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What is a VSCO girl? Here’s everything you need to know about the recent internet trend

By Harriet Piercy

Oct 27, 2020

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In the last few years, VSCO girls have started appearing on social media platforms as a whole new identity. Nick-named after the photo editing app VSCO, these girls are primarily teenagers but also popular influencers. So what is a VSCO girl exactly and where does the term come from?

What is a VSCO girl?

Stereotypically, VSCO girls have a ‘laid back aesthetic’ that somehow also translates into their interests, which can range from a short-lived passion for climate change activism to a photography hobby. While the VSCO girl trend initially started on the video-sharing app TikTok, it has now filtered onto most social media platforms as a way to describe a certain type of person.

To be a VSCO girl, you need to look the part, obviously. So if you’ve got anything beachy, I’m talking cut off shorts, oversized hippie-inspired tie dye T-shirts, shell necklaces, colourful bracelets and a few hair scrunchies, you’ll fit right in! Collecting stickers and plastering up your hydro flask is also a plus.

Another integral part of the trend is what these girls believe in and stand up for. The VSCO girl’s lifestyle surrounds being environmentally conscious. Caprese Wippich, an 18 year old from California told NBC news that “a really interesting aspect of the VSCO girl aesthetic [is] this little environmental part and that’s fun. The girls who weren’t interested in protecting the environment before are now all upset about it because it’s part of their aesthetic now.”

Wippich went on to say that she believes a part of why the trend is so popular, especially within younger generations, is because of its accessibility. Apparently. there are very few financial and social constraints to the look.

Urban Dictionary calls them the ‘Tumblr girls of 2019’, or as Buzzfeed described her, “a rehash of a 2000s beach girl, to match the VSCO app’s sundrenched filters.” Business Insider commented that they are the evolution of the “basic bitch” millennial, but VSCO girls have just traded in pumpkin-spiced lattes for Hydro Flask water bottles.

The aesthetic of the VSCO girl gained popularity after one major 18 year old influencer, Emma Chamberlain, who now has around eight million YouTube subscribers and 7.7 million Instagram followers, adopted the same style and promoted it, making it attractive to millions of gen Zers. Her YouTube channel, according to YouTube itself, has been one of the fastest growing channels in the US over the last two years. Thanks to this, the teen may be earning nearly £700,000 per annum in ad revenue from her YouTube channel alone. 

What the internet thinks of VSCO girls

There is always a less positive side to every trend that arrives on the internet. Abby Adesanya, the head of talent and influencers for Bustle Digital Group told The Atlantic that the VSCO girl aesthetic is definitely a suburban white girl trend, adding that the look is something YouTubers of colour mostly don’t have access to.

Another pitfall to the trend, despite the fun loving and bubbly nature of the aesthetic, is the mockery of it from the rest of the internet. Wippich commented on this in her interview with NBC news saying “Why mock someone for something they’re doing that doesn’t hurt you?” A truly valid question, and a sad truth in regards to any social movement that arrives on the internet.

VSCO app and VSCO girls

The New York Times spoke to Julie Inouye, a spokeswoman for the VSCO app who commented that the trend was down to the girls who started it rather than the app itself. While the photo editing app also has a sharing platform, it functions very differently to how other social media platforms do, as it doesn’t have a reward system behind posting behaviour that attributes to viral content such as ‘like’ buttons. Because of this, the app says it won’t take credit for the spread of the VSCO girl aesthetic.

This doesn’t mean that the app isn’t being used over other platforms such as TikTok or Instagram, because it is, but the type of content present on the VSCO app is hugely contrasted due to the fact that one platform provides likes and the other does not. VSCO girls will post things that may not get as much engagement on Instagram onto VSCO, such as inspirational quotes and carefully filtered photos and GIFs, whereas on Instagram, it’s more along the lines of bikini pictures and selfies.

Business Insider describes gen Z as ‘the first digital-native generation’. Because millennials were introduced to the internet and social media, their feed is in contrast highly curated, perfected and private, whereas gen Zers, along with VSCO girls, seem to avoid perfection by adding some subtlety in their content and the way it is edited. Like anything, by defying a trend, another trend is born in its wake. It will be interesting to see what sprouts from this one.