Gen. Z Breakdown: Unpacking Aesthetics and “I’m Not Like Other Girls”

In the ever-growing world of social media, new ways to identify ourselves by music choice, slang, or even the items in our closet emerge almost every day. All parts of these forms to assign ourselves with a certain persona, or aesthetic, and make it our own are a creative outlet for many. 

Many have found a sense of individuality in these aesthetics such as Cottagecore, Indie, Y2K, and more subgenres. However, with these micro labels comes a price; the expensive cost of confusion added on some teens’ journeys to finding themselves.

“Basic”

“Basic” is the last thing most girls want to be characterized as. In the summer of 2019, we saw this with the “VSCO girl” trend. A girl who wears oversized t-shirts, flaunts imitative puka shell necklaces, is known for long socks with Birkenstocks, and is notorious for her rather ‘annoying and desperate’ behavior. Tiffany Ferg, a commentary Youtuber does a video on the topic in depth.

In 2020, we saw this again with the “Indie” trend, distinguished by listening to ‘Indie’ songs from artists like Wallows, Tyler The Creator, Lorde and more. Wearing baggy, vintage or ‘thrifted’ clothes, and using oversaturated filters. What started as something that was supposed to me ‘underground’, to match the original definition of the term, was popularized by many through TikTok

Young woman looking at different racks of clothes at a store. Photo by StockSnap from Pixabay Users would share their Indie playlists, Indie lookbooks, and even Indie hairstyles (a popularized one being dying the front two strands of one’s hair a different color from the rest, usually blonde). 

The VSCO girl trend, however, is more than about a bimbo who boasts about her ‘quirkiness’, and the indie trend is about more than an ‘edgy’ teen girl. Both received scrutiny after too many people started following the trends and were classified as ‘basic’. Once coined as basic, most try their best to find another trend to identify with, almost as if being called ‘basic’ results in social suicide. But why is this?

“I’m not like other girls”

Our world, specifically the internet, is continuously evolving. With this inconsistent definition of what is popular what’s basic feels like it changes with the days of the week. It feels as if there is a strenuous effort to be as original as possible and completely obliterate the status quo. 

This is where we see the infamous “I’m not like other girls” saying, implying that the “other girls” are the basic, carbon copies every girl is trying to run away from. This quintessential girl follows all the trends, listens to the top 100 hits, and is assumed to ‘have no personality’; she wears the Lululemon leggings with Starbucks in hand and is stereotyped to be as airheaded as the Barbie she emulates. We feel as though, to stand out of this box and into the male gaze, we assert ourselves into another box. We strive to be different from the ‘norm’, but if the ‘norm’ is changing every day, what does this have to say about how we see ourselves truly? What is wrong with being ‘basic’? We are more than just Rubix cubes to be twisted and configured anytime a new definition of ‘basic’ arises. Are these ‘basic’ things not popular for a reason? There should be nothing wrong or shameful about being the “other girl” or even unlike her. As women, we can be whoever we want to be.

girls neon light signage Photo by Rene Böhmer from Unsplash To circle back to the multitude of aesthetics the internet has created, a lot of teens try to make their niches more and more specific to stay away from this idea of being like “the other girl”. It leads to a puzzling way of viewing ourselves because we feel as though we have to fit into one box. This, however, does not have to be the case.

If you want to be the ‘Indie girl’ one day, and sport a grunge look the next, do it. If you want a change and want to jam out to Ariana Grande and Taylor Swift to take a break from your hard rock playlist, do it. I want to challenge us to be anything we want to be. Not just society’s definition of what one ‘aesthetic’ is allowed to do. The goal is to be unapologetically ourselves no matter the playlist choice, dream wardrobe on Pinterest, or mannerisms we obtain.