If your ideal day out entails a trip to Starbucks to drink countless Pumpkin Spice Lattes while donning your favourite Ugg boot and legging combo, the odds are you’re a certified ‘cheug’. This Gen-Z born signifier is the latest aesthetic to be identified and parodied by TikTokers and Tweeters alike. It’s about being uncool, off-trend and trying just that little bit too hard, but being rightfully unashamed and proud of all of these things. Still slightly unsure about where you may lie on this scale? Wondering if your penchant for ‘Live, Love, Laugh’ merchandise is cheugy or ‘basic’? Do not fear. Here are the answers to all your cheugy-related needs and to the question on everyone’s lips; what does cheugy mean?
A whole lotta cheug
In a nutshell…
Cheugy (pronounced chew-gee, with a hard ‘g’) in its simplest form refers to a certain sub-group of people whose tastes are slightly out of date and ‘try-hard’. Unlike its distant, more uncool cousin ‘basic’, it isn’t just about favouring trends that are generic and conformist. It’s concerned with a certain unoriginality, a love for those early 2010s aesthetics, whether it’s tie dye denim shorts or flower crowns, that were born at a time when social media was on the rise and trends became overly exposed and unbearably mainstream, as a result. There’s certainly a subjectivity to what cheugy is, too. It’s anything that instantly takes you back to a simpler time in your life when you were in your early teens and latched onto any and every trend there was.
Gaby Rasson, software developer from Los Angeles and mastermind behind cheugy, speaking to the New York Times, helpfully identifies what decidedly exudes non-cheugyness: ‘thrifting, making your own clothes, handmade products Target…looking good for yourself and not caring what other people think’. The best thing about cheugy, unlike other social media-born labels, is that it doesn’t have as much of a negative connotation. People using the term will often identify as cheugy themselves, it’s worn proudly and unashamedly. Guilty pleasures, with a little less of the guilt.
Lip Balm, but make it cheugy..
How did it all start?
Like with all manner of slang, Rasson explains how cheugy was a word that came about when no other seemed to fit the bill. She describes how “It was a category that didn’t exist…there was a missing word that was on the edge of my tongue and nothing to describe it and ‘cheugy’ came to me. How it sounded fit the meaning.”
After gaining popularity amongst Rasson’s classmates and friends, The New York Times reports that cheugy hit the big time when Hallie Cain, a copywriter in Los Angeles, posted a TikTok on March 30, explaining the niche new descriptor. The video gradually amassed thousands of views, and cheugs and non-cheugs alike joined the trend of basking in and identifying just what this word means to them. Because as Cain makes clear, it is what you make it and is always open to your own interpretation and cheug-spiration.
To cheug or not to cheug?
It is always worth considering whether the use of labels such as cheugy can have a negative impact on others or whether they are just about light-hearted, relatable humour. Kelly Wright, an experimental sociolinguist from the University of Michigan, highlights how it strikes a balance between the two in promoting ‘shared events or a shared understanding of the world…they have the potential to be picked up by wider audiences because of social media and that connectedness’. Like meme culture, cheugy encapsulates that unique power of social media to allow us to bask in how similar our lives truly are, and the sense of community that arises from this. So, whether you simply love captioning your photos with cheesy slogans, will always have a soft spot for Minions and Starbucks Frappuccino’s, the moral of the story is, resoundingly; keep calm and cheugy on.