You know, ever since I let my white hair grow in, I’ve been fussing a bit, and sometimes a lot, about how having white hair affects me, and my idea of “me.” And part of coming to terms with the new/old me in the mirror, is deciding how to dress to reflect who I am now. Or at least who I think I am now. Does that make sense?
I’ve abandoned outfits I’d worn previously as too fussy, embraced a hair style that is looser, and less self-consciously “styled,” and generally tried to dress to reflect how I feel. ‘How I feel’ is comfortable, at least most of the time, with turning sixty-five this month. And being almost sixty-five means I’m old enough to rarely worry about what other people think I should be wearing. And according to this article in the New York Times, that means I am not “cheugy.” Phew, glad I cleared that up.
I chuckled when I first read this article in the London Telegraph. Apparently “cheugy” is “Gen Z’s latest insult to older generations.” But let’s start by defining our terms, shall we?
[Cheugy means one’s style is] not quite “basic,” which can describe someone who is a conformist or perhaps generic in their tastes, and it’s not quite “uncool.” It’s not embarrassing or even always negative. Cheugy (pronounced chew-gee) can be used, broadly, to describe someone who is out of date or trying too hard. And while a lot of cheugy things are associated with millennial women, the term can be applied to anyone of any gender and any age.Taylor Lorenz in the New York Times
According to the New York Times article, the Gen Z trend prognosticators say that Millennial women are the biggest cheugy offenders. Millennials were born between 1981 and 1996, which means most of them are now approaching forty. So it seems to me that the practice of calling out cheugy-ers is simply Gen Z lashing out at the next older social cohort. Kind of like when the Baby Boomers who were teenagers in the sixties said no one over thirty could be trusted.
At first I figured that I’m probably too old to be considered cheugy. Except that it’s a term that is not necessarily totally about age. So, I could still be cheugy if I dressed as if I were trying too hard. Or if I slavishly followed trends, but was a “late adopter,” and only wore them when they were on the cusp of not being trendy anymore. Like those cold shoulder tops that were everywhere on the runways a couple of years ago. And then much later were literally everywhere.
But here’s where I think that age comes into it. At least for me. I feel comfortable wearing what I like, what I think expresses my own taste, and who I am. And that attitude only developed with age. I’ve always cared about how I dress. I’ve always loved clothes. And I’ve always taken note of trends. But now that I’m older, I’m aware enough of what I can and can’t wear to adopt some trends because they suit my personality. And steer clear of others because they look ridiculous, and would make me look ridiculous if I wore them. Or at the very least not like myself. According to Gaby Rosen who coined the term cheugy, “looking good for yourself and not caring what other people think, that confidence exudes non-cheugyness.” It seems that adhering to one’s personal style will always be non-cheugy.
Let’s take the outfits in this post as examples.
I like my Frame, cropped bootcut, white jeans a lot. At only two years old, they are a fairly new addition to my closet. In the shot at the beginning of this post, I’m wearing them with my Stuart Weitzman patent loafers, and my new Everlane cashmere sweater. Because the cropped, frayed-hem jeans are kind of boho in style, they can work with the lady-like black and cream structured bag… IMO. And if I were to wear a jacket with this, I’d wear my black and grey Theory windbreaker, or my old tan linen blazer. I like this outfit. It suits me. Not too lady-like nor too literally boho. I’m not really a boho kind of person. Now, is the trend of raw-hemmed pants over? Maybe. Does continuing to wear these jeans make this outfit cheugy? Maybe. But do I really care? Nope.
In the second outfit, I’m wearing my black Everlane cashmere sweater and my black loafers with my Frame straight-leg white jeans. I’m also wearing (or carrying) my Everlane drape trench. This coat is quite new. And looks much better with the longer straight-leg jeans than the cropped bootcut. And because the coat is quite oversized, and a bit slouchy (I bought a size large), I changed my structured bag for my Eric Javits straw tote. I like this outfit too, and I love the coat with the white jeans and loafers.
I tried adding a scarf at the neck to break up all the black but it looked too fussy to me. If I were going to wear the outfit on a cool day with the coat buttoned and belted, I might wear a long scarf wound a couple of times around my neck. If not a scarf, I could add a short, silver, slightly chunky chain at the neck with this. If I owned such a thing. In fact, looking at the photo, I might swap out the white hoops for gold ones, and wear my short chunky gold chain at my neck. The gold would go with the tan bag. But I didn’t think of this at the time.
This outfit feels like me right now. Comfortable, classic, combined with slightly loose and slouchy. Partly what I’ve always worn, partly reflecting the new/old me. Does that “exude non-cheugyness”? I don’t have any idea, nor do I much care. I like what I like, and wear what I like.
So today I’ve had some fun reading about a new word that helps at least some people define cool in 2021. I always enjoy articles which parse the dictates of fashion and the meaning of style. Remember all those French style articles a few years ago? How to dress like a French woman, followed by how to eat like a French woman (and stay thin), and even how to raise your kids like a French woman. I’m serious. Then there are the articles which list the five (or ten) things every woman should have in her closet. I always devour those. They don’t persuade me that I need to buy such and such, I just love to read about style. Even if the article is silly.
And I do think the idea of women over the age of nineteen worrying about whether they are cheugy or not is silly. I hope that goes without saying. Part of me wonders if Gen Z is just having us on with all this cheugy stuff. I mean, they have to entertain themselves somehow during lockdown, don’t they?
One thing I did notice in the New York Times article is that one Gen Z-er says thrifting is most definitely non-cheugy. Gen Z loves thrifting. So repurposing old clothes, sewing one’s own clothes, and mending others is hugely non-cheugy. That’s a good sign I think. Maybe all the Gen Z-ers will jump on the Fashion Revolution bandwagon. And that would be a very good thing.
Now, I’ve talked enough about myself. My white hair, what goes with my white hair, what jeans go with whatever and not with whatever else. And my impending status change. At age sixty-five I will be, according to our government, officially a senior citizen. Ackk. That still freaks me out a teensy bit, I must admit. But it’s your turn, my friends. Do you think you’re cheugy? Or not? Or do you (most probably) not give a damn, as Rhett Butler didn’t quite say.
P.S. Clothing links in this post are affiliate links. If you make a purchase after clicking my link, I will make a commission.