Kate McCabe / Gavel Media

VSCO Girls, Explained

If you’re tapped into Internet culture, you’re probably familiar with the phrase “VSCO girl”a term popularized this summer to represent fashion trends among teenage girls. However, in a society where generational stereotypes are constantly evolving, referencing a term first appearing months ago may seem hopelessly out of touch.      

The aesthetic is based on the popular photo-editing app “VSCO” launched in 2012. VSCO’s array of high-contrast and gradient filters have the ability to make a simple photo look professionally edited. While VSCO operates similar to a social network, there is less pressure to curate a perfect public image through polished photos.

Rather than obsessing over likes, users upload images capturing the natural beauty of their daily lives, with content ranging from sunsets and smoothie shops to inspirational quotes. As a more casual counterpart to Instagram, VSCO has helped to create a distinct dressed-down and relaxed aesthetic.

This aesthetic was further popularized through Internet personalities like YouTube star Emma Chamberlain, whose laid-back style helped her skyrocket to eight million YouTube subscribers in less than two years, according to The Atlantic.

This distinct aesthetic has created an entire subculture based on popular brands and fashion trends known as the “VSCO girl uniform,” which is comprised of essentials such as scrunchies, puka shell necklaces, Birkenstocks, and clothes from certain brands, including Brandy Melville.

VSCO girls are also considered environmentally conscious. The aesthetic is enhanced with "green" or sustainable components such as Hydro Flasks and metal straws.

The whole phenomena can be characterized as high-effort minimalism, in which the goal is to look like you just rolled out of bed when in reality it took 20 minutes to create the perfect messy bun.   

While the term VSCO girl references a popular style of dress, what’s more interesting is how the term has evolved to represent a distinct set of personality traits and behaviors. Thanks to apps like YouTube and Tik Tok, it didn’t take long for the internet to quickly latch onto components of this aesthetic, which loosely blends being free-spirited and eco-friendly to create a viral meme culture centered around parody and mockery.

VSCO girls are known for applying copious amounts of chapstick and wearing excessive amounts of scrunchies on their wrists. If you’re unfortunate enough to be sitting in the same room as a VSCO girl, watch out, because they are notorious for knocking over their metal Hydro Flasks with a deafening “bang,” to which they will exclaim “sksksk” or “and I oop.”    

While it is unlikely that you will ever encounter an army of VSCO girls chanting “and i oop” with matching Hydro Flasks and over-sized t shirts, this over-dramatization and highlighting of many popular brands provides a comical basis many people can identify with.

While this set of trends conveys elements of a lifestyle that many people can relate to, it can also isolate those who don’t fit any aspects of the VSCO girl mold. Unlike previous parodies of common teen fashion trends such as “emo,” “hipster,” and “tumblr,” the catchy nickname “VSCO girl” is reserved largely for white and middle-class teenage girls.

This definition of a “basic” teenage girl therefore excludes racial minorities and those unable to afford many of the overpriced products. As a result, this "VSCO girl" phenomenon enforces mainstream society’s centering of what white, wealthy people are doing and buying. 

While the term “VSCO girl” will soon become obsolete, it is worth considering whether society will continue to simultaneously elevate and mock the same homogeneous group of teenage girls through rapidly evolving generational stereotypes.

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