Self

What It Means To Be A 'VSCO Girl'

Photo: Adela Belovodjanin, morkovkapiy, & Nesolenaya Alexandra / Shutterstock
vsco girl

When I first heard the term VSCO girl, I just knew what it meant with no context or explanation.

Maybe it’s because I spend too much time on the social media, maybe it’s because my early teens years were spent on Tumblr, or maybe it’s because I, myself, am guilty of liking aesthetically pleasing pictures of latte art.

VSCO girls were on the cusp of becoming the next internet meme, and though I couldn’t verbalize exactly what it meant to be a VSCO girl, I had a strong sense of how to recognize one.

That’s because we all probably already know a VSCO girl, even without knowing the term.

She has taken on many forms before, from the Tumblr girls of 2019 to the prettier-than-you popular girl in high school. But if you’ve ever lived in white, middle-class suburbia, I guarantee you’ve encountered some kind of derivative of the VSCO girl. 

What is a VSCO girl?

The concept of a VSCO girl extends far beyond the eponymous photo-editing app, from which its name is derived. In fact, the term probably has more parodies on TikTok, or memes dedicated to it on Instagram, than there are users of the VSCO platform.

The VSCO girl wears oversized t-shirts on top of barely visible shorts. She shops in Urban Outfitters or Brandy Melville, where one size fits all — so long as you’re an extra small.

Her Fjallraven Kanken backpack is packed with a hydro flask water bottle and Mario Badescu facial sprays. She's never seen without a scrunchie (or three) always on her wrist, sometimes in her hair.

She cares about saving the turtles and uses reusable metal straws, but takes photos on disposable cameras and drinks iced coffees from plastic Starbucks cups.

VSCO girls are what you might call basic girls who are unoriginal, while trying to seem unique.

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The VSCO girl wears puka-shell necklaces or chokers, wears friendship bracelets, and takes 50 “candid” laughing photos with her friends, then carefully selects, edits, and posts the one that looks the most laid-back.

VSCO girl does refer to a particular style of dress and set of interests, but it has become so exaggerated that anyone can be branded a VSCO girl once they subscribe to at least one of the associated behaviors.

VSCO girl follows a similar pattern to all the other stereotypes about women.

If you don’t surrender to your fate as one, you’re trying too hard to be different; but if you do, you’re trying too hard to look like you’re not trying, making you the biggest try-hard of all time.  

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What does VSCO stand for?

VSCO girl takes its name from the popular photo-editing app VSCO (pronounced “visco”). It's not an acronym, like many other slang terms are.

The app replicates Instagram in its grid-style photo feed, but it doesn’t feature likes and comments, meaning users aren’t as subject to scrutiny and don’t feel pressured to tailor their content to an audience.

If you used to post on Instagram in the early 2010s, you’ll remember that before bikini pics and pouting selfies, it was perfectly acceptable to post low-resolution photos of the book you were reading or your back garden with the now-obsolete Poprocket filter.

VSCO channels this era by giving users a platform to post images of sunsets or inspirational quotes that wouldn’t get great engagement on their Instagrams. But in challenging the norms of Instagram, it has created an aesthetic of its own.

You wouldn’t just post anything on VSCO. It has to look effortless, in pastel or beachy tones, and it must be filtered with dreamy-looking overlays that could almost be mistaken for film photography.

VSCO, despite its subversive intentions, has become home to another definition of what it means to be “cool,” and VSCO girls are the new archetype for teenage girls to model themselves off.

How did the VSCO girl trend turn into memes?

VSCO girl as an internet phrase hasn’t become popular because we all woke up one day and started loving Carmex, messy buns, and pastel colors; in fact, the term VSCO girl is more of a meme now than an actual adjective you would use to describe someone.

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From Instagram “starter packs” to TikTok POV sketches, VSCO girls have been spoofed by all.

The joke is that she’s overly enthusiastic and annoying. She espouses friendliness and positivity but will judge you for wearing too much makeup or dressing too alternatively.

She uses slang like “and I oop” to express shock, or “sksksk” to denote excitement, but doesn’t know that these phrases are borrowed from Black, LGBTQ, and stan culture.

And, according to her naysayers, they aren’t funny when she says them.

   

   

Making a meme out of relatively harmless teen interests is no new phenomenon. We’ve seen it with hipsters and Tumblr girls.

Internet subcultures are really just an extension of high school labels under which teenagers, particularly teenage girls, have been subject to parody and ridicule for decades. Girls cannot be left alone to simply like something for the sake of it — they must be accused of doing it to appear cool, relatable, attractive or trendy.

If enough women support something, it becomes a source of mockery; if enough men support something, it probably becomes a law.

Of all the things people can do on the internet, demonstrating VSCO girl behavior has to be among the least offensive.

Sure, the VSCO girl trend is not exactly the most inclusive. Not everyone can afford to go on Instagram-worthy road trips or buy new Urban Outfitters crop tops every week.

But given that VSCO girls are part of the first generation in history who will be straddled with more debt and less financial prosperity than their parents, maybe cut them some slack.

Millennials and Gen Z will never be able to afford to own a home, so they might as well splash out on an expensive backpack and polaroid camera.

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Alice Kelly is YourTango’s Deputy News and Entertainment Editor. Based in Brooklyn, New York, her work covers all things social justice, pop culture, and human interest. Keep up with her Twitter for more.

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