The Three Tiers of Cheuginess, Explained

Why does this term hit such a millennial nerve? A look behind the chevron curtain at the specific degrees and manifestations of cheug.
MF
New York, US
May 10, 2021, 4:55pm
polo bag mug coaster phone drink
Composite by VICE Staff

Disney adulting. Men wearing Hollister. The rose gold iPhone. That new Lana Del Ray album cover. Quoting Friends.

Cheugy (pronounced "chew-gee," and referring to various clothes, accessories, and commodities that owners and wearers perceive as personality-driven when they are, in fact, outdated and basic) energy is all around us, yet, to the majority of my fellow millennial friends, the cheug life seems an unknown path.

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Perhaps you’ve seen the recent rash of coverage about cheugy matters in the New York Times, Elite Daily, and various Reddit threads, but when I did a survey of my brethren's cheug knowledge, some of the common responses were: “What does it mean… basic?”; “It sounds like choad”; and even, “Is it a racial slur?” (As was, “Is it Republican?” “Midwestern?” In many cases, yes. But also, no, not by definition.) It’s all complicated, so let's unroll the chevron carpet for a little cheug symposium.  

According to the New York Times, the origin of cheugy can be traced to Beverly Hills High School, circa 2013, when student Gaby Rasson was at a loss for words to describe the people who not only followed outdated trends, but did so with fervor. In fact, many of the people sporting mass-market The Office inside-joke merch and oversized headbands thought that those accoutrements actually offered them a sense of uniqueness. Thus, le cheug was born, in a flurry of Starbucks Frapps, Repetto ballet flats, Joe Rogan podcast subscriptions, and DIY avocado face masks. 

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Even though a lot of TikTok users are giving the impression that this idea just popped up given the recent outbreak of think pieces on the matter, the cheug discourse has been here for a while: 

In fact, since all the way back in 2018, the Instagram account @cheuglife has been archiving top-notch cheuggery:

Rasson, the mastermind behind cheug terminology, is, herself, riiiiight on the cusp of the millennial and Gen Z age group (the cut-off is age 24). Perhaps that generational straddling is what gives her such a strong scope for social critique—the lifeblood of cheug detective work: identifying what is no longer cool, on a sliding scale from glaring cheug (Live, Laugh, Love decor, Rae Dunn, neon plaid) to more subtle cheug offenders (high-top Chuck Taylors, The Office, faux vintage scroll posters).

Hurts, doesn’t it? Because cheug isn’t only what we wouldn’t do (propose at Disneyland). It’s also what we’ve done (mustache finger tattoos). 

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Millennials came of age in the era of the holier-than-thou hipster, so of course a cheug call-out hits a nerve. I see it all the time, whether it’s a friend who refuses to admit they know how to pronounce Justin Bieber’s last name, or those who deny that buying a French bulldog and naming it "Oliver" or "Henry" is basic. These things aren't bad; they just aren't the unique, personality-developing quirks that the cheugy believe them to be. 

But why do we always have to be unique? Why is it so hard for us to just enjoy ourselves? There’s a lot of white ladies, in particular, losing their minds on TikTok over the roasting of cheuginess. Such as this user, whose reaction falls into the cheug-Karen hybrid. (Same energy as “Actually, my eyes aren’t brown. They’re hazel.”):

While the notion of cheuginess might make many defensive, it is not necessarily meant to be fully derogatory; more of just a roast. “Some believe cheugy is just a way to channel a person’s internalized misogyny by dismissing the girlboss culture and aesthetic, that blew up as a way to make the workplace more inclusive for women,” reported Shamani Joshi for VICE, “But Gen Z is quick to defend their stance by insisting that cheugy doesn’t necessarily have a negative connotation.” If you want a French bulldog, you’ve got to just own that decision and accept that designer dogs are cheugy (and really, that’s the least of their problems).

Millennials consider our brand consumption habits as integral parts of our identity. Cheug is inevitable. We are far more concerned with individualism that Gen Z, which is decidedly community-driven—but someday, their checkerboard pants, face tats, Euphoria-inspired eye makeup, and Supreme jackets will replace their elders’ matte lip kits, Minions, and Uniqlo hoodies. These things aren’t bad, they just… already happened. And, to paraphrase a point made by EJ Dickinson’s recent Rolling Stone cheug breakdown, if your identity hinges so much on Daisy by Marc Jacobs that you can’t handle some lighthearted jabs, it’s time to check your privilege.  

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The reality is that we’re all a little cheugy. Embrace it, like resident Hot Cheug, Holly Madison:

If your cheuginess isn’t problematic, lean into it. After all, chasing micro-trends (RIP, Strawberry Dress) is just as cringe, and really bad for the environment. Don’t throw away your UGG boots! They’re comfy. And why should you have to eschew your love of fro-yo? Fro-yo is good. 

In the spirit of embracing the best parts of the #CheugLife, we’ve broken down cheug necessities on a variety of intensities, with Level 1 being the most recently or subtly cheug, and Level 3 being full-blown cheugadacious. Take notes: 

Level 1 Cheug

Level1Cheug.jpg

Photo: Composite by VICE Staff

A lot of these items may be considered controversial, but entry-level cheuginess *can* include: High-Top Chuck Taylors (especially the Comme des Garçons ones), skinny jeans, and succulents; Hurley (if new), AirPod cords, New Yorker totes, and keto bowls; French Bulldogs, vintage-style posters of plants, faux marble electronic accessories, and resin flower coasters. Oh, and sharing updates on LinkedIn. 

Dandelion Poster, $15 at Etsy

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Comme des Garcons Play Peek-A-Boo High-Top Canvas Sneakers, $150 at Saks Fifth Avenue

The New Yorker Totes Bag, $49.99 at Etsy

Men’s Hurley Button-Down, $40.00 $29.99 at Khols

Casetify White Marble Impact iPhone Case, $50 at Urban Outfitters

Level 2 Cheug

Level2Cheug.jpg

Photo: Composite by VICE Staff

Pop out of that Free People for Level 2 Cheug! The second tier includes not just liking—but quoting—The Office, things shaped like emojis, Sweetgreen, energy drinks, and buying a notebook from Paperchase specifically; as well as lacey bralettes, Dean & DeLuca (RIP), wide-brim hats, date night cooking classes, frozen yogurt (especially the natural “healthy” kind, a la Pinkberry), and (the details are very important) resin “galaxy” coasters/art.

Dorina 2-pack lace bralette set in black and blue, $35 at ASOS

Reign Total Body Fuel, Orange Dreamsicle (Pack of 12), $18.98 at Amazon

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Galaxy Coaster with Cork Bottom, $9.44 at Etsy

Wide Brim Floppy Hat, $4.45 at ROMWE

Emoji Pillow, $29.99 $9.44 at Wish

Level 3 Cheug

Level3Cheug.jpg

Photo: Composite by VICE Staff

Time to slice the rainbow explosion cake! (Very cheugy.) You made it to Level 3 Cheug, where we’re not just quoting Harry Potter, but buying tickets to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. We live, laugh, and love. We drink our coffee from Rae Dunn mugs. We slap on the St. Ives apricot scrub, and think about Shawn Mendes a lot. We eat Skinny Cow, drink Skinny Girl, and study abroad in Paris (or London). We love onesies, wearing golf polos, Imagine Dragons, Game of Thrones, and have heated opinions on Friends (more cheug than The Office; Fight me). On dating apps, “You’re the same type of weird if you freak out about bagels.”

Rae Dunn by Magenta UGH Ceramic Coffee Mug, $29.99 at Amazon

Polo by Ralph Lauren Mesh Long Sleeve Shirt, $98.50 $68.99 at Ralph Lauren

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LittleSpace Onesie Cute Little Lifestyle Romper, $60 $25 at Wish

Central Perk Handmade Wooden Sign, $19.99 at Etsy

Game of Thrones Mother of Dragons Travel Tumbler, $21.99 at Wayfair

Them’s the rules. Keep calm, and cheug on. 


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