“Eww,” my daughter said, pointing to a gaggle of teens walking down the road, “Visco girls.”
I’m a collector of words, and “visco” was a new one. I asked what she meant. She disdainfully reported that Visco girls were all the same: they were all about scrunchies, puka shell necklaces, Vans, and big sweatshirts.
I side-eyed my daughter. She was wearing a big sweatshirt, white Vans, and a scrunchie. We were literally driving to Michaels so she could use her babysitting money to buy some shells to make necklaces.
“So,” I ventured, “you’re a Visco girl?”
“Eww, Mom. No.” With a fair amount of teenage patience, she clarified that while she may wear some (all?) of the same styles, it was not her aesthetic.
Um, okay, Queen. I’m pretty sure I did not have an “aesthetic” when I was in eighth grade. In fact, I’m pretty sure I do not have an aesthetic now. But I digress. I nodded knowingly at her distinction, though failing to grasp her adolescent logic. We continued our trip to the craft store, and I kind of forgot the whole visco thing.
But later that week, when I gifted my 16-year old with a metal straw keychain, she laughed, “Oooh, I’m so visco now.” There was that word again! I asked her to enlighten me. She said, “You know, Vis-co. Like Save the Turtles. It’s a big thing in the freshmen class.” She then told me that during a lunch last week in the school cafeteria, her friend leaned over and whispered, “Turn around very slowly. There’s a Visco sighting in the wild.” My daughter turned and saw a posse of long-haired girls using metal straws, wearing Kanken backpacks and Birkenstocks, and sprinkling “sksksksk” noises in their conversation. “Mom,” she said, “It. Was. Crazy. Like a real live TikTok.”
Curiouser and curiouser, I thought.
My interest was piqued, although TBH I still really did not understand what the heck visco even meant. I turned to my old friend Google for help. The very first thing I learned was that I was spelling the mystery term wrong in my head. In fact, it’s not actually a word-word at all; it’s an acronym word: VSCO.
VSCO is the name of a photo and editing app created by the Visual Supply Company. VSCO has some pretty cool editing features, although you have to pay for the best ones. Unlike other social media platforms, the app does not allow other users to comment on your photos. What a relief! You can post pictures to your heart’s content without monitoring likes or fearing dislikes. It’s no wonder that teenage girls flocked to use the app. After all, teenage girls like to post pictures of themselves – lots and lots of pictures of themselves. Free of commentary, these carefree girls posed and posed and posted and posted. Then, sort of organically, lots of users started to copy one another, rocking the same style and vibe. As a result, VSCO spawned a new subculture of teen fashion. The VSCO “aesthetic” emerged as a sun-kissed, mellow vibe with a semi-environmentally conscious undertone – sort of a healthy hippie with a solid commitment to a particular subset of brands and products.
To tease out the connotations of the VSCO definition, go check out a video. This best helped me to “get” what is meant by a VSCO girl. You won’t have a problem finding one. According to Julie Inouye, Vice President of VSCO Communications, as of August 2019, the #vsco tag on TikTok has garnered over 1.4 billion views with 1.2 million-plus uses of the #VSCOgirl tag on Instagram. That’s a LOT of scrunchie references. I’m predicting an SNL skit soon.
Now that I’ve figured out what VSCO means, I have to ask the questions: does it matter to me as a mom? After all, won’t this trend be gone tomorrow? Does it really matter if my girl is part of the VSCO movement? I have a few quick takeaways – all of which fit into the larger parenting categories of building financial responsibility, identity, and love.
- It’s all about the money. Because VSCO girls appear to have money. A lot of money. A VSCO girl start-up kit of a mere three items will set you back over $200:
Fjällräven backpack: $79.99
Hydro Flask water bottle: $39.95
Let’s use the VSCO trend to remind our girls that they’re an aggressively targeted demographic. Companies want their money. (And, just to be clear, by “their” money, that typically means “our” money). We need to reinforce some tenets of financial savviness. It’s a great way to reinforce budgeting basics, rather than allowing them to blindly buy whatever is on trend.
- The VSCO world is dominated by white girls.
There, I said it. In the initial crop of VSCO girls, about 90% of them appeared to be physically interchangeable – they were blonde and white. My youngest daughter is neither of these things. She has the gorgeous dark hair and olive skin of her Tajik birth mother. My other daughter is a shorthaired tomboy. The VSCO trend reminds me to continue to help my girls see their beauty apart from their cyberworld of fashion and acceptance. As a white mom with blonde hair, sometimes I don’t see the inequity in the skin and hair colors represented in the advertising around me. I’ve got to be intentional in showing my girls all kinds of beautiful in all kinds of people from all kinds of backgrounds and cultures.
- People love to hate on VSCO girls.
Do you remember how I first learned about the VSCO world? From my daughter’s disparaging remark about a group of random girls walking down the street. Ugh.
Let’s make sure that our girls (and boys!) are able to distinguish a trend from the person. The trend may seem annoying (listen to any VSCO girl’s “and I oop” conversation filler, and you will see what I mean). However, a person who fully embraces an “aesthetic” should not make one a target for open-season ridicule. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good parody. Just help your girls understand the difference between fun, topical, observational humor (think Jerry Seinfeld asking “What’s the deal with Hydroflasks?) and mean-spirited humor at the expense of a person – a very real person. In this case, a girl in the most vulnerable stage of her life. The VSCO girl trend provides a great opening for those mini-lessons with our kids that we should be weaving throughout our conversations with them. For example, stereotyping any group of people can be a dangerous, slippery slope. In big ways and small ways, let’s show our kids that seeing people through a lens of love matters.
Aside from these VSCO life lessons, the trend is all too familiar. Trade out a scrunchie for a banana clip, the Vans for some jelly shoes. Give me an “Oh my god, Becky!” and ditch the “..and I oop.” Skip the rosewater face spray and add a can of hairspray and some blue eyeshadow. Replace Instagram and VSCO with MTV and a copy of Tiger Beat. You see where I’m going, right? We’ve all traveled our own VSCO-ish path as we navigated the fashion world of our own teen era. Mine was some sort of blue-collar JCPenney knock-off of the Valley Girl trend: big hair and pastels set to a 45 rpm of Band-Aid’s “Feed the World” soundtrack.
The current VSCO mania is our daughters’ opportunity to fall victim to their own decade’s fashion craze. One day they will laugh at the pictures of themselves with sweatshirts so big that it looks like they aren’t wearing pants. They will nostalgically say, “Remember when we just HAD to have Mario Badescu facial spray and Brandy Melville skirts?” They will point to a scar on their knee from their penny board. They’ll remember when their wall was covered in Fujifilm instant pics and fairy lights. But just make sure your daughters set aside some of those Puka-shell necklaces and Pura Vida friendship bracelets once they go off-trend. Before they know it, a couple of decades will slip by, and their own daughters are going to need some fashion props when the Class of 2045 sponsors a “Retro” Day during spirit week. Can I get a “Sksksksk,” y’all?