A few months ago, legions of millennials learned a handy term Zoomers have largely used to describe them: “Cheugy,” an adjective that broadly refers to someone or something that feels a little outdated and a little try-hard. Something like … bridesmaid font, for example, or latte art that looks like a fern. The category here is “basic” but without the negative connotations; trends largely beloved by people born between 1981 and 1995. A cheugy artifact is neither good nor bad, just a little past its prime. You know cheugy when you see it, but now that cheugy has spread beyond the TikTok universe, one woman who helped popularize it — Hallie Cain — regrets her actions. And in a surprise twist, it was the realization that Lululemon is cheugy (so cheugy! cheug-city all the way!) that did her in.
In case you missed it, Cain’s contribution to the cheugy canon came in March, when she posted a TikTok defining the term and offering a few examples (“Phrases on clothing”; Herbal Essences; Instagram captions like “I did a thing” in the wake of a haircut) for the uninitiated. “It’s also totally open to your interpretation,” Cain told the New York Times in a subsequent article that spawned a whole cheugy discourse. “I’ll send something to our group chat and be like, ‘Is this cheugy?’ and some will say ‘yes’ and some will say ‘no.’” One of Cain’s friends considers lasagna cheugy, but often, the cheug rubric grades on “girlboss energy” and millennial influence.
Based on those two criteria, Lululemon leggings would seem like a pillar of cheuginess, but the discovery that they had been labeled as such — in the fourth installment of a TikTok calling out “cheugy trends I can’t let you buy” — proved a personal reckoning for Cain.
“If you didn’t know, I posted a TikTok that introduced the world to the word ‘cheugy,’ and I’ve gotta live with that now,” Cain says in a new TikTok. “That’s my life. I’ve got to watch girls call black leggings cheugy. I have to live knowing that I gave them the verbiage to do that.”
I mean, listen, cheugy is nicer — less freighted with judgment and criticism — than the word “basic,” which is what we may have used before. At the very least, Cain’s vocab lesson may help dissuade a couple people from spending $100-plus on stretchy pants. Consider it a public service.