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Analyzing the Cool Girl Archetype

The ultimate cool girl, contrary to the infamous Gone Girl monologue, is a girl in complete control of how she’s perceived. On Instagram, the cool-girl of today has a perfectly curated feed of aesthetic photo dumps filled with enviable glimpses into her "perfect" life, as well as just the right amount of self-focused pictures that boast an effortless, candid beauty without seeming narcissistic. On TikTok, the cool girl of today shows off her relatable side. She films get-ready-with-me videos where she rants about her boy problems, awkward encounters, and new revelations. If she’s on Twitter/X, she is sure to share her comedic chops. In essence, the deciding factor in the cool-girl of today is a meticulously crafted, but otherwise pervasive social media presence.

It’s important to note, for the sake of this analysis, that “cool girl” is simply a title that has no ascribed description or home; its placement evolves as our perception of what’s cool evolves. The Alex Coopers, Hailey Biebers, Ryan Destinys, and Emma Chamberlains of our generation are no doubt in the cool-girl category. However, it's not just names as big as those. TikTok influencers that post aesthetically pleasing vlogs, wear baggy jeans and sambas, and post enticing "WEEKLY R.E.P.O.R.T" photo dumps fit this model too. Influencers, in general, seem to have inherited the title from the actors, singers, and nepo-babies of yesterday: Cameron Diaz, Lucy Liu, Brandy, Britney, Paris Hilton, etc. The coolness of these former cool girls was based almost entirely on their professional projects and press coverage (much of which was published without their approval).

A consequence of their success was having to be perceived constantly, in any light, good or bad. Their ability to spin a scandal into a c**ty era (largely thanks to powerful PR firms) is what established their cool girlness. Today’s cool girls have taken that control into their own hands by creating their projects and online coverage on their platforms (though powerful PR firms are very much still present). They post exactly as much or as little as it fits their aesthetic. A recent media trend, however, demands more of these cool-girls. Sharing more about themselves creates a more relatable perception, gaining them more fans. This relatability obsession has prompted an entirely new online subculture in which the internet is seen as a safe space to air out one’s deepest thoughts or get into the nitty-gritty details of one’s life, all for a few thousand views.

Cool girls are a group that thrives off being seen, and they’re able to maintain cool girlhood by establishing exclusivity. No one would get special attention or privileges if everyone were a cool girl. For the cool girls of yesterday, exclusivity was established by reserving celebrity status (the ability to be perceived by the general public) for actors, performers, and models. YouTube, TikTok, and Instagram have profoundly lowered barriers to cool-girl entry today. Anyone (that fits Western beauty standards, let’s be honest) can craft these TMI, yet charming, videos that breed virality and blow up on these platforms. Now, given that around 70% of all Instagram users have at least 1,000 followers, and people are aware of the money to be made on social media, we have the integration of micro-influencers, who lower the prestige of the cool girl dominion overall. We’ve already seen the effects of this at this year’s SS24 Fashion Week events, which are typically reserved for editors, stylists, and other fashionable celebrities. This year, tons of influencers with really no relation or passion for fashion were seen at the helm of Vogue, Chanel, and Dior events, sparking online debates about how “they’ll just let anybody in.” The playing field has been almost completely leveled. Becoming a cool girl is far too accessible. Being relatable is too relatable. If everyone can be seen, and everyone can craft their own image to perfection, where does that leave cool girls?

All trends are cyclical, even polar at times: the uber-rich moved to quiet luxury to distance themselves from the loud world of tacky logomania and flashy clothing, and now it may be time for the cool girl to move from relatable to elusive. The emergence of quiet luxury (a trend that gained notoriety in recent years, which encourages “whispering one’s wealth” to other rich people through the donning of styles that boast no flashy logos while maintaining an exorbitant price tag) is similar to the emergence of cool-girlhood, in that they are both subsets of exclusive, elitist culture and they are both in direct opposition to trends that are accessible to regular people. A major difference is that quiet luxury can maintain its barrier to entry: very few people can (responsibly) afford to drop $10k on a coat. If cool girls are to maintain exclusivity, they will have no choice but to distance themselves from the loud overshare-y influencer mass. Perhaps the cool girl of tomorrow will cement and gatekeep her coolness by logging off entirely, or at least going private. Otherwise, it seems the cool girls of today will have to relinquish their title.

From a non-cool-girl-obsessed, more grounded standpoint, influencer fatigue is very real. Every couple of weeks, it seems there’s someone new to obsess over; how can we keep up or even care about them all? Emma Chamberlain’s unfiltered authenticity may always hold a soft spot in our hearts, but when everyone is doing the same thing (not always with the necessary charm to pull it off), authenticity can feel stifling and unoriginal. On top of that, this oversharing trend has brought about the plague of trauma-dumping publicly in a quirky/fun way, with the facade of “normalizing” mental illness. This does more damage than good in that it glamorizes the issues without offering solutions or guidance. Perhaps “cool girls” have lost control of just how much to share. Oversharing is inherently not cool! We’ve all become hyper-aware of the very real consequences of bad digital footprints. The not-so-uncommon possibility of any social media user going viral overnight and achieving “cool-girl” status also places unrealistic pressure on everyday users to cultivate a specific aesthetic to maintain those new followers. This is extremely constricting to the psyche of those users, who are mostly young girls and women, still discovering themselves. It should go without saying that the time it takes to cultivate such a perfect “cool-girl” feed takes away from genuinely enjoying an experience or life in general. Stopping your friends from eating because “the camera eats first,” is insane (I am the most guilty of this)!

As trend cycles become shorter and shorter, the explosion of micro and macro influencers over the past couple of years has come to its peak and will (hopefully) fade into the background of our collective social psyche. Cool girls, it’s time to evolve and come up with a new way to exclude the general population, lol. As for the rest of us, touching grass is cool!


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