The Brief: The VSCO girl trend has taken the internet by storm. Who are the girls behind the label? What does it really mean? Will this trend last?
Since before the dawn of the internet, teenagers have been giving each other labels. There have been greasers, socs, punks, preps, posers, jocks, nerds, geeks, scene kids, and goths. The inseparability of digital media and youth culture have resulted in new teen stereotypes that are based on social media trends and online presences: eGirls, eBoys, gamers, gamer girls, soft boys, soft girls, and more. Now there’s the VSCO girl label and it’s spreading to nearly every corner of the internet.
Known for their Hydro Flask water bottles, metal straws, Birkenstocks, Fjallraven backpacks, Brandy Mellville outfits, a Jeep Wrangler, shell necklaces and scrunchies, VSCO girls are defined almost exclusively by what they consume. However, there is more to this label and the young women behind it than what fits in a starter pack meme.
How To Be VSCO: Clothing, Accessories, Lifestyle & Overall Outlook
The proliferation of the VSCO girl trend can in part be attributed to an array of social media content which instructs girls how to make their lives and looks more “VSCO.” On YouTube, dozens of videos instruct girls ‘how to be VSCO,’ ‘how to be VSCO on a budget,” by purchasing items, styling their hair, choosing outfits, and engaging with social in ways that the quintessential VSCO girl would. We’ve even put together a little gift guide of some VSCO essentials and where to find them.
On Instagram, there are accounts that are dedicated entirely to instructions and tips on how to be a VSCO girl: how to embody the trend in aesthetics, lifestyle, friendships, and mood. The phenomenon of VSCO sleepovers demonstrates that there is a specific lifestyle that VSCO girls lead. In an interview, the admin of the VSCO-themed Instagram account @Summmerrdays explained that being a VSCO girl “mostly depends on the things you have…anyone can be one if they have certain things.”
The fact that this trend is heavily based on what one owns adds an accessibility barrier. In an interview, Izzie, who makes TikTok videos where she uses Photoshop to transform celebrities and inanimate objects into VSCO girls, said that since many of the items associated with VSCO are brand-specific, but others can be found for very cheap and that overall the trend is “very accessible…minus the $40 waterbottle.” In an article for BuzzFeed News, Lauren Strapagiel observes that VSCO girls are largely white, thin, and able to afford the pricy items associated with the trend.
Even as title VSCO girl is largely used to describe a particular person who owns a certain set of things, there’s still more to the trend than the label alone. Izzie noted that VSCO girls are known for being carefree and easygoing with natural looks and trendiness. When it comes to being a VSCO girl, the line between performativity and IRL action is blurred here. VSCO girls wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for social media, but their style influence stretches beyond the domain of social media. As so much of teenagers’ lives take place online, it can seem that their whole existence Real-life VSCO girls can be spotted at farmer’s markets, at the beach, at the mall, in school and in other places that teenage girls frequent.
VSCO Stereotype Memes
The plethora of VSCO girl memes that can be found online demonstrates how the internet tends to jump on new stereotypes and trends, harnessing their comic potential in memes.
what do vsco girls wear on their wrists?
— britney (@hauntedcth) August 8, 2019
A common TikTok video features a “POV” style roleplay in which someone pretends to be a VSCO girl having a conversation with you, the viewer. Other memes are created by VSCO girls themselves who may either poke fun at elements of their lifestyle and aesthetic or address related topics with comical angles.
VSCO memes indicate that, to many, VSCO girls are the butt of jokes. Some of these seem to be made in good fun, but others are more pointed and mean.
Is “VSCO Girl” An Insult?
In a Cosmopolitan article, Freya Drohan asserts that “making fun of the ‘VSCO girl archetype’ is mean” and asks “why can’t we just let women live already?” Drohan notes that the term is gendered and is often the subject of mockery online.
However, VSCO girl is a label frequently adopted and embraced by young women themselves. While there’s also plenty of mockery of the trend from people of all genders, a large portion of the online content about the VSCO trend is positive and informative. VSCO girl self drags can be light and funny self-aware commentary, but they can also be unnecessarily self-deprecating and form rifts between young women.
The terms VSCO boy and VSCO boyfriend are growing in popularity, indicating that some young men are also seeing themselves in this trend and taking steps to put their own spin on it. Although VSCO is often associated with femininity, its breadth is expanding as more boys embrace the term for themselves.
Just A Fad?
Many people have pointed out that the VSCO girl is merely the 2019 version of the Tumblr girl, basic b**ch, or Insta baddie archetypes. Even if VSCO girl is merely the same thing with a new name, there’s no denying that it’s gone viral and caught the attention of people across the web.
@summmerrdays predicted that “this trend will last just as long as any other internet trend…it’ll be popular for a little bit, but soon it’ll die down.” Izzie suggested that “the style itself [won’t] go away” because it’s “not super dated” and could be adapted to fit with future trends.
As with many internet trends like the World Record Egg, Big Chungus, and the #FeelingCute challenge, it’s near impossible to guess how a meme will fare in the ever-changing environment of internet memes and trends. In the meantime, we’ll be keeping an eye on the VSCO trend and what it means for the young people adopting the label, its styles, the memes, and the hashtag #VSCOgirl.