What are 'VSCO girls'? Scrunchies and the newest teen lifestyle trend

"It’s probably the most popular trend I’ve seen come off the internet. I see it constantly," said Caprese Wippich, 18, who calls herself a "retired VSCO girl."
You'll probably catch a VSCO girl wearing a scrunchie, Birkenstocks and drinking from a Hydro Flask.Chelsea Stahl / NBC News
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By Kalhan Rosenblatt

Anne Milou has always had an affinity for oversized T-shirts, scrunchies and Puka shell necklaces.

But recently Milou, who lives in the Netherlands, learned there's a name for the beachy, laid-back way she and scores of other teenage girls dress.

"I've never really labeled myself as a 'VSCO girl' until it really became a trend, and I thought, 'Oh, I guess I'm a 'VSCO girl' now!'" Milou, 16, told NBC News via Instagram messenger.

"VSCO girls," named for the aesthetic derived from the photo editing app VSCO — formerly known as VSCO Cam — which lets users share photos and make preset filters to help keep their images looking uniform, is the latest teen iteration of "preppy" style with a casual beach-inspired flair. It's an aesthetic that has taken over Gen Z-dominated corners of the internet such as short-form video app TikTok and photo-sharing app Instagram.

"It’s probably the most popular trend I’ve seen come off the internet. I see it constantly," said Caprese Wippich, 18, of California, who calls herself a "retired 'VSCO girl'" and makes TikTok videos about the aesthetic.

Hailee Dent, 16, of Oklahoma, who said she noticed the "VSCO girl" trend pop up about three months ago, added that she doesn't consider herself to be a "VSCO girl," but said her personal interests align with parts of the trend.

"I've had some of the 'VSCO' items before they were considered 'VSCO,'" Dent said.

There are several specific hallmarks of a "VSCO girl," which includes scrunchies, oversized T-shirts, clothing from the store Brandy Melville, Vans, Pura Vida bracelets, Fjällräven Kånken backpacks and Puka shell necklaces.

Another integral part of the "VSCO girl" lifestyle is being environmentally conscious, as a key component to the style is the use of products such as metal straws and Hydro Flasks to "save the turtles."

"That's a really interesting aspect of the 'VSCO girl' aesthetic. Here's this little environmental part and that’s fun. The girls who weren’t interested in protecting the environment before are now all upset about it because it's part of their aesthetic now," Wippich said.

"VSCO girls" tend to be middle and high school age and the trend starts to peter out among college age students and older, according to Wippich. This aligns with the VSCO app's overall user base, 75 percent of which are under age 25, according to Julie Inouye, VSCO’s vice president of communications.

“We love seeing teens come together to express who they are and how they see the world. Whether you own a scrunchie or not, all are welcome to VSCO and we will continue to provide a safe space where you can share your diverse experiences and points of view," Inouye said in a statement emailed to NBC News.

Wippich, who works at Brandy Melville, said that she believes part of why the trend is so popular among high school-age girls is because of its accessibility and because there are very few financial and social constraints to the look.

"The e-boy and e-girl style is not as implementable because no one wants to walk around like an e-girl and e-boy. It's fun to do on internet, but I don’t think that’s how people want to go out," Wippich said. "This is an easy way to have an aesthetic in your life."

The dressed-down, causal aesthetic was popularized, in part, by internet personalities like YouTube star Emma Chamberlain, whose low-effort style helped her rocket to 8 million YouTube subscribers and 7.7 million Instagram followers in less than two years, according to The Atlantic.

"My whole Instagram and Twitter (and TikTok) timelines are covered in 'VSCO girls,'" Milou said.

Wippich and Milou have both used TikTok to share their "VSCO girl" style and trendy tips. Milou even posted her own "'VSCO girl' check" on TikTok, a trend in which the user shows off all the things that make them a "VSCO girl."

In her video, Milou included all the classic indicators of a "VSCO girl," such as a mountain of colorful scrunchies, tubes of Burt's Bees lip balm and a carefully curated, color-coded rack of shirts in black, white, yellow, red and blue.

Despite the environmentally conscious aspect of "VSCO girls" and the bubbly nature of the aesthetic, the internet has latched on to the trend's quirkiness as a target for mockery and teasing.

"If I catch another motherf----- saying 'sksksksk' s--- I'mma 'sksksksk' my foot up that a--," one TikTok user said in a video, mocking the way "VSCO girls" laugh online using the hissing "sksk" noise.

On Twitter, one user joked, "What do vsco girls wear on their wrists? skskskskskskrunchies."

Milou said she finds it sad that "VSCO girls" are mocked for their style and using products that she believes they genuinely like.

"When they use a metal straw, people seem to think it's 'annoying' even though I personally think using metal straws, Hydro Flasks, etc., is an amazing way to save the environment. It's not much but it definitely helps," she said.

Wippich said she notices "VSCO girls" being teased heavily on TikTok, which she said she finds upsetting, adding that most videos she sees don't accurately portray the trend.

"Why mock someone for something they’re doing that doesn’t hurt you?" Wippich said. "Most people do it because they want followers and clout."

Although she considers herself a former "VSCO girl," Wippich said she still has a lot of appreciation for the trend and the girls she meets who subscribe to it, who have helped her grow her TikTok account. When she's at work, she said she's sometimes recognized by the 15 to 20 "VSCO girls" who visit her store every day and have seen her VSCO-tagged TikTok videos.

"Brandy Melville is bigger brand for 'VSCO girls,' and I go to the store and I'm like, 'Oh, there’s a 'VSCO girl!''" she said. "I don’t think there’s any other aesthetic that’s that identifiable."

Kalhan Rosenblatt

Kalhan Rosenblatt is a reporter for NBC News, based in New York.