Remember a few years ago, when all of a sudden the worst insult anyone could ever throw at you, the worst thing you could ever hear, was that you were “basic”? As soon as “basic” entered our cultural lexicon it became a catch-all term for any aspect of a woman’s personality that we collectively decided we didn’t like. A conduit for casual misogyny, soon enough being “basic” meant everything from driving a Fiat 500 to liking Love Island, wearing leggings and drinking coffee. Just for being alive as a woman you were at risk of being lampooned in a starter pack by Poundlandbandit.
As soon as basic had become ubiquitous though, the backlash came. People began to call time on the term and soon it dipped (kind of) in popularity. But basic has not been vanquished. It’s just risen again under a new name, with a new set of stereotypes. Introducing: The VSCO Girl.
Unless you’re spending hours on end in a YouTube hole or TikTok bingeing on the regular (who? us?) then you might not be familiar with the concept of a VSCO Girl. As with all internet phenomena though, Urban Dictionary is here with the answers. Branding them “the Tumblr girls of 2019”, one contributor to the site explains the VSCO Girl trend thus: “Basically the most basic girl you’ll find out there. Common interests include scrunchies, hydro flasks, seashell chokers and Birkenstocks." “You’ll probably catch them wearing a scrunchie, tube top, puka shell necklace, white Vans or Birkenstocks and -- don’t forget -- a hydroflask to finish off the look”, explains another description. The association isn’t limited to these brands and affectations though. If you’ve ever bought a Fjallraven backpack, driven in a Jeep, used Mario Badescu skincare products or worn an oversized sweatshirt, the internet says you might be a VSCO Girl. Diagnosis terminal.
The aesthetic is named after the app which inspired it. VSCO is 2019’s answer to FaceTune, or Photoshop, or any other way of making sure your Insta pics are curated and stretched and smoothed to an inch of their lives. The app has become an adjective, with VSCO Girls defined by how they consume social media and what they post on it. As niche as it might seem, VSCO Girls have recently exploded on TikTok, an off-shoot of the E-Girls and Soft Girls competing with soft grunge to be crowned queen of the video sharing platform’s aesthetic hierarchy. A slew of videos have appeared recently -- essentially ‘how tos’, they show the transformation from normal girl to VSCO girl, which, considering the pieces are all in their own wardrobes, doesn’t take very long.
“TikTok has definitely influenced my style,” one video creator, Priscilla, told i-D. “Especially when it comes to the new VSCO girl thing.” Other transformations take place on YouTube, with vloggers ‘living like a VSCO girl for a day’. “I realise that VSCO is an app,” one video begins. “But it’s just called VSCO girl because all the girls who use that app are stereotyped to be like this.”
Despite the stereotype though, and its “basic” connotations, VSCO Girl videos and jokes on TikTok and YouTube feel less accusatory and misogynistic and more celebratory. Obviously they’re satirical (like literally everything else on TikTok) but, perhaps because they’re created by the girls themselves and not by guffawing guys on Urban Dictionary or on the r/starterpacks subreddit, the videos have helped the VSCO girl take on a new, more empowering meaning. Like Priscilla says, the stereotype may have started out as a cruel joke, but now it’s taken on a life and a style of its own. For every post on r/teenagers taking the piss out of VSCO girls, there’s five more about becoming one. We’re seriously considering making the transformation ourselves. Someone pass the shell choker, pls.
This article originally appeared on i-D UK.