A while ago, I wrote an article in which I revealed how, during my teenage years, I had gone through a regrettable basic bitch phase. In it, I explained what the term basic bitch encompasses exactly and as I did just that, I felt like the ‘my job here is done’ meme. Surely, the new generations would realise the immense potential that the adjective ‘basic’ represents, right? Wrong. There’s a new word on the block, and boy is it better than ‘basic’!
Introducing ‘cheugy’, TikTok’s new favourite word used to describe the people—mostly white millennial women—that are off-trend in a very specific way. Let me explain.
Urban Dictionary defines it as “the opposite of trendy. Stylish in middle school and high school but no longer in style. Used when someone still follows these out-of-date trends. This may include but not be limited to fashion, habits on social media, usage of slang, etc.”
According to The New York Times, 23-year-old software developer Gabby Rasson created the term. Unable to find a word for people or objects that were just a bit out of touch with current trends, she made up her own as a high school student.
Although it’s recently gained popularity on TikTok after copywriter Hallie Cain (also known as @webkinzwhore143 on the video-sharing app) posted a video on 30 March explaining what the word means, cheugy has actually been circulating online since at least 2018, when the Instagram account @cheuglife posted its first public post.
But what does it mean? Well, the term is deliberately vague—that’s what makes it so perfect. “Cheuginess is subjective and open to interpretation,” wrote Insider, and I couldn’t agree more. In her TikTok, Cain refers to another video where a user is asking for a word to describe “the type of people who get married at 20 years old.” In that same video, Cain described this type of person as a millennial with “girlboss energy.”
In a way, that whole paragraph above may seem very unclear to older generations. But if you’re aged 30 or below and still don’t get the ‘vibe’ I’m talking about, then have you checked for grey hairs? Because you’re definitely getting old.
Cheugy can be used, broadly, to describe someone who is off-trend or trying too hard. And while a lot of cheugy things are associated with white millennial women (for understandable reasons), the term can be applied to anyone of any gender and any age—so don’t go thinking you’re out of the woods just yet.
But the term is not only used to describe people. UGG slippers, #girlboss mugs, cake pops, Gucci belts with the large double ‘G’ logo and chevron are among the many other things deemed cheugy. Looking back on all the awful trends we’ve seen going in and out of style, the real question you should be asking is what isn’t cheugy?
And according to Rasson when she spoke to The New York Times, “thrifting, making your own clothes, handmade products, Levi’s jeans, Birkenstocks, home decor not found at Target,” are definitely not cheugy. “Looking good for yourself and not caring what other people think, that confidence exudes non-cheugyness,” added Rasson. That being said, there’s absolutely no way to confirm whether these exact same things won’t be ‘cheugy AF’ in a few years. After all, girlboss culture felt empowering not so long ago, am I right?
As cool and unique as we like to think of ourselves, we all follow trends at some point in our lives, and as a result, we definitely all have our cheugy tendencies. While the term in itself sounds like a misogynistic attack on millennial white women, it’s important to try and look at it from another perspective.
Cheugy can be used more as a tool for self-deprecation, a way to poke fun at your past self who actually did love UGG boots and aspired to be a girlboss. “We all have a little cheug in us,” Cain said in a follow-up to her original TikTok video, and there’s nothing wrong with embracing it.
“We need to accept the fact that we’re bound to be predictable and mainstream sometimes,” I wrote to conclude my basic bitch confession article, and I can’t think of anything better to finish this one with than some good old fashioned self-affirmation. A little cheugyness never hurt nobody #cheuglife.