Are you still reeling from the revelation that skinny jeans and side parts are no longer cool? Well that’s too damn bad, Jessica, because Gen Z have come up with another way to make fun of millennials, and this time, they’re not coming for one or two sartorial choices, but for our entire aesthetic. Thanks to the rise of the catch-all insult cheugy, declaring millennial lifestyle staples as cringey has gotten easier than ever before. If the emergence of a trendy new term is making you want to, not take a nap, but just rest your eyes for a bit, then I regret to inform you that
you’re old you’ve come to the right place. WTF is cheugy, am I cheugy, is writing an article explaining cheugy, cheugy? The answer to those last two questions is definitively yes, so at least you’re in good (if you loosely apply the meaning of “good”) company.
The term cheugy, which, since I know you’re about to ask, is pronounced chew-ghee (hard G sound), was actually coined in 2013 by a then-high school student to describe people who, as the New York Times put it, “are slightly off-trend”. The term gained popularity on, where else, TikTok, after a video posted on March 30th went viral. For a visual definition of cheugy, think of MLM boss babe energy, millennial #girlboss aesthetic, and anything the cast of Vanderpump Rules would have worn in seasons 1-3. Chevron is cheugy; Gucci belts with the overlapping G’s are cheugy; captioning an Instagram with “thank u, next” is cheugy; I haven’t gotten the official report yet, but I’ve got to imagine statement necklaces are extremely cheugy. (Using an adverb before cheugy may or may not be cheugy.)
To put it more precisely, Urban Dictionary defines cheugy as “another way to describe aesthetics/people/experiences that are basic”; the second most popular definition says it’s something that was “stylish in middle school and high school but no longer in style.” If you aren’t sure, here’s a quick rule of thumb: pretty much everything you hold near and dear is probably being derided at this very moment by college kids and high schoolers via a made-up word that sounds like what Vice would name their next food vertical.
Here’s the thing. While some millennials are already probably mounting their defenses of Starbucks and Live, Laugh, Love signs, let’s just… not. Have we forgotten that we based our entire personalities for multiple years around appropriating the term “basic” within an inch of its life? What, it’s only fine for people to make fun of pumpkin spice lattes, but we’re drawing the line at blanket scarves? Let’s not turn this into the skinny jeans and side part war, which was fun at first, but got completely blown out of proportion once we got to the stage of making musical parodies telling Gen Z to “kindly shut the f*ck up”. (Even worse is that this battle that still rages on to this day despite it now being almost shorts weather.)
I get why the emergence of cheugy feels like a blitz attack on millennials, but there’s a difference. What hit me so hard about the skinny jeans/side part debacle, and I don’t think I’m alone in this, is that I never considered those stylistic choices to be trends, much less up for debate. You parted your hair on the side because that was simply what you did—god forbid you part your hair down the middle and make your face appear rounder! You wore skinny jeans because that was just the style, and because we didn’t want to get caught dead wearing mom jeans. I never questioned these things, and to hear that these elements I took for granted were secret markers of my uncoolness this entire time felt like being told the color black was suddenly cringey. Who even am I?? But this other stuff? Take it! Who cares? Like, I really hope chevron is not a cornerstone of your personality.
It’s one thing to not want to part your hair down the middle (I tried it; doesn’t work for my face shape, but if you can rock it, more power to you), but it’s another thing to live in a fantasy world where no trend in which you participate ever goes out of style. Millennials, I know we grew up as the darlings of the internet and never imagined a time when we would not be the hottest and most in-demand age group for publishers, advertisers, and brands, but it’s literally the circle of life. Did I think I’d be a washed-up old hag before my 30th birthday? Not really, I thought I’d have a bit more time, but c’est la vie! The internet is a fickle place. At least this way I can now lean into my lifestyle of only wearing leggings and doing bath bombs and face masks—which is probably cheugy to do. I might as well embrace it and get a stemless wine glass that has “yes way rosé” screen-printed on it in gold script.
We’re all cheugy in some way or another. Lasagna might apparently be cheugy. Don’t fight it. It’s fun to be kind of embarrassing! What’s the alternative, constantly changing your entire aesthetic to fit in with what people decades younger than you find trendy? You’ll never win that game. No matter what term you call it, that’s the worst look of all.
Image: Jose Martinez / Unsplash