Is Cheugy to die for, or is it already dead?

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Words: Niamh Arwin Spalding (she/her)

In the ever-evolving landscape of trends and cultural phenomena, one term has recently taken centre stage: “Cheugy.” The term, which once highlighted specific trends or behaviours, particularly popular or trendy in the 2010’s, has now become a generational insult to anyone slightly associated with skinny jeans and pumpkin spice lattes. Yet, when we reflect on this, does it evoke a sense of nostalgia for a simpler time in everyone’s youth? A time when we weren’t weighed down by adult problems such as university assessments, overbearing landlords, and the dilemma of choosing between a Lidl food shop or two pints of fun? Ultimately, it boils down to whether the Cheugy aesthetic is still worth embracing or has already met its demise.

The societal impact that we hold as Gen Z is astronomical. With Gen Z currently standing as the largest generation on the planet—comprising 2.47 billion individuals out of the 7.8 billion people on Earth (according to researcher William M. Wilson)—our influence and capacity for change is substantial. So, when the Cheugy phenomenon emerged, it’s not surprising that many of us quickly latched onto another trend: criticising anything associated with older generations and our younger selves! This leads to another point on how consumer behaviour has notably been shaped by the fear of being labelled as Cheugy. Individuals may avoid certain products or styles deemed outdated in order to align with the ever-evolving definition of what’s considered trendy. 

If we were to encounter one of our friends in a store debating whether to buy a “live, laugh, love” sign or not – a decision that a decade ago would have excited us – we would actively discourage it. As it’s presently the opposite of trendy, many strive to distance themselves from this era we were once proud to be a part of. This phenomenon has ushered in a rapid turnover of trends and an increased emphasis on staying “current” to avoid being perceived as “uncool”. No one wishes to be tagged as cringe, outdated, or mundane, especially considering the integral role fashion plays in shaping one’s identity. When used as a passive-aggressive insult, it becomes a hurtful experience for anyone subjected to such labels, therefore we run as far away as we can from anything Cheugy.

When the term Cheugy comes to mind, it conjures memories of side parts, galaxy pop sockets, and Kylie lip kits for many of us. Looking back, I realise I didn’t genuinely like any of these things. Yet, from pre-teen to young adulthood, there’s an innate urge to follow every trend, blend in with the crowd, and avoid standing out. If a genie had come to me in my second year of high school and granted me 3 wishes, I can wholeheartedly say that I would have asked for every piece of rose gold jewellery (probably from Pandora), a New Look graphic tee—likely with “girl boss energy” written on it or something similar—and an excessive number of ill-fitting skinny jeans. I could have been the poster child for the so-called term Cheugy.

Reflecting on those times, it’s challenging to label them as cringe-worthy since some of my fondest memories from school involve these elements. I can vividly recall a girl entering the gym changing rooms with her new Kylie lip kits: we were all in awe, even though the colour wasn’t particularly flattering (it was this brown shade that no 12-year-old should be wearing, especially not to a period 7 P.E. class on a Tuesday). As I reflect on those moments, and the plump lips on the packaging, a sense of nostalgia washes over me. Had I known that in less than 10 years they would be deemed cringe-worthy, perhaps I wouldn’t have been as envious as I was over a liquid lipstick and liner that cost $29 in its prime.

Although I find this time to be extremely nostalgic—and I am almost clinging to these memories for dear life—it’s hard not to think that what we are wearing now will soon be condemned as another new word that the younger generation uses to make us feel “uncool” and “outdated”. Soon, skinny jeans might make a comeback because, in the grand scheme of things, nothing is ever that serious. We love to criticise and bring people down for wearing what they want and doing as they like, but the truth is, fashion has and always will be a form of how people express their feelings. That is something that no amount of words, or labelling as “cringe”, can take away from someone!


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3 months ago

Such a good read !!!