I can’t stop thinking about trendiness, “cheugy”, and classism. Like literally can’t stop, it’s like my new intrusive thought.
It started innocently enough, I would scroll through reels or TikToks about what’s cheugy or trends from the nineties or noughties and think to myself, “Thanks mom for not letting us dress like that.”, which then involved into “My parent’s were too cheap to buy us that.”, which then clicked into “Oh, we couldn’t afford that” – and it ranges from clothes and accessories to “Disney Adults”. And it also extends into current trends and how fast they are changing and paying more attention to the rate and quantity of consumption by influencers on Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube.
It then came to a head last week when I finally listened to the much recommended episode of the Be There in Five Podcast with Kate Kennedy. I’m not a Beth, I can’t always follow her rambling explorations of the topic lol but this episode struck so many chords with me and illuminated so many of these thoughts that have been rattling around disjointedly in my brain since the term cheugy first popped up.
In particular, when she talks about how trends that are popularized by the wealthy become “uncool” to them as soon as they start to trickle down to the masses. Think Gucci belt, only really rich people used to have Gucci anything, but now upper middle class have started to have Gucci belts, slides, and t-shirts and now they aren’t cool to the wealthy anymore, in fact they get made fun of (disclaimer I don’t have and never have had anything designer because I couldn’t/can’t afford one). And then once it becomes uncool we are just expected to abandon it simply because it isn’t cool?!?!?!?! I’m just supposed to drop $600 on a belt or $5000 on a bag and then stop using it when it isn’t cool or trendy anymore?
And then we get into the trend of thrifting that has boomed over the years from teenagers and youths discovering Value Village, thrift stores, and GoodWill to DePop, PoshMark, and ThredUp has taken thrift shopping from something only poor people (like really poor people) did to something that they can no longer afford to do. Going to a thrift shop was something so shameful that it wasn’t even something my family did at our very poorest, we would consignment shop, but there was something “higher class” or less shameful about consignment shopping than thrifting. So what do people do when they can no longer afford to thrift? They get their clothes from WalMart, Target, Giant Tiger, Costco, Sam’s Club, Asda, or from the devil itself, Amazon, for US/Canada/UK examples. Which they then get blamed for, for not being eco-friendly, not caring about workers, not being able to afford better, supporting companies that go to other countries for cheaper labour, for supporting billionaires who prop up, if not create, the class divide creating the need for fast fashion.
When we talk about trends that are now out-of-date or “cheugy” we think largely of trends from the 2000s/early 2010s. And I don’t know about how you were back then but all I wanted was to fit in. I wanted a Lululemon Scuba Hoodie, that TNA sweater, yoga pants, Aritzia clothes in high school because that is what the popular girls in high school were wearing. In college I wanted a Michael Kors tote bag, Uggs, Herschel backpack, Jeffrey Campbell ankle boots, and so many other things that I can’t remember (including probably more Lululemon and Aritzia) because that’s what the girls I viewed as being the cool, hot girls were wearing. And while I’m now glad I never wasted my money on these items, at the time I just wanted to be seen as cool and hot because I was (am who am I kidding) so deeply insecure. It was also the very start of social media culture as we now know it and we were transitioning from only seeing our communities and magazines and having to figure out how to dress on our own to having complete 24/7 access to celebrity and socialite culture and that transforming into influencer culture. Now everyone wants to have a personal brand and stand out, but all we wanted 10-15 years ago was to fit in.
And then, I love this point that Kate made in the podcast, we hit hipster culture as a reaction to the rise of influencer culture and then it being co-opted by the mainstream and the influencer (in their view, when really it was just the spread of another trend). The original hipsters aimed to rebel against consumerism, while still spending about $120 on a backpack or $200 on Blundstone boots.
Trends have always been about being exclusive, being the first to have something. Fashion, capitalism, consumerism, etc. they want us to want to be trendsetters rather than trend-followers because then we always have to be buying, buying, buying to stay ahead. Making fun of the way someone dresses, the way they spend their vacations because it is “out of touch” or “not current” is essentially making fun of someone for the way they choose to spend their money. Which is literally nobody’s fucking business but one’s own.
I also find it hugely ironic that the generation that seeks to dismantle capitalism and change class structures and yet they are also the ones ripping people apart for the class structure they exist in. And changing trends every week while also railing at Boomers and Gen X for destroying the planet (fashion is the 2nd most polluting industry after the petrochemical industry). But I’m a scientist not an anthropologist so what the fuck do I know?
Rant over, thanks for reading if you made it this far. If you have thoughts on this I would love to hear them, and I can’t recommend enough that Be There in Five podcast episode if this is an area of interest for you.
And, ugh, I didn’t even get into Disney Adults. I have to. I have to admit I don’t get people who that is there main annual vacation, and who dress up. However, I totally plan to go to at some point and I don’t plan on having kids, which means I’m going to have to go as an adult, with no kids. I never got to go as a kid, guess why? Because we couldn’t afford it. So judging adults who go to Disney, or Universal, or wherever that you think is for kids, is super classist and just mean; and if the people going aren’t asking you to go, why do you care??
Rant actually done now, bye!