If you’re not familiar with the term “cheugy,” which has been making its way around the internet in recent months, you’re probably a millennial like me or just haven’t caught up on social media in awhile (and as someone whose phone is perpetually glued to their hand, I applaud your restraint). So let me take a sec to quickly get you up to speed on this popular Gen Z slang term that you may have seen tossed around on Instagram or TikTok.
The word cheugy essentially refers to anything out of date and reminiscent of the 2010s—think: Live, Laugh, Love signs and products emblazoned with the phrase Girl Boss are cited as frequent culprits. (We all know we owned this type of stuff at one point!).
Still confused? As a New York Times article explained, “‘It’s 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.”
Personally, I’m guilty of owning a few items that would most definitely be considered cheugy, and I’m not ashamed of it. The ceramic coffee mug in my cabinet declaring “rosé is my spirit animal” most definitely veers into cheugy category. Same with the “press for champagne” sign that proudly sits on my bar cart. Do I plan to get rid of these things anytime soon? Nah, not likely—and I’m not alone. I spoke with three designers who shared their own cheugy guilty pleasures, which we outline below.
“I am all for things that some people could call ‘cheugy,’ because that means that I'm purchasing or incorporating things for the long haul, instead of swapping things out often as trends come and go, which is incredibly unsustainable and wasteful,” Washington, DC based designer Shannon Claire Smith noted in an email. Two of Smith’s cheugy guilty pleasures? Millennial pink and peonies.
Atlanta-based designer Leah Alexander can’t resist macrame wall hangings—she loves their texture—and neon-lit phrases used as wall art, items that some may also consider to be cheugy.
However, it seems that the pros may be more on board with cheugy pieces than Gen Z’s strong opinions may lead us to believe. Noted Northern Virginia design blogger Sara Raak, “Cheugy has fast become a word no one in the design world wants to be associated with, but I tend to look at it from a different perspective.
“To make design unique, it often entails incorporating many style choices that may not, at first glance, make sense or may not even be ‘on trend’ by themselves, but including them in a whole look is what makes a design stand out. So I don’t like to refer to a trend or an item as ‘cheugy’ because used thoughtfully in concert with other styles, it can be part of a beautiful thing. Items, styles, and trends should never be considered a thing of the past, it's all about how you creatively use them in your spaces and designs.”
So what’s a design lover to do if their fave trends do, in fact, happen to be a bit cheugy? “I think that things that come back into the scene hard and fast—like the resurgence of 80s, Memphis, or postmodern styles and pieces—can flood the vintage market and dominate your Instagram feed, and are quick to get the ‘cheugy’ label,” Smith explained. “These things are fine and cool and can feel really unique, so if that’s your style, keep them!”
Trusting your gut and decorating with what makes you happy is ultimately what is most key, Smith added. “If you are incorporating these things because you feel like they’re ‘on trend,’ make sure that you’re being intentional with your choices so you don’t fall prey to trend driven design,” she noted. “At the end of the day, try to ignore those labels and really just surround yourself with pieces that you love!”