five vsco girls wearing oversized tshirts on a purple background with friendship bracelets as a border

What Exactly Is A ‘VSCO Girl’ And Are They Really Going To Save The Turtles?

So, some people like taking photos and some of those people are girls, and some of those girls like to edit them using a specific app. But what exactly makes someone a ‘VSCO Girl’? 

Follow-up questions: Why were they all over TikTok? Are they even still a thing? And are they a thing in Australia? We needed answers and we went to find them. 

What is a VSCO Girl?

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“A VSCO Girl is a girl expressing herself through all the cute, trendy things girls die to have,” Emma Marie, a YouTuber with over 1.1 million subscribers and whose fans call her “The Queen of VSCO girls,” told Syrup.

Seems simple enough right? Indeed, a lot of what seems to make someone a VSCO girl is based around a certain aesthetic and set of accessories.

Where does the term VSCO Girl come from?

A classic video format: transforming into VSCO girls.

The trend actually borrows its name from a photo editing app you might already have on your phone. While it’s existed for a while, the sharing and community aspect of the app seems to have attracted a following of people who want to share without the pressure and performance anxiety of Instagram. 

“It’s an app known for “the girls” and girls only,” explains Marie, “We like to post relatable things, very cute photos, and it is an app where likes and followers don’t matter.”

What are the classic VSCO Girl accessories?

The key VSCO Girl items are usually from earth-conscious or eco-friendly brands: Hydro Flask water bottles, Birkenstock sandals, Fjällräven backpacks and of course the ever-present scrunchie. 

“I personally think these brands were popular way before,” says Marie, “But when VSCO became very well know that is when the brands and products skyrocketed. I had Birkenstocks, scrunchies, and really cute style before all of it became the term VSCO so that goes to show how powerful social media can be.”

These products are also a mode of self-expression, according to Marie, “the term VSCO Girl to me is a very safe place to be expressive and creative through cute photos and trendy products.” 

Are VSCO Girls trying to save the planet?

A key element of VSCO Girls is their commitment to the environment. Having re-popularised sustainability-focused brands like Hydro Flask and Patagonia, not to mention all those metal straws, another important VSCO Girl accessory is the Pura Vida bracelet. Supporting full-time jobs for artisans and giving back to charities? We’ll take ten. 

Marie agrees, “100%, now when I go to restaurants they don’t use straws or you have to use your own metal straw. It all started with the VSCO term “Save the turtles,” it’s so insane how it all started from VSCO Girls trying to help the environment.”

So wait, why are people criticising them?

People have been using clothing as a way to signal social groups since we stopped walking around naked, right? So why has the VSCO Girl trend attracted so much attention and also criticism—largely for being “basic”? 

“A lot of people criticised the trend because if you wear scrunchies or have a Hydro Flask you are basic and have no style. I think that happened because it became way too popular and the term was overused,” explains Marie. 

“Some people got tired of the trend and wanted something else to be the centre of attention. Especially older teenagers didn’t like it because the trendy brands and products that they had before it became known as VSCO, now they get labelled VSCO Girls and judged, and not many people like that,” adding, “It’s not a bad term but it could be taken the wrong way by many people. I have the aesthetic of a VSCO Girl but I don’t label myself one.”

It’s also something to note how nearly exclusively white this trend is. Some YouTubers like Coco Chinelo even went so far as to create videos specifically marking themselves as “black girls” who turn into “VSCO Girls” for the day, implying the racial assumption of whiteness within the trend.

Is this a U.S. only trend or are they a thing in Australia?

When we asked Marie about her own favourite VSCO girls she taps Sydney Serena and Haley Pham as her go-to gals: “They seem so real and down to earth and their content is so trendy and inspiring.” 

Indeed, it seems the most popular VSCO Girls (hello Emma Chamberlain) are all American. 

So is this a trend that’s stayed up North, or would a stroll through Bondi also turn up a turtle-loving eco-friendly Aussie VSCO Girl? Dhillon, 15, says, “I think they are still a thing, for example when I’m scrolling through my feed I’ll see all of these meme pages promoting them constantly.” 

Daiya, 17, agrees, saying that they are still prevalent but that the reason is that “American culture predominantly does influence us Australians through social media.” 

But that in spite of that heavy influence she personally doesn’t think “think the categories of being a VSCO Girl is that common within Australian society.”

What’s the future hold for a VSCO Girl in 2020?

“Most people now, don’t like VSCO Girls because everyone thinks of them as basic and annoying,” says Marie. She adds that “being a VSCO Girl doesn’t define your personality or who you are as a person. I think because of new trends getting bashed for the wrong things, it is harder for people to say they like new trends and understand them.”

In spite of that, Marie believes the trend will continue to grow: “So many people have the app and all the photos are so relatable. It is popular not just on the app VSCO but it spread to every social media platform possible. It is something that will never die off because you see trendy VSCO things every day. From scrunchies in girls hair to people wearing oversized t-shirts, and very cute outfits.” 

So what’s the takeaway? Cute outfits will always be cute, scrunchies will always be comfier than a hair elastic, and whether your laid-back style gets you labelled as “VSCO Girl” or not doesn’t really matter so don’t overthink it. But always remember your water bottle.

Monisha is a writer with a background in publishing and digital media. A chronic Pisces, she’s into trying to be a better person and sparkling water.

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