Now while the term basic has long been relegated to the archives of the millennial vocabulary, along with Buzzfeed quizzes determining your level of basic-ness, the underlying principles still exist: there is a hierarchy of interests and consumption patterns that one group deems simplistic and predictable. Therefore, to accuse someone of being basic is to create and us vs. them that values one’s interest as more genuine and deserving as the basic’s.
The basic of popular culture in 2014 was largely defined as your middle-America basic. She didn’t just like Starbucks, she had their holiday cup release date earmarked on her calendar. She was a girly girl with a Pinterest wedding board and bookmarked beauty vloggers. To criticize her was easy because her interests did not represent mine or that of the liberal media elite publishing these articles. Forget North Face, we've moved on to Canada Goose. Starbucks? Ew refined sugar, we only frequent Cha Cha Matcha.
But hold your horses, welcome the Manhattan Basic. She does not only like Soul Cycle, she is a member of Akin’s Army and will defend it to the death; she doesn’t like juice categorically, she likes Juice Press; and she’s over the LES nightlife scene because she’s graduated to West Village bars. Oh right, her. Or also, me.
But submitting to the fact that I like popular workouts like Sky Ting or workout clothing like Outdoor Voices doesn't reveal anything of substance about my interests or my character, and conflating this notion of "basicness" with anything beyond the superficiality of our consumption patterns is flawed.
I recently read an essay by Dan Fox titled “Prentiousness: Why It Matters” that effectively argues for the societal value of pretension...more on that later (turns out, I agree). But replace pretentious with basic in the following excerpt, and you’ll realize that our anxieties about basicness say more about us than who we’re calling basic.
“Being pretentious is rarely harmful to anyone. Accusing others of it is. You can use the word ‘pretentious’ as a weapon with which to bludgeon other people’s creative efforts, but in shutting them down the accusation will shatter in your hand and out will bleed your own insecurities, prejudices, and unquestioned assumptions. And that is why pretentiousness matters. It is a false note of objective judgment, and when it rings, we can hear what society values in culture, hear how we perceive our individual selves.”
So, I’ll keep wearing my Outdoor Voices and going to Sky Ting (I actually really liked it!) and if that makes me basic, so be it!