BY BRIDGET CURWIN
Over the past 12 months, TikTok has taken the world by storm, establishing itself as, among other things, a very influential tastemaker. Viral videos and TikTok trends have single handedly become responsible for the rise in popularity of songs, movies, makeup products, and above all else, clothing. Users of the app have been known to sell out 'TikTok famous' items within minutes, simply due to recommendations from strangers on their phone screens. As of late, my "for you" page has been flooded with hauls of must-have items for summer, and not even the strong-willed can resist filling up their online shopping carts with highly-recommended Zara jeans and Aritzia sweatshorts. However, TikTok can kill a trend just as quickly as it creates one.
Although it is normal for items to become outdated, the most recent phenomenon in TikTok’s fashion realm has been the emergence of the term "cheugy." At first, I was puzzled by the term, as it seemed like users were simply pointing out clothing items they didn't like and categorizing them as cheugy. Upon further research, I came to realize that the term had a more specific meaning, and even though the exact definition of the word is still largely contested, I came to conclude that in essence it means outdated, pertaining specifically to the period between 2012 and 2017. Although anything belonging to a previous point in time is technically outdated, cheugy carries the connotation that these trends should, and will, never be brought back. As such, we have given into the ruthless fear of being behind the wave and have collectively decided to put items belonging to the "cheugy era" in the rearview mirror. But who is the internet to decide that 5 years of fashion should be effectively disregarded for the foreseeable, well, ever? As much as some people hope to eradicate cheugy items from the runway and our wardrobes forever, the following are cheugy-reminiscent trends reimagined à la 2021, proving once again that fashion trends never truly die.
1. Colorful pants
One item mostly popular during the early cheugy days are colorful skinny jeans, most likely to be seen in mint green or coral pink. Although skinny jeans have lately become victims of fashion-shaming, the essence of this item still remains very much in style, but has taken on a new form. Straight-legged jeans in more vibrant tones such as emerald green, hot pink, or pastel yellow can be seen here as still very stylish. Track pants are also hitting the store racks in summer 2021 in a myriad of bold colors. Although the more controversial colors proprietary to 2012 may not currently be on-trend, the item has been reimagined to suit more current fashion obsessions.
2. Statement jewelry
One of the signature pieces of the cheugy era is statement jewelry, most notably colorful enamel necklaces (think these.) Although we have probably grown past the need for bright, chunky necklaces to add color to an outfit, the colorful jewelry trend has certainly not made a complete exit in 2021. Rather, colorful rings have been repopularized by LA brand Mon Cher Moi and Barcelona-based brand La Manso. Both the enamel and resin rings are adored by stylists and celebrities alike and are a refreshing take on cheugy, colorful jewelry. Further pushing the boundaries of colorful jewelry, innovative brand String Ting has popularized phone straps and wristlets with a whimsical collection of beaded accessories that take smartphone glam to the next level.
3. Knee-high boots
As far as I can remember, tight-fitting, knee-high boots paired with jeans were the it-look of 2016 (think Stuart Weitzman Lowland boots.) This style was seen on everyone for a few years straight, until it was quietly put into retirement when wide-fit, mid-calf leather boots took center stage. More often paired with skirts and dresses than jeans, this kind of boot has recently become a fall and winter staple for those looking for a more evolved version of its 2016 predecessor.
4. Tight, overly-ripped jeans
Probably the greatest cheugy menace of all, tight jeans with gaping rips that give that once beloved shredded look are all but extinct. Although promise was there, they were somewhat excessive and often served as fuel for jokes at family reunions. However, they have given way for wide-leg jeans with more natural rips that achieve the desired worn-in vintage look. I cannot say that the shredded-jean style will be missed, but still appreciate its contribution to current innovations in denim.
On a personal note, those who know me know I am all for bringing back old trends (I don't think I'll ever get enough of the early 2000s look.) However, I can't help but agree that we should maybe respect the cheugy era from a distance, without forcing a comeback of its proprietary 'look' as-is. Truthfully, I was not a fan of the era while we were in it, and I only like it less in the present day. But one of fashion's most fascinating qualities is its ability to breathe new life into trends we once believed to have left in the dust. In the same sense that nothing may ever truly be unique, nothing will be forgotten. Try as we might to erase it, the cheugy era will always be a part of our collective fashion pasts, and thus the best way to move forward from it is to repurpose the aspects of it we loved the most.