers.

M is for... Merch
Merch went extra large this year, Beyoncé, Bieber and even Kylie Jenner using 2016 to both take and make stock. Cali Thornhill DeWitt-style long sleeves were in (a trend kickstarted by those Kanye pop-up shops back in March) as was the kind of heavy metal imagery co-opted by Zayn Malik for his collaboration with Iron Maiden illustrator Mark Wilkinson. Was it a fantastic coming together of music and fashion, or just merch ado about nothing? Either way, we're still all over this Mushpit collaboration with Toby Mott.

N is for... Naked selfies
Kim K's revealing Insta back in March caused the world to have a digi meltdown, and then otherfamous ladies followed suit (birthday suit). Sharon Osbourne, Emily Ratajkowski and the even the grand-dame of Broadway, Bette Midler, stepped up and stripped off, making 2016 the year that naked selfies became a serious female celeb statement.

O is for... Obama
The coolest president the world has ever seen — Obama and his wife Michelle used their last full year in office to make everyone fully fall in love with their clan. Michelle's hilarious turn on James Corden's Carpool Karaoke had a cameo from none other than Missy Elliott, while her husband Barack kept fighting the corner for affordable healthcare, climate change reform and lowering in the unemployment rate — AND he mic dropped at his last Annual Correspondents Dinner. Say it with us: Obama for another four years!

P is for... Pokémon Go
The largest mobile game in US history; forty million downloads worldwide; an estimated $1.6 million in revenue per day, Pokémon Go was massive for a brief moment this July (before quickly being succeeded by more important matters such as the mannequin challenge). Launching at the end of an especially violent run of events in the United States, its addictiveness lay in its simplicity: a well-timed respite from a landscape in which our problems seem to have become so big and so complex that a break from the doom and gloom of reality and a retreat into an augmented one seemed like a very good idea indeed.

Q is for... Quitting social media
When a member of the most social media-obsessed family decided to take a break from Instagram, you know quitting social media was a thing this year. Kendall Jenner's digital detox may have only lasted a week but she was one of a long line of people who decided enough was enough when it came to social media (well kinda). Maybe it was the plethora of negative events that 2016 brought our way but scrolling through the good, the bad and the downright ugly became pretty exhausting. Retreating and reading a book, talking to your friends or just getting some good old-fashioned me-time was top of our list...and you know what, we might just carry this one over in 2017.

R is for... Realising stuff
Way back at the start of the year, Kylie Jenner took a moment out of her lip kit hawking schedule to reflect on the important things in life for her Kylie app. "I feel like every year has a new energy," she told the world, cosying up next to the fiery furnace of hell, "and I feel like this year is really about, like, the year of just realising stuff... everyone around me... we're all just realising things." She has since not only proven herself right — we did, after all, realise a lot of stuff this year — but she has also managed to turn this completely ridiculous declaration into a money-making scheme by literally putting her own quote on a t-shirt. "2016, looking good!", she signed off. How wrong she was there.

S is for... Stranger Things
The story of boy named Will whose his life got flipped, turned upside down, Stranger Things was the undisputed watercooler smash of this summer. One did not simply watch one episode of the Netflix Original series. One devoured it, pouring over details such as the untimely demise of Barb and how Joyce Byers's son manages to communicate through lights when you can't even text back. How sad are we that Season 2 isn't out yet? Oh, about an Eleven.

T is for... Trump
In what remains as a joke gone viciously wrong, November saw reality TV star and businessman Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton to become the President of the United States and sparked shock and outrage worldwide. Not even in power yet and his rhetoric continues to stir up vitriol and distain in his opposers and love and adoration in his supporters. What his presidency will usher in is yet to be seen (and to be honest, we aren't hopeful) but his election win will go on to define 2016 for years to come.

U is for... Unisex
With ideas of gender becoming increasingly fluid, we are shedding age-old binary restrictions and realising that it's not necessary to be either/or — so it's only natural that what we put on our bodies should follow suit. In 2016, ungendered fashion went more mainstream than ever — here's to a fluid future!

V is for... Visual albums
When your favourite pop stars weren't working on their merchandise this year they were knocking out visual albums left, right and centre. Beyoncé, Tove Lo, Florence + the Machine. Even the otherwise reliable Frank Ocean spent what seemed like half the year building some sort of shed in an airport hanger. Still waiting for a sequel to R. Kelly's Trapped in the Closet though.

W is for... Warsan Shire
The poem that underscored Beyoncé's Lemonade was the glue that held the piece together. Telling the heart-wrenching tale of a love betrayed, the poem was scribed by none other than Warsan Shire, the Somali-British poet who captured the world's attention on Bey's visual album. Though the 27-year-old is a force unto herself, having been London's first Young Poet Laureate and writing Teaching My Mother How To Give Birth and Her Blue Body. We expect big things from Warsan.

X is for... Xiuhtezcatl Martinez
'X' could have stumped us, but not this year, for we interviewed the brilliant young climate change activist Xiuhtezcatl Martinez for the Futurewise issue. Now 16, Xiuhtezcatl made his first impassioned speech for the environment at age 6, at a national global warming event. As the Youth Director of Earth Guardians, he is fighting the good fight for the future of our planet.

Photography Dan Martensen

Y is for... Y?
It's a question we've asked ourselves a lot this year, dear readers.

Z is for... Z, as in Generation 
The newest of the new gen, the latest crop of all. Born post 2000, Generation Z hasn't known life pre-social media — these digi-natives are technologically hardwired from birth, they're the most ethnically diverse so far and least likely to be defined by traditional gender constructs — they're the future.


Text Clementine De Pressigny, Frankie Dunn, Charlotte Gush, Lynette Nylander and Matthew Whitehouse.

Think Pieces