The rise of the VSCO girl – and how to spot one

Leah Harper

This week, the New York Times published an article advising on what to do when your tween wants to be part of the “VSCO girl” trend – a sure sign that parents have cottoned on, and the trend will be “ovah” by Christmas. Until then, here is what you need to know:

What is a “VSCO girl”?

The name is derived from the photo-editing app VSCO (say “visco”), a kind of Instagram 2.0 in which everyday images are given added poignancy with filters. In the last year, it has become shorthand for a particular type of teen: typically white, wealthy and eco-conscious – the Cut succinctly described it as “manic pixie ecowarrior”. Being a VSCO girl is often embraced and mocked by those who subscribe to the trend. Add the teen popularity of shortform video-sharing app TikTok, where VSCO girl impersonations are rife, and you have a meme.

Is it a fashion thing?

Partly. VSCO girls certainly have “a look”: laid-back, beach-ready, youthful. Parodies and “starter pack” memes tend to reference oversized T-shirts, pukka shell chokers, Hydro Flasks, scrunchies (usually several), “ugly” shoes and Carmex lip balm. Brands such as Brandy Melville, Urban Outfitters and the backpack favourite Fjällräven also get a mention. VSCO girls look as if they are always on holiday, but their aesthetic is the opposite of the Fashion Nova-heavy, super-contoured look associated with Instagram influencers. Buzzfeed likened VSCO girl style to that of The OC’s Marissa Cooper, “except the girls wearing the look are too young to have heard of The OC”.

Are there any famous VSCO girls?

YouTuber Emma Chamberlain, off-duty Ariana Grande and even Princess Diana have all been said to subscribe to the trend.

Any other traits VSCO girls share?

Like all the best subcultures, VSCO girls have their own language. Commonly used phrases such as “and I – oop” – a reference to the drag queen Jasmine Masters – as well as “sksksk” (a phrase often attributed to black/stan Twitter, which represents a sort of typed shock) are often amplified within parodies. VSCO girl “transformation videos” – another trope of the trend – also tend to feature girls putting their hair in messy buns and eating avocado toast, before admitting that, actually, perhaps they were a little bit VSCO to begin with.