No, that's not a keyboard smash. Nor is it a Spellcheck or editing fail.
That's the way VSCO girls express their excitement. And I don't understand it any more than you do.
If anyone had a hot girl summer in 2019, it was probably the VSCO girl. Nicknamed after the photo editing VSCO app, the scrunchie-wearing, crop-top clad VSCO girl has come to dominate the internet. Primarily teens, some VSCO girls, like Emma Chamberlain, are popular influencers, while others are your typical high school girl on the street.
VSCO girls are "the tumblr girls of 2019," according to Urban Dictionary, but they're also the evolution of the "basic bitch" millennial that took the internet by storm five years ago. VSCO girls have just traded in pumpkin spiced lattes for Hydro Flask water bottles, Ugg boots for Birkenstocks, and North Face jackets for oversized tees. They also love puka shell chokers, Pura Vida bracelets, and Fjallraven backpacks.
But for all of her internet stardom, the VSCO girl has also been widely criticized. She's been buzzed about since Lauren Strapagiel of BuzzFeed News reported on her in July, subsequently appearing everywhere from The New York Times to The Cut. A number of Instagram accounts have popped up aggregating photos of the #VSCOgirl aesthetic, and the VSCO girl has fallen victim to countless memes and YouTube parody videos.
The VSCO girl makes me feel old.
While the internet loves to hate on the VSCO girl, I don't.
But she is the first Gen Z trend that makes me, a millennial, feel — gasp — old. I'm 27 and was born in 1991, and I'm so separated from Gen Z that the VSCO girl has never appeared on my Instagram feed. And when I told my millennial friends I've been writing articles about VSCO girls, they said: "What's a VSCO girl?"
I even had to Google "how to pronounce VSCO girl" (if anyone knows, please email me).
That's not to mention that scrolling through the accounts of popular VSCO girls like Summer McKeen and Sydney Serena makes me feel inherently un-cool, even though I'm well aware that's half the point. How are these teenagers so much more effortless-looking than I was at their age (or ever will be)?
My teenage self and my adult self just don't identify with the VSCO girl. My middle school "emo" phase of Converse and black studded belts slowly evolved into a closet of seagull-emblazoned Hollister jeans and overpriced Abercrombie & Fitch shirts during high school. Those styles might look nothing like today's bronze-skinned, Brandy Melville-loving VSCO girl, but they were just as popular in the mid-to-late 2000s as the VSCO girl is today.
And while I currently own some VSCO girl staples like mom jeans, crop tops, and Glossier Cloud paint, I am as far away from saying "and I oop" (another VSCO girl catchphrase, this one meaning surprise) as a baby boomer is from asking someone to "Netflix and chill."
The VSCO girl reminds the rest of us that we're getting older.
If my reaction to the VSCO girl says anything, it's that the rise of the VSCO girl highlights more than just the latest internet culture trend — it also shows the rest of us that we're getting older.
Previous generations have long thought of millennials as "the youth." But the truth is, we're aging, as all generations do. The youngest millennials are still young — they are turning 23 this year, according to the Pew Research Center. But the oldest millennials turn 38. While the 30s are still a youthful decade, they're also the prime years for traditional life milestones like getting married, having babies, and buying a house.
While millennials are busy "adulting" and dealing with financial struggles, there's an even younger generation out there focused on growing up and making their way in the world. And several elements of the VSCO girl's look are a response to the world she's living in.
Just consider the VSCO girl's attempts at being environmentally friendly, from her stainless steel Hydro Flask to her love of metal straws. While this part of her aesthetic has been mocked, it also shows that Gen Z is attuned to social and world issues. Even at such a young age — Gen Z is currently age 22 and under, according to Pew— they care about making a difference for their own futures.
The rise of the VSCO girl highlights Gen Z's relationship with technology.
Gen Z is the first digitally native generation. Millennials were introduced to the internet and social media, but Gen Z was born into a digital world.
Instagram wasn't around when I was in high school and YouTube was something I used to watch repeat music videos of Three Days Grace. It was definitely not a place where my more popular peers took me on a wardrobe tour or inside their day at school.
Social media didn't influence millennial style back then — the look was instead inspired by music, celebrities, and magazines. While those still inspire trends today, they're now sharing space with influencers and photo editing apps. As a result, Gen Z has created a whole new kind of aesthetic for itself.
And that aesthetic is a reaction to the digital culture millennials created. The VSCO girl's casual beach-wave hair, "no-makeup" makeup, and carefree, '90s-meets-surfer aesthetic is antithetical to the heavily contoured, carefully curated fashion Instagram influencer. And her wardrobe staples, like Crocs and Birkenstocks, are helping fuel the "ugly fashion" movement that eschews the look that's been conventionally popular.
For VSCO girls, it's all about looking laidback, not perfect. But by defying trends, they're creating trends of their own. And it's especially ironic that they're evoking the '90s, displaying a sense of nostalgia for a time few of them can remember — or never even experienced.
But millennials did. I may have once been the one explaining the meaning of BAE, on fleek, and thirst trap to the baby boomers in my life, but now I need someone to explain to me WTF TikTok is.
The tables have turned. Is this what a baby boomer feels like?