The Basic Girl


Pearleen Lederman, an international business master’s student at UF, just turned 23.  If she were turning 22, I would sing a popular song by Taylor Swift to her — mostly because I like T. Swift, and I feel like we’re on a nickname basis now because I don’t actually know her at all.  Apparently, liking T. makes me basic, according to Pearl and a radio station that stalks T. on tumblr (which is also basic, FYI).  Taylor is about as basic as PSLs (Pumpkin Spice Lattes, not to be confused with the ever-so-basic Pretty Little Liars, for the confused Muggles).  And she may also be as basic as oversized t-shirts (because obvi comfort is basic).  And she might even be as basic as “Mean Girls“/the best movie ever, which is just so fetch basic.

It seems that every website has been scrambling to understand what basic is.  New York Magazine’s The Cut examined using “basic” as an insult, and Jezebel analyzed the types of “basic” by region.

Because basicity now deals with more than the pH scale, I consulted the experts — people who have played the basic role.

Expert 1:

Pearl recently went to a pumpkin patch.  She describes basic girls as “fall-obsessed.”  They wear leggings and Uggs.  They have too much free time and focus on their appearance way too much, Pearl said.

Expert 2:

Girls aren’t the only ones with opinions about basicity.  John Leatherman, a guy of Gainesville and UF student, dressed up as a basic girl for Halloween.  With a monogrammed t-shirt, a pair of borrowed leggings and some practice taking the perfect duck lips selfie, John exemplified the stereotype.

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge. All opinions are directly from John and Pearl’s own writing.

Although the evidence makes it seem like Pearl knows exactly who the basic girl is, she said she’s still unsure of exactly what the term means.

“I think it’s confusing, and I think it’s also, like:  Is it a positive thing?  Is it a negative thing?” she said.

To find out how good or bad being basic is, I worked with John and Pearl to understand what a basic girl looks like, what she eats, what she thinks about and, most importantly, who this seemingly ubiquitous girl is (above image).  I then proceeded to be the basic girl for a day because I really wanted an excuse to buy a PSL solely for the purpose of this blog.

basic 3

Being basic proved to be more of a challenge than I had expected.  Basic must be synonymous with rich because I couldn’t afford many of the items on Pearl and John’s lists.  Basic girls are also trendy.  Sadly, I am not.

I do not own Ugg boots (too expensive).  I do not have oversized t-shirts that should be worn in public (I don’t think my grandfather’s Cub Scout day camp shirt from ’96 counts…).  I had no idea what Lululemon was until I Googled it, and I still have no idea why a pair of leggings are listed at $92.

With a few loans from some girl friends, a bit of improvising and a cup of coffee, I was able to pull together something that somewhat resembled the basic girl.  It seemed like I had basic-ed myself out as much as possible.  Then, several of my housemates complimented me, asked me why I was dressed up/wearing makeup and told me that basic girls never look that nice.

I was wearing Target leggings.  Basic girls wear $92 leggings.  HOW DID I LOOK TOO NICE TO BE BASIC?

“I don’t know exactly what basic means,” Pearl repeated several times.  “It’s, like, this new word now.”

Maybe it’s impossible to look basic.  After all, the formula varies for different people.  It includes some things that people like, sure.  But are all of these items only things that a certain breed of rich, Starbucks-loving, Europe-lusting girl like?  Perhaps that’s too specific.

“I feel like most people do like Starbucks’ Pumpkin Spiced Lattes,” Pearl explained.

“Basic” is clearly subjective, and definitions of the term seem to include things that all people like.  For example, basic girls are not the only ones on Instagram.  Non-basic (unbasic?  disbasic?  acidic?) girls are on Instagram.  Boys also post to Instagram.

basic ansley

Selfie taken in the Weimer Hall bathroom before my lab. I had to quickly change into my friend’s shirt, so my hair is a little messed up. I had to take a selfie, though.

“When someone refers to someone as basic, like, in a negative way, they’re referring to, like, the, ‘Oh they’re just, like, basic.  They do the same as everyone else,'” Pearl said. “‘They like the same brands, they drink the same things.'”

Is it so terrible that many people, myself included, enjoy PSLs?  Or that we like leggings because they’re comfortable and easy?  I, for one, liked using my (one bottle of) OPI nail polish (basic, according to Pearl) to paint my nails.  It made me feel put together, and I don’t think that’s so wrong of me to feel that way.

Perhaps when a passerby saw my painted nails, name brands and (halfway) blow-dried hair, he/she thought that I was literally the most basic girl, like, everrrrrr.  That assessment would be unfair, though. That person doesn’t know that I was semi-obsessed with the indie band Hellogoodbye a few years ago or that I use coconut oil as lotion.  Those things make me sound like a hipster, but I’m not the stereotypical let’s-go-green-just-until-it’s-super-mainsteam girl either.

Instead, I am able to connect with people because I like some things that other people like.  It’s easier to start a conversation with someone who looks like she shares similar interests with you, Pearl said.  It does not mean, though, that trends in similarities equal another species of girl— one who is superficial, materialistic and narcissistic.  It’s impossible to tell exactly what a person is like just because they’re wearing leggings and a monogram.

“Just because people may dress the same or have similar tastes in music or food and drinks — certain things like that — that doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re all the same on the inside,” Pearl said.

I’m proud to wear comfortable clothes and listen to popular artists.  I’m also proud that I am able to be informed about politics and capable of having intelligent discussions about issues I’m passionate about.

Before you judge a Gainesville gal for wearing Norts and styling her hair, evaluate who you are to judge.  I’d bet my new Taylor Swift CD that you have a few basic tendencies, too.


Selfies were taken by me (duh), as were the Taylor Swift photos.  The photos of me in front of the brick wall were taken by the lovely Lindsay Alexander.  Photos of John and Pearl are their own.


4 thoughts on “The Basic Girl

  1. Pingback: Good Girls Are Bad Girls | Gals of Gainesville

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s