Illustrations by Megan Le Brocq

It is a tale as old as time that what was once stylish, in Vogue or cool is thrown out and deemed embarrassing almost as quickly as it appeared. Trends come and go, with fashion eras typically coming back around every thirty or so years. However, with the prominence of fast fashion and social media we find ourselves in a situation where micro-trends come and go seemingly instantly. Remember in 2017 when everyone was wearing that very specific shade of pink? Or when every student had a red puffer jacket and flares? Maybe look further back to 2015 when denim jackets and blue gingham were the height of fashion?

In 2021, with the rise of TikTok, Instagram, and influencers who literally make their money by creating and following new trends, the world of fashion seems more diffuse than ever. TikTok’s hyper-personalised algorithm has created a space where almost everyone can find their aesthetic represented, from cottage-core and minimalism to punk. This, combined with the fast fashion industry, means that the thirty-year trend cycle has been skewed. Recently there has been the emergence of the ‘Y2K’ aesthetic which draws heavily on the Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie early 2000s-era for inspiration.

So, with trends coming and going in the blink of an eye, things that used to be on trend are deemed uncool just as fast. However, there is now a word that has been circulating on TikTok to describe items, interests and style choices that used to be in style and favoured by millennials in the 2010s. This word is ‘cheugy’. It was originally coined in 2013 to describe someone who is out of date or trying too hard. In 2021 it has come to be used in reference to anything that people in the early 2010s may have enjoyed. This is incredibly subjective, but some examples are: enjoying pizza as a personality trait, chevron print, chunky brown circle scarfs, anything with ‘live, laugh, love’ on it, or justifying personality traits by citing your Harry Potter house. All of these trends, more accurately past trends, are harmless yet have been branded embarrassing by the younger generation on TikTok.

The more eagle-eyed may notice a common theme with all of these embarrassing or ‘cheugy’ things. They are all typically associated with white women. Seldom would you see a man buy his and hers matching bathrobes, or drink from a ‘don’t talk to me until I’ve had my coffee’ mug. Equally however, if they did choose to, they would not get ridiculed for it in the same way that many women do. The emergence of ‘cheugy’ really is nothing more than repackaged misogyny and a new way for women to attack other women. As opposed to slut shaming or body shaming, this is much more subtle and subversive. It is not so aggressively negative – people poke fun at their parents for being uncool, so surely there is nothing wrong with this, right? Well, I would argue that any avenue that encourages division is not one that we should go down.

The hyper-capitalist international system and consumerist society that has been created only works if people keep buying and buying. For people to keep consuming, new trends have to be created and old ones have to be thrown out. Huge companies are the only ones to profit from the collapse of the trend cycle and things from just a few years ago being considered embarrassing. ‘Cheugy’ may seem harmless on the outside but in reality, it only reveals how deep internalised misogyny runs in our society today.