VSCO Girls, or: Can We Please Let Teenage Girls Enjoy Something Without Being All Weird About It For Once, Please


Making the rounds on practically every feed a collegiate can plug into is the image of the VSCO girl, the 2010’s last hurrah for the “it” girl of the year. We’ve seen Tumblr girls, defined largely by a slightly alternative approach to fashion and their daring to pin vintage concert pamphlets on their walls without religiously listening to every one of the band’s albums first. Still in the spotlight but ever closer to the edge of yesterday’s news is the egirl, a sort of evolved Tumblr girl who has a Tik Tok account, a fair appreciation of 90s culture despite being born in the 2000s and has committed the grievous sin of filming herself lip-synching to old Friends episodes or something. Now, 2019 gives us the VSCO girl who is carefully vaulting between being basic and Captain Planet, she drinks ethically-sourced lattes, has a skincare routine worth more than your used car and commits mass brand loyalty—all in a scrunchie and a pair of Birkenstocks. Oh, and they’re apparently really into Hydroflasks.




So—a Gen Z trend based around environmentalism and looking cute. Naturally, social media and the news outlets are treating this as a contagion.


When you first google the term “VSCO girl”—a term that originates from the photo editor app of the same name—the first result is a ton of Urban Dictionary definitions, all describing the VSCO girl as the wearer of scrunchies, a preacher of sustainable living and a fan of puka shell necklaces. One of these definitions especially notes that they are “basic and typical, not special, like everyone else.” Although if they truly were like “everyone else,” I don’t think they’d be deserving of their own Urban Dictionary entry that also spitefully cites them as “a girl ... [whose] hydroflask has matching stickers from redbubble or similar instead of random ones of someone who actually travels ... [whose] wrists are filled with pure vida, 4ocean, and “‘friendship bracelets’” even though her collection is full of posts ab being alone ... [her] only 2 outfit options are oversized tshirt with short Nike shorts or a tube top with short Jean shorts bc ur not a vsco girl if u wear pants.” 


I think we all learned to abstain from using Urban Dictionary as an actual source of information back in 2011, but if it’s good for anything, it’s for gauging public reaction to trends. And by “public,” I mean the handful of catty teenagers that log on and write these things to begin with; or, in other words, the average peer of the VSCO girl. While the top definitions for the term “VSCO girl” are objective, the further down one goes, the more the animosity grows, with gems like “hi im typing this to tell you vsco is not a personality trait” (definition 8), “one of the most annoying people in the planet ... they carry around their hydroflasks everywhere they go and they can’t forget applying carmex every 5 minutes because GOD FORBID” (definition 13) and “basically just a white ass bitch- period” (definition 14). “VSCO Bitch” and “VSCO Hoe” also appear as related terms when looking up the term, and although they boast less individual entries than “VSCO Girl” itself, the animosity only grows worse under them. While many of the negative entries regarding the term define the VSCO girl as considering herself far more special than she actually is, it seems that she’s special enough to earn more than one title.


Interestingly, in searching for images to insert into the course of this article, I found myself coming up surprisingly blank. Sure, with little effort, Instagram would yield a host of photos under #vscogirl. But when it came to actually choosing an image for this article, I came up blank. Very few actual images of these scrunchie-so-tight-it-stops-blood flow, Mother-Nature worshipping, hydroflask-and-illegal-Whiteclaw duelwielders seem to actually exist. All I keep finding in these pictures, somehow, is happy looking teenagers. Each one looks different from the other, save for maybe the same grainy sepia overlays on their photos.





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In fact, I’m fairly certain that the only thing that any of these VSCO girls have in common is a) taking nice photos and b) liking things that popular culture considers “basic.” It doesn’t seem like much of a coincidence to me that basic can be defined best by “the things that girls like.” Or, if we want to run with the Urban Dictionary definitions, “1. Used to describe someone devoid of defining characteristics that might make a person interesting, extraordinary, or just simply worth devoting time or attention to. 2. Lacking intelligence and unable to socialize on even an elementary level. 3. Annoyingly frustrating because of the above,” the price for enjoying hydroflasks and crocs, apparently.


Teenagers are always finding new ways to make fun of one another, and social media only facilitates that. I don’t think you need a degree in sociology to figure that teenagers, on the whole, are kind of awful to one another. The weirdly impassioned Urban Dictionary entries show that, as well as the absolute slew of Gen Z Tik Tok memes about supposed VSCO girl culture.


Yet throwing their hats into the ring as well are adults, who are somehow just as perturbed by the entire ordeal. 



While it’s obvious that this Youtuber’s reactions are just as exaggerated as the videos he’s reacting to, there’s something uncomfortable about watching a man that’s easily in his 30s throw any kind of tiff over a fashion trend for teenage girls, fake or not. Actually, maybe that’s because there’s a weird amount of Youtube videos out there comprised of men “demanding” an end to VSCO girls:




Even adults that aren’t blatantly upset by the trend have a strange amount of discomfort with it, as if it poses some sort of threat—most citing how it makes them feel old.


It seems every time we as a society get one of these “it girl” archetypes, we start saddling all sorts of weird baggage onto them. Whatever trends becomes instantly devalued, not in terms of monetary value (because my god, do you have any idea what nicer hydroflasks go for?) but in terms of how seriously we take it. A girl gets the label of “VSCO girl,” which has a tendency of being mocked for drinking water, the shoes she wears or how she edits her photos. She can’t wear a Pura Vida bracelet without us scrambling to ask the company how they “feel” about it.  Girls can’t like things without getting a meme compilation made and a starter pack meme. 





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Even when the response isn’t negative, adults start imposing our weird age anxieties onto trends. Or otherwise dissecting it for our weird little corners of the internet to gawk at. 


I would like to propose a radical idea—perhaps we can, for a change, let teenagers enjoy things without making a huge commentary or fuss about it. Maybe we can stop putting them in the spotlight, either for mockery or for admiration, and just let them post their nice Instagram photos. Allow them the air to explore themselves, even if that means their elimination of single-use plastics. Stop marking their every move as a checklist for “basic” and “not basic.”

Can we please just let teenage girls have interests without making it a thing every time?