A VSCO girl investigation
Gina Twardosz | Monday, September 30, 2019
In my last Inside Column, I took it upon myself to uncover the great secrets behind those mysterious girls of the Internet known formally as “e-girls.” Naturally, all my friends and family were impressed by my dedication to uncovering the truth. Well, some were, anyway.
“What about VSCO girls?!” cried most of my friends. I was in disbelief. There’s another group of Internet teenagers I didn’t know about? I have really got to get a TikTok.
As an investigative journalist, I took it upon myself to press my friends for more details. “You’ve seen that meme,” they said, “they have the little pants and the big top!” What kind of parallel universe have I entered? Is this some sort of Shania Twain, ‘man shirt, short skirt’ secret society?
Like a hardboiled detective in a 1940s film noir, I pushed my friends to delve deeper into the complexities of the VSCO girl. Quite literally: Who is she?
“You know, they have the scrunchies and they say ‘and I oop’ a lot.”
None of that sounded coherent to me so I decided to leave my friends and do my own investigating. I was shocked to find that I was not the only one curious as to the identity of the VSCO girl — there seemed to be an article about them from every popular publication, from Seventeen to The Cut, Vox to The New York Times.
First and foremost, VSCO is a photo editing app, similar to Instagram, where the girls got their start and their name. The girls of VSCO define themselves via the persona they cultivate on VSCO, one of high fashion, popular branding and even eco-activism. After scrolling through pages and pages of VSCO girls, it seemed to me like spiritually, VSCO girls are the older sisters to e-girls.
Just like the e-girl, “VSCO girl” is another type of Internet persona that depends on looks. But while the e-girl’s style solely depends on aesthetic, the VSCO girl’s look is commodified, relying on the brands the girls champion, like Hydro Flask water bottles, Fjallraven backpacks, Birkenstock sandals or even makeup from Glossier.
And, according to The Cut article “What Does It Mean to Be a VSCO Girl?” author Sarah Spellings says there is even a “VSCO-girl vernacular.” Spellings writes that, “…a stereotypical VSCO girl can’t go more than five breaths without saying ‘and I oop’ — a reference to a video of the drag queen Jasmine Masters, used to express surprise — or ‘sksksksksk,’ which is meant to represent excitement.”
While Spellings may have aptly explained the VSCO girl vernacular, it still does not make sense to me.
Nothing about the VSCO girl really makes sense to me, but maybe that’s because I’m outside the target demographic. The VSCO girl tends to be high school aged, which is a time when adolescents are most trying to carve out their own unique identity. This is not unlike the e-girl, yet whereas the e-girl’s persona was influenced by the Internet’s culture, the VSCO girl seems to influence the Internet through her consumerist culture.
The VSCO girl identity is dependent upon a cultural elitism that is accessed through the consumption of brand named goods. She is eco-friendly in the sense that she buys products that market themselves as eco-friendly, like Pura Vida bracelets or Hydro Flask water bottles (which they adorn with ‘Save the Turtles’ stickers).
Unlike those renowned Generation Z activists, the VSCO girls are doing nothing to create tangible change in the world.
But, I’m not one to try and shame adolescent girls for just existing. Most of the articles about VSCO girls I read seemed critical of them and that’s not my intent. I welcome any avenue in which teenage girls feel safe in expressing their identities, whether that be TikTok or VSCO or both.
But, I wonder if all too often we conflate our identity with brand identity. I’m all for allowing teenagers to post as they please, but when each post looks more and more like a targeted ad, maybe we’ve gone too far.