Gen Z’s new takedown: the meaning of ‘cheugy’

It’s pronounced “ju-gee,” and the term is made famous by Gen Z’s favorite social media platform, TikTok.

In its broadest sense, cheugy describes items and fashion that are simply outdated. Victims of this descriptor have been the Passe’s interior design and once-beloved pieces of clothing, as well as everything from commonly used social media captions to well-known public figures.

Cheugy can describe anything that’s not trendy, but it’s most often used to refer to things that were considered vaguely mainstream in the early 2000s and 2010s, offering a new way for Gen Z to “troll” millennials, according to Vice.

The New York Times (NYT) reports that the term can be used to describe someone, often a millennial woman, who “tryes too hard”, while the London Evening Standard advises “thinking about Basic Bitch 2.0” to understand this idea. The general consensus is that cheugy describes a harmless lack of flavor.

The New York Times credits the 23-year-old software developer with coining the term. Gaby Rasson began spotting fashion trends as a student at Beverly Hills High School in 2013.

The phenomenon apparently spread by word of mouth among the school and student communities until 24-year-old Los Angeles-based copywriter Hallie Kane posted a TikTok video in March demonstrating “a word you never knew you had.” need” in action.

TikTok posts with the #Cheugy hashtag have since amassed more than 24 million views, and Google searches have gone from non-existent to peak interest in just a few weeks. Part of the intrigue, of course, lies in the difficulty of pinpointing exactly what counts as cheugy.

“What’s possible and what’s not is very subjective and changes rapidly,” notes NYT tech reporter Taylor Lorenz. The term may divide opinions. “I’ll send something to our group chat and say, ‘Is this cool?’ and some will say yes and some will say no,” Cain told the newspaper.

According to the Daily Mail, Chugi “shouldn’t be negative,” but others disagree. While it may sound like a light-hearted Internet fad, cheugy is seen as “a downsizing, dismissive or even offensive group of people who just love what they like,” says Refinery29.

The conversation included questions of class as well as race. TikTok user Kira Bro sees cheugy as a way for “white women to micromanage what makes other white women cool in a way that women of color don’t.”

Revealing cheugy-ness

Even the most daring tastemaker is likely to experience a bout of cheugy, which can refer to everything that was in vogue among millennial teens.

Products such as Herbal Essences shampoo have been identified as disgusting, while the frame statement “Live, laugh, love” also earns cheugy points. If motivational quotes and life goal graphics are frequently added to your Pinterest boards, you’re treading on a fine line, especially if you’re wearing UGG boots.

Mugs and stationery featuring “girl bosses” were also criticized after the cheugy movement, as were “adults who still love everything Disney,” according to People magazine.

The London London Evening Standard offers a simple and effective litmus test: “If your most used emoji is a crying laugh, welcome to Cheugsville, people: you.” However, you might end up there with Fern Cotton and Holly Willoughby, who are also described by the paper as “a bit prim”.

Too naive to be naive?

While something was once widely considered fashionable and is not now, it is likely to be saucy. In fact, “one could even argue that the word ‘cheugy’ is already so exaggerated that it is cheugy in and of itself — if it was ever trendy enough to qualify,” says Refinery29.

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