Athleisure, one-plus-five buildings, Teslas, non-GMO food, eco-friendly straws and Mount Rainier stickers are cheugy items commonly seen in the Seattle area, according to Christopher Tritt of Pierce County.
Red Bull spritzers and fake brick overlays also make his list.
The Gen Z term “cheugy” (pronounced “chew-ghee”) has been defined as “basic,” “passé” or, according to The New York Times, “out of date or trying too hard.” Some common examples gleaned from Instagram, TikTok and Twitter include graphic T-shirts, skinny jeans, low-top Converse and Ugg boots.
We asked readers to help us understand cheugy, and Tritt was among those who responded.
“People my age are not too much into the faux look,” said the 17-year-old Central Washington University student. For example, he said, some of the disdain for skinny jeans may be because they are typically made of stretch material and not real denim.
While in high school, Tritt had a media teacher who frequently shared news stories that often featured a Florida man doing something outrageous. Due to that exposure, Tritt says he would consider Florida to be a cheugy state.
Several readers said cheugy is another word for “tacky” and others said negativity and judginess are cheugy, as is using the word itself.
“This last year has been soooooo negative, it should be #1 on the cheugy hit list,” wrote one person.
“Judging others by their wardrobe and food preferences is ‘cheugy,’ ” said a fellow reader.
Making up a new word for an old idea also qualifies, said another.
” ‘Cheugy’ is an ugly sounding fake word that has zero basis in literary or linguistic root,” wrote yet another. “While I agree that all the things [Gen] Z has deemed dated are in fact ugly, uncool, and old; because my generation (X) defined ennui, but that doesn’t mean we need to invent utterly stupid new words to demean those things. Turn off ‘Mean Girls,’ ‘fetch’ will never be a thing.”
Carmen Schafer, 21, of Mercer Island, has problems not just with the word but the concept and deeper issues it represents.
“It’s a symptom of accelerating trend cycles and shortening attention spans,” she said. “To avoid being cheugy, you must constantly replace your material possessions. Using this word sends a message that drives overconsumption and stifles individuality — great for corporations, but terrible for our planet and sense of self.”
Short-form media platforms like TikTok can exacerbate a throwaway culture and funnel money into fashion, which is among the world’s most polluting industries, she said in a follow-up interview.
“Things are trendy for a really, really short period of time. Then it’s no longer trendy and you have to buy something new,” she said. “Nothing is built to last and we’re consuming more and more. It discourages young women from developing their own sense of style and buying things that are timeless and built to last.”
Tritt sees another problem with the concept.
Embracing the word could lead to further divided generations that get smaller and smaller until 5-minute trend cycles are set by 2-year-olds judging 5-year-olds, he feared.
“Kylie Jenner’s daughter wanted a Hermes bag and pretty soon you’ll have all 2-year-olds wanting that,” he said. “Remember when 2-year-olds wanted a Tickle Me Elmo doll?”