First of all, don’t panic. It is perfectly normal to be a VSCO girl.
Second of all, I am 26 years old and I just found out about VSCO girls in October. I went into work and one of my colleagues was playfully teasing the other. He turned to me and laughed “Isn’t Jasmine such a VSCO girl?” I just smiled, laughed and agreed. Then, on the subway ride home, I promptly googled what the heck that even meant. So if you have no idea what a VSCO girl is, you are not alone.
A VSCO girl is very succinctly illustrated and explained by the things that she consumes. The “starter pack” for someone who aspires to achieve full VSCO girl status is made up of the following:
- A T-shirt so large that it covers the bottom of her shorts (which are likely Nike running shorts) and does not show any bit of her shape (some view this as a means by which to combat the sexualization of young girls’ bodies),
- a scrunchie either in her hair or a row of them on her wrist (likely a nod to the nostalgic nature of the 80s and 90s; so retro it’s modern),
- a bracelet from the Costa Rican company Pura Vida,
- a pucca shell necklace,
- a backpack from Swedish company Fjallraven (which typically starts at $65)
- with a Fuji-Instax camera inside,
- a sticker-covered Hydroflask (which starts at $35, minus the cost of stickers),
- all brought together with Birkenstocks or Crocs, with socks.
The whole look is expensive to achieve but is curated to appear approachable, laid-back, and attainable. In her article for Vox, Rebecca Jennings interviewed several teenagers, one of whom stated that “a VSCO girl spends 20 minutes to make her messy bun look just so.”
The most important thing to know is that there is no inherent danger to your daughter or your son wanting to participate in this trend. (There are in fact, also VSCO Boys, defined as someone who embodies the nostalgic aesthetics of the VSCO app, and has his own uniform of white vans and Nike running shorts). Teenagers are simply seeking out ways in which to express themselves, while also trying to find their place among their peers.
So, where Did “VSCO Girl” come from?
VSCO, previously known as VSCO Cam, started as a photography app, complete with retro-inspired filters, various editing tools, and the ability for users to share and interact with each other’s content. The app was started like so many other apps, by two white dudes from California. Today, VSCO is a thriving $90 million company with 2 million users. Amazingly, 75% of those being under the age of 25.
Interestingly enough, it was another app that introduced the archetype of the VSCO girl to the world. In early 2019, TikTok, the social media app of choice among Gen Z in which users share fun short-form videos with one another, brought the term into the mainstream, and it didn’t take long for it to become an identity that teenagers wanted to achieve, and make it a source of confusion for parents and anyone over the age of 19.
High School Girls and High School Judgement
Like any other paradigm for high school girls, there is a thin veil of judgement, self-deprecation, and aspiration cloaked around the VSCO girl. When I was in high school, the equivalent of the VSCO girl was a teen who would wear NorthFace fleeces, Ugg boots, and carried around fancy glass water bottles; whereas in middle school, it was Juicy Couture velour sweat-suits, flare legged low waisted jeans, bare-mid-drift, and belts worn outside of belt loops. The similarity persists that if you adhere to these “guidelines” and procure the “starter pack” materials that you are then conforming. It is a catch 22 of adolescence, the desire to be accepted by the group, while also potentially being judged for adhering to some status quo.
In an article in Slate, a 15-year-old girl was quoted as saying “usually we point out VSCO girls to each other when we see them, and we might laugh at them a little bit because they are so conformist”; while another teen said, “they are just kind of basic and not that interesting as people”. This sort of action exemplifies the result of any act of labeling, it allows for signifiers to be placed on to the individual, young girls especially, even if those signifiers may or may not apply to them specifically.
The best thing to do for your child as they are trying out the VSCO trend or any other social media trend, and Lord knows there will be many more to come, is to teach them about how their voice and style matters, as well as the ways that brands can work to manipulate them. It does not have to be a scary thing, or be a part of some anti-capitalist agenda, but making young people aware of the ways in which brands have come to craft whole identities can help them to make a more informed decision.
During adolescence, kids are working to find out who they are, where they fit in, and perhaps even more importantly where they don’t want to fit in. In an effort to figure it all out, kids try on different hats, see what fits, what feels right, and what is uncomfortable. When asked about her thoughts on the VSCO Girl trend and its possible consequences,
“The VSCO girl trend is just another way for teens to explore new styles and social media outlets. Developmentally, adolescents are working through identity issues; they are trying to figure out what fits best for them, and this is absolutely a trial and error approach. In much the same way that teens can try out new sports, clubs, and even friendships and relationships, it is also important for them to try new styles.Christine Frank – Explore What’s Next Associate
To adults, it may seem silly at times, but trying out new trends can help to build confidence and help a teen understand who they really are and what is important to them. As a parent, it can help to guide and support teens to remember to check in with their values and their emotions as they try new things. Parents may see that their teen is growing in creativity, passion for the environment, confidence, etc. It can be cool to see the changes!”
We’ve All Been Through This
We’ve all gone through awkward phases. We’ve taken part in fashion trends in an effort to be accepted. Thankfully some of which we wish we didn’t have photographic evidence of! Tell me you didn’t go through a Preppie phase, or try to be like Molly Ringwald in high school. There is no judgment in it, but I’m sure trying that out and seeing what brought you joy and what didn’t allowed for you to grow into who you are now. Just provide a safe and open line of communication to your child, and maybe even show them some of photos of what a VSCO girl equivalent was when you were in high school. If anything it will at least provide you both with a good laugh.
Sofia Aletta is a Master of Anthropology, living the dream in Buffalo, NY. Outside of researching mortuary practices, human skeletal biology, and criminal justice procedures, she enjoys learning about all aspects of life. When she isn’t in the lab or the library, she can be found listening to true crime podcasts, taking photographs, and painting postcards for her family and friends. If you can’t find her, she is probably camping and will get back to your last email as soon as she gets back!