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VSCO Girls: The Rise and Fall of a Controversial Teenage Trend
vsco girl
Pop Culture

VSCO Girls: The Rise and Fall of a Controversial Teenage Trend

This weird trend came and went... or did it? What is (or was) a VSCO Girl, is it still relevant today... and could YOU be one?

Teenage trends have always come and gone. But thanks to the internet age, today's teenage trends spread like wildfire through popular social media apps. 

One prime example of how a social photo app can create an entire aesthetic is the VSCO girl trend. Popularized in 2019 through the photo-editing app VSCO which boasts over 40 million monthly users (almost 60% of them being teenagers), the VSCO Girl trend quickly caught the attention of social media users across the U.S. – the trend was picked up in major outlets, everywhere from popular teen media sites like Seventeen and Elle to Fox Business News.

What does it take to be a VSCO Girl? And is the trend still popular today? This article will examine the VSCO Girl trend: What it is, why it gained popularity so quickly, signs of a VSCO Girl and what happened to the VSCO Girl trend.

What Is a VSCO Girl?

young woman poses in sweater outside

To understand what a VSCO Girl is, it's important to understand the inner workings of the VSCO app, which is where the trend was born. VSCO allows users to post photos that share an aesthetic that can be described as whimsical and vintage, with pops of muted color reminiscent of vintage-style photos. 

Why Exactly Did VSCO Pop Off?

The app became popular among teens because VSCO does not enable users to comment or like photos, unlike other photo-sharing platforms. Not having to worry about how many likes a photo received or what people were saying about the photos teens were sharing was an essential part of why the VSCO Girl trend was created and took off. 

Even without the ability to comment and like photos, teenage users on the VSCO app started posting pictures of themselves wearing colors and outfits that emulated the soft, muted colors the platform is known for. A return to popular styles in the 90s started to emerge. Photos of teenage girls wearing scrunchies on their wrists, puka shell necklaces, anklets, and oversized t-shirts began flooding the VSCO app. 

young woman in lululemon

Not only did certain styles and accessories become part of the VSCO Girl trend, but name brands that VSCO Girls frequently wear also became adopted as the necessary "uniform" of the look. In a popular spoof video, YouTuber Mai Pham poked fun at the trend by listing off a VSCO Girl checklist. This included not only 90's era styles but brands like Lululemon, Birkenstocks, Fjällräven backpacks and Mario Badescu. Pham's list also included a mix of modern technology and vintage applications of it – she lists Air pods and an Apple Watch along with Polaroids. 

VSCO Girl checklist items may include, but are not limited to:

  • Pure Vida bracelets
  • Lip Balm (Carmex)
  • Glossier Cloud Paint (in Dusk)
  • A Teen Vogue Subscription
  • Checkered Vans
  • A massive trust fund
  • Hydro flask
  • Cool stickers for your hydro flash

There's also an environmentally conscious aspect to the VSCO Girl trend. Hydro flasks and reusable metal straws are also commonly associated with VSCO Girl culture -- VSCO girls live to show off how much they care about the planet and the effort they're making to help protect the planet.

Jewelry instagram vsco girl

Teenage trends typically come with slang and sayings that are only familiar if you're in on the trend – and the VSCO Girl trend is no different. Popular phrases among VSCO Girls include "I oop's," derived from Jasmine Masters on RuPaul's Drag Race, which playfully indicates shock or embarrassment. Sksksk, which originated on Twitter in 2009, is frequently used among VSCO Girls to show happiness and other intense emotions, typically written in social media posts rather than spoken aloud. 

VSCO Girls: Celebrity Edition

Even though VSCO is photo editing app, VSCO girls are notorious for carrying around disposable cameras. Girls like YouTube blogger Emma Chamberlain.

Gridfiti blog emmachamberlainsetup camera film

When Chamberlain was asked how she felt about her VSCO girl status, as dubbed by the internet, the then 18 year-old high school dropout came out in an interview saying:

“I didn't even know what a VSCO girl was until literally two weeks ago and apparently now I'm one of them. I literally I can't keep up. It's actually hilarious though. I don't mind.” - Emma Chamberlain

Why Are VSCO Girls Controversial? 

The VSCO Girl trend inevitably became controversial as it rose to popularity. While some parts of the VSCO Girl uniform are more affordable, brand name items that became associated with the trend were often only accessible to teenagers from wealthy white families. Because of this, the trend came under fire for being non-inclusive and predominantly white. 

How Did VSCO Become "Basic"?

As with anything that becomes popular among women, the trend began to be considered "basic" to those who were not part of it. This was because there was very little variation across the styles worn by VSCO Girls. The trend calls for teenagers who participate in it to blend in and look like everyone else rather than stand out. 

Throughout 2019, the VSCO Girl became the butt of many jokes across social media, from memes to YouTube videos that positioned the trend as "cringe" and embarrassing. Though the trend originated on a platform where likes and comments on photos were not a feature, many critics of the VSCO Girl trend looked at the teenagers who participated in them as self-absorbed, concerned with only how they appear in photos and nothing else.

What's So Controversial Anyway? Isn't It Just An App?

There are also conflicting interests within the VSCO Girl trend. Being environmentally conscious was an ethos of being a VSCO Girl. But many VSCO Girls would pose with Jeeps that are notoriously bad for the environment. Though they'd bring their metal straws along, VSCO Girls still drank Starbucks out of plastic cups and regularly consumed these beverages. 

What Happened to the VSCO Girl Trend?

young woman poses on balcony

Trends come and go, and the VSCO Girl trend was no exception. The trend fizzled out toward the end of 2019. Though the VSCO Girl trend has decreased in popularity, there are still elements of the trend that can be seen in current teen culture. The "Clean Girl" trend, popularized by TikTok creator Emily Mariko, embodies a lifestyle of rising early, drinking green juice and being productive. Style elements of the VSCO Girl trend, including oversized tees, Lululemon athleisure and scrunchies, are still seen within this trend. 

The height of the VSCO Girl trend took place in 2019, popularized within the VSCO photo-editing app. The look featured 90's style elements mixed with modern-day name brands and an environmentally conscious mindset that incorporated eco-friendly trends such as metal straws and reusable thermoses. As the trend continued to gain popularity across social media platforms and gain the attention of major news outlets, the trend came under fire due to a lack of diversity and inclusion. The trend was deemed basic by those who critiqued it, claiming the trend imposed a uniform that did not allow individuals to stand out. The VSCO Girl trend fizzled out in 2019, but certain style elements of the trend have remained popular among teens today. 


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