Analyzing the VSCO Girl

By now, most teens have at least heard of the latest trend to take the internet and youth culture by storm: the VSCO girl. Now, with more social media platforms than ever, the concept of the laid-back, environmentally conscious beach girl has become one of the most notable youth trends of the past few months. But what makes the VSCO girl trend different from all the others, and what does it have to say about our generation?

First, we have to figure out what a VSCO girl is exactly. Luckily, that’s pretty easy. The emphasis on specific, branded items makes it one of the most well-defined trends of the decade. It won’t take much searching on just about any social media platform to find posts titled “the ultimate VSCO girl starter pack,” detailing the must-have items for any aspiring VSCO girl: an oversized tee shirt, scrunchies, a pair of checkered vans or Birkenstocks, some Puravida bracelets, and of course, a Hydroflask water bottle. Preferably all in dreamy, pastel colors like buttery yellow or pale blue. Keep in mind, this is just the starter pack—there are a myriad of specific products and more that fall under the VSCO girl umbrella. A true VSCO girl lifestyle extends to pretty much every part of her life, from the car she drives to the environmental issues that are important to her (save the turtles!).

This focus on branded items is part of what makes the trend unique; anyone can figure out exactly how to be a VSCO girl. All you need is an internet connection and access to just about any social media site, and there is virtually no variation within the trend. Some wonder if this new “girl” is a response to the similarly widespread “tumblr girl” trend of the early 2010s, similarly nicknamed after the social media platform it was associated with. While the Tumblr girl trend focused on the dark and grungy, with an emphasis on rejecting the mainstream, VSCO girls are fun loving and relaxed, and feel no shame in trying to fit the mold.

As straightforward as the craze seems, it contains several noteworthy contradictions, some of which have been criticized by the plethora of parodies that exist of them on social media. The most glaring is the emphasis on the easy going, natural look that actually requires a significant amount of effort, and in particular, money, to pull off. Similarly, some aspects of the VSCO look includes DIY-related elements like making friendship bracelets or painting belongings (Hydroflasks, for example), while the reliance on branded objects is decidedly not DIY friendly. Some of the items in question, such as Puravida string bracelets, are even styled to look homemade but are priced steeply.

As with any youth craze as successful as this one, there are some potentially negative effects that may come from the VSCO trend. Since pricey branded items are what drives the concept of the trend, it’s a given that some who want to participate may not have access to $50 water bottles and the like. The images circulating on the internet that define the look are also limiting in their aesthetic; they consist mostly of skinny, white teenage girls. To see such a cookie cutter, unattainable standard of beauty spread so widely across so many areas of the internet is undoubtedly harmful to the self-image of many girls who don’t fit this visual mold. 

However, there are a couple of things that critics of the trend don’t give it enough credit for. Although the laid-back look may be an illusion, it does represent a newly popular form of femininity among young girls that emphasizes comfort, self care, and creativity. Although some representations of this that are found online may not be genuine, they could still be prompting teen girls to prioritize their own wellbeing and pursue creative hobbies. Even though there is a lot of effort put into this effortless aesthetic, the trend represents a rejection of the long standing standards that girls have to try extra hard to look pretty and stylish while their male counterparts only have to worry about comfort. Now, girls are realizing that they can get the best of both worlds by creating a popular style that centers around comfort and casualness. 

Regardless of the many differing opinions on the VSCO girl style, it’s clear that it is an excellent indicator of the influences on our generation and the factors that are shaping it, especially for girls. As the first generation to grow up with social media, we have learned to be hyper-conscious of our brand both on and off the internet. With so many different products more readily available to us than ever, we have created specific cultures around certain brands and items. The trend represents both the results of modern feminist values and lingering double standards. As with any craze, the concept of the VSCO girl should be taken with a grain of salt, but credit should also be given where it’s due, and if girls are going to be mocked for everything they do, we might as well do what makes us feel good.

Photo Cred:  Kei Brown