There is something very peculiar happening on the internet right now—and no, I’m not talking about the Kylie Jenner “Rise and Shine” meme or Miley Cyrus’s hand down Cody Simpson’s pants on Instagram (though both are, yes, very peculiar, indeed). It’s the revival of the Crocs shoe. This blatant love for gigantic T-shirts and one particular water bottle brand. It’s the rise of the VSCO girl. And for the uninitiated, knowing what the significance or meaning of VSCO girls is could get you quite far in this thing we call life.
First, join me in taking a deep breath as I gather my thoughts together enough to explain to you exactly what a VSCO girl is. (This feels a lot like trying to explain what a meme is; like, my brain certainly knows, but my mouth stutters at having to pinpoint its defining qualities. It’s an overwhelming subject, okay.)
Simply put, a VSCO girl is an internet teen trend.
She’s a type. Like a prep or a goth—but not at all like a prep or a goth. Millennials will get it if I say she’s the 2019 version of a Tumblr girl. Except, instead of studded denim shorts, winged eyeliner, and John Green books, the VSCO girl likes Crocs, stickered Hydro Flasks, and, like, a million scrunchies. Actually, the VSCO girl aesthetic is so hyperspecific, there is one brand (and one brand only) of facial spray you’ll ever find a VSCO girl using—Mario Badescu.
Hell, the big bucks retail companies are pulling in from V$CO girl$ must be outrageous.
Crocs, Fjällräven, Hydro Flask—cheers to you. There’s also Pura Vida, makers of the VSCO girl-beloved puka shell bracelet and wave ring. Just one look at the company’s Instagram page, and you just KNOW they’re consciously catering to the VSCO girl market. (What the hell, there’s even a post featuring all the other VSCO girl must-haves, and it currently has nearly 200,000 ‘likes.’ Genius.)
Don’t ask me where this trend originated from. I can only tell you the origin of the name. “VSCO” comes from the popular photo-editing app VSCO, known for its dreamy, film camera-esque filters. The Fjällräven backpack obsession, ardor for sustainable living, Crocs revival, and expression of excitement by typing out “SKSKSKSKSK”—yeah, I can’t tell you where those came from. My best guess is that they’re just an evolution of the recent ’90s comeback. A hybrid of skater kids, Cher Horowitz and Cali surf culture.
One hundred percent, you’ve seen a VSCO girl before; they’re inescapable.
Within recent months, they’ve taken over Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok (the holy trinity)—both as aspirational gurus and butt-ends of jokes. They’ve become so popular, they have haters now.
In fact, I once spoke to one of those ever so elusive teens (a non-VSCO girl, actually). She rolled her eyes at the topic of VSCO girls and then exasperatedly said, “They’re so basic.” In that moment, I understood. I got it. She’s someone you love and also someone you love to hate. She’s a manic pixie dream girl, just IRL and wearing an oversized hoodie that eclipses her shorts. She’s an Instagram influencer in the making and really just out here to have a good time and take some bomb-ass selfies at golden hour.
Admittedly, though, through my research, I’ve yet to come across a VSCO girl of color. Buzzfeed News sums it up pretty well: “VSCO girls are, by and large, white, thin, and have enough money to buy the various high-end items the trend includes. Even Brandy Melville [another VSCO girl-approved brand] is exclusionary by design—it only carries one size, and that size is usually small or extra small.”
Let’s take a look at 16-year-old YouTuber Mai Pham, who posted a “VSCO girl transformation video” (a popular trend on the video platform). Pham created the video with her thin, white friend and, as admitted to Buzzfeed News, received several comments saying she doesn’t look like a VSCO girl, while her friend did—even though they were both doing and wearing the exact same things. (LAME.)
I really don’t have any power to influence VSCO girl culture here, but I will say: Wouldn’t it be nice if the VSCO girl trend were more inclusive? Come on, teens. Do better.
Aside from this whole exclusionary thing—I, personally, don’t mind this movement. Teens, do what you wanna do (but maybe be a little—or a lot— more inclusive about it). In fact, I’m glad that they’re enjoying a spot of wholesome friendship bracelet fun and a Reduce, Reuse, Recycle lifestyle—and not, like, I don’t know, smoking Kit Kats or whatever the questionable and highly alarming trend of my generation’s teenage years was.
Let it be on my record that I’m not here to squash her #aesthetic. I’m just tryna understand.