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 Used when someone still follows these out-of-date trends.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.
If you were active on Tumblr back in 2018, you’d probably remember scrolling through a parallel universe of ‘confession Tumblr’—where users admitted their deepest desires for others to either cringe or relate to. While most confessions helped normalise sexual attraction to the clown from It and eating Tide pods for breakfast, there was a niche community on the rise obsessed with ‘oddbody Furbies’: a series of customised Furbies given different bodies than the original (and iconic) model.
One of the most coveted oddbody Furbies on Tumblr back then was the long Furby. Three years later, with hundreds of fan accounts on Instagram and more than 742 pages on its official Wiki fandom, the love for long Furbies is apparent. But what makes them so appealing? Is it possible to break down the demand for these handmade creations so that the rest of the internet can understand their appeal? Maybe all of the marketers and innovators out there can pick something up from this to help spur their own cultural trend.
In a bid to reach this haven, Screen Shot spoke to four of the top long Furby sellers on Etsy. From chaotically-wholesome commissions to a diverse range of uses, here’s all the love and insights they had to share for the handmade creations.
Often referred to as ‘Long Boi’, a long Furby is characterised by its elongated body. Varying in length typically ranging between 3 to 5 feet, the popular oddbody ‘species’ can be broadly categorised into two: the ‘traditional long Furby’ with two small feet at the bottom and the ‘limbed long Furby’ featuring full-fledged arms and legs.
There are various ways a long Furby can be made. Creators can either acquire original Furby models on sites like eBay to later gut and partly replace them with a long and flexible plushy body, or alternatively, skin the models to elongate the fur while leaving the toy fully functional. Customised orders are also made from scratch depending on a customer’s preference.
“The toys that I wanted often didn’t exist,” started Sara Tobias, owner of PlushieCouture on Etsy. “So, inspired by my parents who are incredibly creative, I would try making them instead.” Although Tobias initially acquired Furbies to prank others, the creator later wanted to put them to good use and thereby started creating the oddbodies. “When I shared these with my family and friends, everyone loved them, and PlushieCouture was born!” Tobias added.
As for Alison Lord and her Etsy shop AlisonMakes, the creator tried her hand at making a long Furby years ago after spotting it on her social media feed—but ended up failing at the initial attempt. “Then I sort of forgot about it until the first lockdown hit when I created the Furby version of Joe Exotic (a big cultural icon at the time) and set up an Instagram account for fun.” Lord later kicked off AlisonMakes by creating baby Joes, presently regarding her initial draft as a “long Furby sacrilege.”
On the other hand, Evelyn Surman and Melody Ding (masterminds behind LongFurbyShop and DinnerIsServed respectively) came across long Furbies via YouTuber StrangeAeons who did a ‘deep dive’ on the dedicated Tumblr community. Inspired by a certain video where the YouTuber makes her own long Furby son named ‘Thursday Plurbonym-Boyporridge’, Ding—a 14-year-old creator—was inspired to make her own.
“It was a mess. Me and my friend knew nothing about Furbies at the time and even bought the wrong materials,” Ding said, currently at a sum total of 90 sales on Etsy. As for Surman, the idea of a long Furby was “absolutely hilarious, if somewhat cursed. I knew I had to make my own, so last June I made my first long Furby named ‘Rabies’ as a birthday present to myself—who now serves as the template for all of my designs.”
Before we get into breaking down the appeal for long Furbies, let’s analyse the present demand for these creations on Etsy. For Lord, her bestselling Furbies are the long Furblings. “These mini baby long bois fly out of the shop as soon as I list them,” Lord mentioned. The longest Furby the creator has made to date is a Furby owl with a sculpted and feathery face. “He was about five and a half feet long and had a series of claws down the length of his body and was a real work of art.”
The owl was made by Lord following a sudden urge, later staying in her house and periodically scaring members of her family until a customer bought him. “He is now in New York, so this has now become a global thing,” Lord added.
As for Surman, the creator’s bestsellers are both the black fur with blue corduroy and black fur with yellow plaids which admittingly resembles YouTuber StrangeAeons’ own Furby named ‘Thursday’. “The longest Furby I’ve made was 5 feet long—which was almost as tall as me! And that one was so much fun to make as the customer wanted me to recreate a Furby as an inside joke within his friend group. It’s so rewarding creating pieces which mean a lot to people.”
No business can be left out in the whirlwind without analysing the impact the pandemic has had on its operations. In the world of long Furbies, the rollercoaster has only gone up, my friend! “The demand for long Furbies has skyrocketed over the past 12 months,” said Lord. “I think at this time, more than ever, people want to buy nice things that make them feel happy and long Furbies are fun.”
Although both Lord and Surman started their respective Etsy shops over the pandemic, the demand for their creations has remained steady over the period. “In the last year, we have seen more and more Furby-specific social media and shops come online,” said Tobias. “We love seeing more people discover Furbies and hope they’ve been a comfort in this horrible/crazy year.”
It’s now time to address the much-awaited question: what makes long Furbies so appealing to the Furby fandom? Let’s start by analysing the purpose behind these creations.
“The best thing about long Furbies is that you can create your own purpose,” said Lord. “It can either live in your room and keep you company at night, or you can take it out and about and photograph it engaged in everyday activities.” Running a dedicated ‘long Furby making club’ at the high school she works at, Lord mentioned how club members are keen on hosting Furby picnics in the park when they are done.
Although the customers that Melody deals with usually buy oddbodies as a present, long Furbies in particular, are often bought for themselves. “A lot of people who want a long Furby companion but don’t want to make one themselves come on Etsy,” the creator said.
Surman adds on to the ‘companion’ status long Furbies have achieved—describing them as “a companion with which to rule the world.” However, Surman also credits their charms to “the sheer ridiculousness” of the entire concept. “The fact that they don’t have a specific purpose, I think, is part of their appeal.” Ding further backed up these claims: “The novelty appeal in them is because they are so weird—it’s kind of endearing.”
According to Tobias, the purpose backing the demand for long Furbies is either the search for a “fun cuddly friend” or a “fun creepy gift.” “We’ve seen people adopt them for the unboxing experience or because they’re great conversation starters. A few offices have even adopted them as a sort of mascot. I love showing them to people for the first time. Their reaction says it all—these aren’t something anyone can look away from.”
Tobias and Lord further touched upon the world of the online Furby fandom. “The long Furby community is one of the nicest online groups. The people are so diverse, of all ages and creative abilities, and I have never felt so welcome in any online community before,” Lord summed up.
A quick scroll through ‘Furblr’ (a parallel Tumblr dedicated to the long Furby fandom) will land you scratching your head as you then proceed to spot dedicated names popping up along with the images. This is because Furby lovers often name their long Furbies. Remember how we talked about the ‘companion’ status they have achieved? This is also the reason why the Furby fandom refuses to be labelled as ‘collectors’. You don’t collect family now, do you?
“I love it when a customer names their Furby and gets them a necklace made with their names,” admitted Lord. The creator also highlighted how some people in the community treat them like their own children, “For a lot of people who have long Furbies, it’s a reconnection with their childhood and a safe place for them to be who they really feel they are,” Lord added.
While explaining the ‘familial’ status of long Furbies, all four Etsy sellers admit to being dedicated Furby lovers themselves—sometimes creating a long Furby they find hard to let go of. “My long Furby ‘Rabies’ is very much part of the family and my siblings have pretty much accepted him as an adopted brother!” exclaimed Surman. Tobias admitted to giving all of the Furbies created by PlushieCouture a personality and backstory “with the hope they’ll be adopted into a loving home.”
“I thought Furbies were extremely creepy at first,” said 14-year-old Ding as she then proceeded to explain how Furbies have grown on her over time. “I’m too young to feel any nostalgia but I find they have a cursed charm to them.” The creator further admitted her attachment to her own long Furbies Orange Juice and Richard. “They spend their days on the couch with other Furby oddbodies staring at us.”
When asked about the demand for long Furbies among Ding’s age group, the creator admitted how she was lucky to find friends who share the same interest as her. “I’m pretty sure most people view long Furbies as cursed abominations but the people I interact with love them.”
For a majority of its part, all four sellers admitted to witnessing an influx of positive comments to their posts on both Instagram and Etsy to date. “Most people are so kind and excited by the pieces I’ve made, and that feedback is definitely one of the most rewarding parts of creating,” said Surman while Ding and Tobias back up the amazing support they have gotten from the community themselves.
“I have been making artsy stuff since I was a child (I’m 47 now) and I am amazed that this particular hobby has taken off in such a big way for me,” said Lord, adding how she has gotten all 5-star reviews on Etsy, now aiming to produce the Furbies of everyone’s dreams.
What about the rest of the internet though? “Sometimes I get comments from very confused people who don’t have a clue why they’ve come across pictures of such cursed Furbies. But these comments are definitely more out of confusion than negativity,” Surman said. By replacing the word ‘negativity’ with mere ‘confusion’, Surman efficiently drops the mic regarding the debated topic.
Now that I hope most of you are slowly falling down the rabbit hole with me, how can we—as the audience—try our own hands at making a long Furby? Is there a list of materials we can take on our next trip to Hobby Lobby? “The process varies piece to piece depending on what the customer wants in terms of length, style and extra accessories,” said Surman. However, the creator outlined the typical design process that goes behind the creation of the wonderful species.
First up is commissioning, where sellers usually receive customised design orders via a written description or a picture from their customers. These creators then sketch out the design including the materials and extra customisation requests. A pattern based on the size and style is later rounded up before materials like the fabric and spine are ordered. The design is then cut and sewn to make the long Furby.
“From start to end, the process usually takes around 12 hours to finish,” Surman mentioned. However, this time frame is subjected to the complication of the design. “I love a challenge. So the added difficulty makes it all the more fun!”
As for Tobias, the creator finds inspiration in the materials themselves. Highlighting the absence of planning, Tobias uses an analogy to describe her design process. “If you’ve seen the movie Apollo 13, the engineers pour a box of materials onto a table and then find a way to turn these seemingly random items into a solution. My process often feels like that.” Working with reclaimed raw materials, Tobias further admitted to the uncertainty of the same fabrics being available to the creator during the process. “But it’s always exciting to see what it becomes!”
The role of experimentation and inspiration becomes apparent as Lord also admitted to kick-starting her projects with vague ideas for creations. “I recently made some based on fire and water because I had a new material I wanted to experiment with. I have made two Gremlins which stemmed from my background in ceramics. I also get inspired by films and television to create custom orders for individual specifications.”
Striking a balance between quality and length, Lord’s most recent order is that of a custom black and white striped long Furby—who is now headed off to Australia to live with his new family.
In the next 5 years, the Etsy sellers mostly have their eyes set on expanding their business—a surefire motive given the increasing demand of the coveted creations. “Looking back, I can see how much my ability and ideas have evolved from my first creations to where I am now. I hope to continue to grow as an artist, from the Furbies themselves to Instagram and my photography skills and beyond,” Tobias stated.
As for Surman, the creator will be starting her studies at university next year. “I definitely want to continue creating pieces alongside my schoolwork,” she said, adding how her customers can expect new designs and materials this summer—possibly even expanding into the category of ‘limbed long Furbies’.
Admitting to having tremendous fun, Lord feels like she is currently “riding a tidal wave of a cultural phenomenon.” “I am not sure how long it will last for but I do hope it lasts though!” As for Ding, the creator has a more practical approach. “I plan on continuing to sell Furbies as long as there is demand for it and I still enjoy it,” the creator said. Viewing her business as “something casual and an extension of a hobby,” Ding admits to liking the scene as it is. “I just wanted to supply people with Furbies.”
As for all of the ‘merely confused’ people out there on the internet who are still having a hard time decoding long Furbies, here’s what we (yes, you can see my own listing on Etsy soon) have to tell you. Cringe culture is dead and with Lord by our side, we bet you secretly want one too!