Illustration by Luke Hampton.
The seasons are changing! Fall has fallen and girls all over America are sticking their lower extremities into black Lululemon leggings, knee socks, and leather boots. To top off the outfit, they pull on a long sleeve shirt, a puffy vest, and a scarf (if you attend Whitman college like me, Patagucci and Birkenstocks are popular additions). There are, of course, regional deviations to this formula, but the look remains distinct. These girls then wear this getup to the nearest Starbucks with a 3-letter mantra resounding in their brains: “P… S… L…” This is the basic white girl.
I am not one to keep up with ever-changing slang. I shamefully rely on Urban Dictionary to better understand my peers. But somehow the term ‘basic’ has managed to invade my vocabulary, and honestly, it’s a fun word. A girl loves Taylor Swift and shops at Forever 21? Basic. They love shopping at Target and burning Bath & Body Works candles? Basic. One pumpkin spice latte a day? Basic. It’s seems harmless to make jokes about these types of girls and tease your friends, but the word basic does carry negative connotations. To be basic is to be vapid, to be generic, to be common. In a world dominated by aggressively unique hipsters shopping at thrift stores and listening to indie music, it’s a pretty ‘unique’ contradiction.
About four years ago, there were 228 variations on the word “unique” for baby names.
Clearly being original is important to people. It’s natural for humans to want to be unique and remarkable, but why chastise someone for not being such a snowflake? I own exactly three pairs of the same black leggings. Why? Because they’re comfortable and easy to wear. I always cringe slightly as I put them on in the winter, but the reason they’re labeled basic is because literally everyone has a pair. And everyone has a pair because they’re so totally comfortable.
When it comes down to it, being basic entails liking things that are popular. While one could interpret that as lacking originality, certain items are popular for a reason. Black leggings are flattering, more comfortable than jeans, and versatile. I’m sure pumpkin spice lattes are legitimately delicious too.
Why do we judge each other for the clothes we wear and the food we eat, anyway? In elementary school, teachers encouraged us to express ourselves regardless of differences. But let’s be honest, people are pretty similar too–we have common ties. If we didn’t, how could we ever make friends and personal connections? If you like the color red, and I like blue, I shouldn’t be teased for liking blue just because everyone likes that color. You shouldn’t be teased for liking red if no one else likes it. That’s exactly what we’re doing when we label people as “basic.”
Consider the hypocritical nature of the term “basic.” Does anyone honestly believe they are absolutely unique and distinct in every way? How could someone in that state of mind ever connect with another person? As a society, we work particularly hard on appreciating differences and diversity among people. I applaud this effort, but we should not neglect to appreciate the similarities among people. There should be nothing wrong with being basic. The term “basic” should come to represent uniting similarities among people who are not necessarily similar in character. Even if we don’t get along, we both have red blood, we both breath oxygen, and we both live and die in black leggings.