Print Editor Kitty Grant warns that the culture of shame behind the term ‘cheugy’ does nothing to deter from fast fashion, instead working against sustainability

Liberal Arts and Natural Sciences student and Print Editor
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Young people are always commingling up with new language to confuse adults, and ‘cheugy’ is just the latest word to become popular among Gen-Z. Cheugy is used to describe anything out of style, especially things that are associated with Millennial women.

But as we all become more aware of our impact on the planet, should we really be shaming people for not keeping up with every fast fashion trend?

But as we all become more aware of our impact on the planet, should we really be shaming people for not keeping up with every fast fashion trend?

The term cheugy was coined by an American teenager in 2013 to describe people who were a few years behind the fashion world, but gained popularity on TikTok in early 2021.

Though most associated with Gen-Z, lots of Millennials can also be found describing things as cheugy seemingly as an attempt to distinguish themselves from other, less cool Millennials.

What is and is not considered cheugy will depend on the person you ask. Cheugy can also describe lots of things from home decor to memes, but the majority of what has been described as cheugy are fashion trends.

Various videos on TikTok labelling Gucci belts, Adidas Superstars, and cold shoulder tops as cheugy; these items were all must-haves five years ago but are now thought to be embarrassing.

We should be focusing on extending the trend cycle and wearing the clothes we have for longer

Trends come and go, that’s what makes them trends, but as the planet is getting hotter and landfills are getting fuller, we should be focusing on extending the trend cycle and wearing the clothes we have for longer, not shaming people who like the same things they did in 2017.

Most TikToks that talk about cheugy items start with the creator claiming that they are not trying to shame anyone and I don’t think that these TikTokers actually mean any harm.

However, the purpose of all these videos is to mock certain items, and by extension the people who wear them. Sustainability is not just where clothes have been bought from, but also what we do with clothes after we have bought them.

Buying an item and wearing it again and again for years is one of the best things we can do for the planet, especially considering the fashion industry is the second biggest polluter worldwide.

By labelling items from just a few years ago as uncool, we are inadvertently encouraging people to purchase more items that will soon be seen as uncool themselves in a few years.

Sustainability is not just where clothes have been bought from, but also what we do with clothes after we have bought them

As the term has become more popular more people have been sharing their interpretation of cheugy, and the net has been cast wider. Cheugy is no longer reserved for trends from the early-to-mid-2010s, but is now being used to describe recent trends including Crocs and Birkenstocks, as well as classics like cardigans and even the colour yellow.

While people have always expressed dislike of certain items, labelling them as cheugy feels like a much more objective statement than someone saying they personally do not like something, and often comes very close to shaming people who like it.

Young people have always felt better and cooler than the generation before them, but with the increasing awareness of the climate crisis, Gen-Z should be the ones to break the cycle of shaming certain styles, not coming up with new ways to shame. After all, there is nothing more cheugy than calling others cheugy.


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