What's a vsco girl? shop the latest teen trend

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YouTuber Hannah Melobít in her “basic VSCO girl transformation” video. Hannah Meloche/VSCO

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I can’t pinpoint the exact moment I heard the term “VSCO girl” but I know it was on TikTok, và I was pretty sure that it would be a big khuyễn mãi giảm giá. That wasn’t because I was particularly familiar with suburban high school fashion trends, but because it was a catchy nickname given to largely White and largely middle-class teenage girls, và those things always go viral.

Months later, here we are in the thick of another meme cycle wherein high school subcultural dynamics are explored & consumed by people a decade or more removed from them. Teenagers, particularly teenage girls, have sầu long been the subject of fascination for adults, and the VSCO girl, whose name comes from the photo-editing app (pronunciation: “visco”) is only the lademo iteration of how we express it.

What does feel novel is the feverishness of VSCO-girl-inspired nội dung that has proliferated on the internet in 2019: You can read about what they are everywhere from the Charlotte Sun Herald lớn NBC News. You can hear teens explain VSCO girls themselves in Slate. You can find out how khổng lồ transsize yourself into a VSCO girl on Seventeen & Elle, and how much all of that costs in Fox Business. You can get really thinky about what it means lớn be a VSCO girl on the Cut & who the VSCO-girl meme excludes on BuzzFeed.


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You can read about how VSCO girls are making one 27-year-old feel old for the first time on Business Insider or how VSCO girls are making the brands associated with them feel in the Thủ đô New York Times. You can read about a concerned parent worried that her daughter is turning into a VSCO girl on CBC, even though you can also read about how maybe the VSCO girl is more than just an aesthetic và how they’re striking for climate change on the Intercept. Or maybe what we’re actually talking about is just lesbian culture rebranded for Gen Z, a convincing theory that you can explore in Vice.


All of the aforementioned pieces were published between late July & early September, a time wherein VSCO girls were a primary target of the internet culture industry, which now moves so quickly that talking about VSCO girls two months after the term first went viral could feel hopelessly out of touch. But the phenomenon of the VSCO girl, while certainly referencing an actual, comtháng style of dress, is far more interesting as a case study in how an entire subculture becomes a viral meme than it is about VSCO girls themselves. There will always be jokes about “basic” teenage girls. What’s new is how they evolve sầu with unprecedented rapidity inkhổng lồ something much, much bigger.


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The easy part is explaining what a VSCO girl is, which is most succinctly illustrated by the things she consumes. The “starter pack” of a VSCO girl will likely include the following items: A T-shirt so big that it covers the bottom of her shorts, which are maybe from Nike or the junior’s store Brandy Melville where everything comes in just one kích thước (that kích thước is “small”). If she’s not wearing a scrunchie in her hair, she’ll almost certainly keep one (or three) on her wrist, alongside a bracelet by the Costa Rica-founded br& Pura Vida. She’ll carry a backpaông chồng by the Sweden-based Fjallraven & a sticker-covered Hydro Flask (cost per water bottle is around $35). The rest of her outfit will be composed of Birkenstochồng sandals (or any other ugly-trendy shoe, such as Crocs or Fila Disruptors), Burt’s Bees or Carmex lip balm topped with Glossier gloss, and a puka shell choker. The look is at once expensive sầu lớn achieve sầu và laid-baông chồng in practice; a teenager recently described VSCO girls to me as the type to lớn spkết thúc trăng tròn minutes making their messy buns look just so.

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That’s the aesthetic that permeates the actual app: VSCO, the photo-editing software that launched in 2012, operates like an Instagram draft thư mục. The app’s high-contrast, temperature-warped filters have sầu the ability lớn make an average photo of a manicure or a cactus look profound, & though VSCO operates similar lớn a social network (there are profiles & “liking”), there’s far less pressure khổng lồ curate a perfect-looking or algorithm-winning VSCO feed, since Instagram continues to operate as the public-facing social truyền thông media self. But ultimately, VSCO is a place lớn make your photos look good, và the stereotype goes that notoàn thân cares more about making their photos look good than teenage girls.


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VSCO girls were always sort of a joke. Way baông chồng in January, YouTuber Greer Jones delivered a deadpan introduction to lớn a video clip called “becoming the ultimate VSCO girl”: “Today I’m going khổng lồ be trying to lớn become a VSCO girl, because that’s my life goal, you know, I’m not focusing on college, not focusing on my grades, because that’s irrelevant,” she says sarcastically. “I really look up to lớn the girls on VSCO.”

Bachồng then, becoming a “VSCO girl” basically just meant making your VSCO feed look cool; In the Clip, Greer tries lớn achieve the retro-flecked, trying-to-look-like-you’re-not-trying aesthetic popular on the phầm mềm — she takes photos of Trắng sneakers next to lớn succulents and says dryly, “I think my shoes and the plant, it just really shows who I am as a person &, I don’t know, it’s pretty deep.”


Like “hipster,” “emo,” or “basic,” the term is both insult and apologia, something khổng lồ use in reference to others or sheepishly about oneself.

She’s making fun of them, of course, but Greer shares the same signifiers as the VSCO girls she’s parodying. In a video clip posted in August of her getting ready for the first day of sophomore year, she wears a basic T-shirt tucked into lớn jean shorts, a choker, & messy bun tied up with a scrunchie, the sartorial underpinnings of VSCO girlhood.

Since then, the most viral parodies of VSCO girls have sầu been by teenagers who could qualify as VSCO girls themselves, making it more of an exercise in self-deprecation than blatant misogyny (although there is plenty of that going on in other portrayals, too).

But what really turned the VSCO girl into lớn a category of person worth explaining is TikTok, the short-khung video clip tiện ích, which has become the defining social media network of Gen Z in the year since its US launch. It’s known for its bizarre comedy và outlandish pranks. It’s also known for POV, or point-of-view videos, where teens film themselves acting as a character speaking khổng lồ you, the watcher.


It was early this summer that users began to make VSCO girl POVs, often in which the viewer played the passive sầu role of the new student who had the misfortune of sitting next khổng lồ a VSCO girl. She’d suddenly start telling you about her Hydro Flask, aggressively loaning you scrunchies, and quoting dated memes borrowed from blaông xã, LGBTQ, và stung culture slang (“& I — oop” & “sksksk”). The joke is that she’s perky and annoying while espousing the virtues of eco-consciousness via conspicuous consumption (metal straws, fancy water bottles, Birkenstoông xã sandals, etc.). It’s not a particularly new kind of high school stereotype, but it’s one that feels pertinent khổng lồ the era of “save sầu the turtles” & social truyền thông media posturing.

Whereas teenage girls carrying Fjallraven backpacks & oversized tie-dye shirts would hardly have sầu been notable before, POV parodies turned the look inkhổng lồ a costume, something for teenagers lớn Gọi each other despite the fact that they themselves might chia sẻ the same signifiers. Like “hipster,” “emo,” or “basic,” the term is both insult and apologia, something khổng lồ use in reference to others or sheepishly about oneself. Said one 16-year-old to lớn NBC News, “I’ve sầu never really labeled myself as a ‘VSCO girl’ until it really became a trend, and I thought, ‘Oh, I guess I’m a ‘VSCO girl’ now!’”


It’s been a similar surprise lớn the brands implicated by the VSCO-girl meme. Since the term went viral, I’ve received lăng xê emails from scrunchie emporium Claire’s and Pura Vidomain authority incorporating VSCO girls into lớn the subject heading. None of the brands I spoke to lớn, however, had seen a meaningful sales bump due to the meme; Pura Vida said that its growth had been steady over the past year, and Hydro Flask could not bình luận on sales figures (but did say that its parent company “continues khổng lồ thrive” và grew at a rate of 23.6 percent in Q1).

For the VSCO girl’s namesake phầm mềm, the story is similar. In a recent meeting with CEO Joel Flory, he told me that while the trover hadn’t contributed khổng lồ an uptiông xã in users, he was happy khổng lồ use the media’s sudden interest in VSCO as a chance lớn sell its mission: It wants lớn be the chiller, more creative counterpart to Instagram, không lấy phí of bullying or anxiety or “compare culture.” Having recently conducted a survey on young people & mental health, VSCO wants lớn be the place where kids can post photos và videos without worrying what their friends will think about them.

On VSCO, where 75 percent of its đôi mươi million weekly users are under 25, he says “VSCO girls are nothing new.” He does, however, want people khổng lồ know that people who use the hashtag #VSCOgirl on the actual phầm mềm will reveal a culture that’s more diverse than what the meme has come to lớn signify. “It’s not new for people to reference as a part of their identity,” he says. The company isn’t planning on changing its kinh doanh efforts lớn capitalize on VSCO girls. But he referenced the fact that the only reason he was sitting inside the vinaanh.com offices for an interview at all was because suddenly dozens of journalists were writing stories about VSCO girls.

“We’re here,” he says. “ doors that have sầu been opened for conversations to take place.” In a winking gesture, he & the VSCO publicist presented me with my very own Hydro Flask.

Like most videos, the best ones about VSCO girls are the ones that go all wrong. When TikToker Charlotte Woods and her friends tried to lớn build a perfectly VSCO-esque outdoor sleepover fort complete with fairy lights and printed sheets, they hadn’t prepared for the sprinklers to lớn go off at 6 a.m., leaving their camera-ready hangout drenched & uninhabitable.


Even if the VSCO girl is more useful as a joke than it is an accurate descriptor of millions of teenage girls, she’s now a part of the culture’s understanding of Gen Z, a new type of teen lớn both worship & mock, just as we did 10 years ago with girls who wore similarly outdoorsy clothing, clunky shoes, fancy water bottles, & hair accessories (although bachồng then it was North Face fleeces, Uggs, Nalgenes, and headbands).

Though in both cases, these items can be considered expensive & aspirational, when packaged together to lớn create a label for those who wear them, it isn’t a compliment. “Usually, we point out lớn each other when we see them, and we might laugh at them a little bit, just because they’re so conformist,” one 15-year-old told Slate. Another described them as “They’re just kind of basic & not that interesting as people.” This, essentially, is the effect of labeling people at all; any high school dramedy will tell you as much. Like the “basic” girls of the mid to lớn early 2010s, the VSCO girl label slaps any teenager with an oversized T-shirt and a scrunchie with a dozen other signifiers that may or may not apply lớn her: That she’s vapid và boring, that she’s too concerned with how her pictures look even though they look just lượt thích everytoàn thân else’s, and that in trying so hard khổng lồ not look lượt thích she’s trying, she becomes the biggest try-hard of all. And lượt thích most stereotypes about women, you can’t really win.

It also isn’t a coincidence that both VSCO girls và the “basic” teens who came before them are often trắng và wealthy enough to lớn afford their respective sầu uniforms. Mainstream society has long had an outsized interest in what Trắng, wealthy people are doing & buying, & generational stereotypes are, in fact, often based around them: The two most pernicious signifiers of millennials, for instance, are avocavị toast và being entitled, despite the fact that it’s the first generation in modern history to kết thúc up worse off financially than their parents. Rather than facing the realities of what life is actually like for the majority of millennials who are in debt, it’s far easier to pay attention to lớn the ones making millions by turning their lives inkhổng lồ nội dung.

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VSCO girls aren’t the first high school stereotype to lớn go viral — e-boys, horse girls, & scene kids have sầu all had their day in the sun — but they’re perhaps the ones khổng lồ achieve that virality the faschạy thử & with the most eager media participation. Even the writer behind the first VSCO girl explainer is shocked by how fast the term caught on. On July 26, Roisin Lanigan published “A Guide to lớn VSCO Girls: The Tumblr Girls of 2019” on i-D UK, the trang web owned by Vice, after hearing about the meme by teenagers she was speaking to for a different story. Despite her editor having zero clue what VSCO girls were, the piece ended up being one of the site’s most popular of the summer.

Now, Lanigan says, the media’s thirst for VSCO content has veered toward the cringey. “I always just roll my eyes at the pieces now,” she told me over Twitter DM. “It seems lượt thích for some websites it’s just a way lớn try lớn write about Gen Z without really understanding or talking khổng lồ or identifying as Gen Z. It also kind of betrays that you’re kind of writing about them as though they’re this strange species you clearly don’t understand.”

The VSCO girl as meme will fizzle out; it already is doing so, at least according to lớn Google search trends. But the mechanisms by which it originated are only going to lớn get faster & more powerful. Whether we want khổng lồ continue the national pastime of elevating the same sliver of teenage girls for the sport of mocking them is perhaps worth considering.

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