Airhead (subculture)

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The popped collar, straightened bleached blonde hair and cardigan sweater were stereotypical aspects of airhead fashion from the 1990s to 2010s

"Airhead", also known as "Trixie" (in Chicago),[1] "basic bitch", or simply "basic", is a slang term in American popular culture used to pejoratively describe middle class white women who are perceived to predominantly like mainstream products, trends, or music.[2] "Airhead" dates back to the late 1980s as a derogatory term for a stupid or unaware person, usually female but sometimes male.[3] "Basic bitch" originated in hip-hop culture and rose in popularity through rap music, songs, blogs, and videos from 2011 to 2014.[4][5]

Their male counterparts are usually termed "bros",[6][7][8] "Chads", or "urban preps".[9] International English equivalents to the "basic bitch" or "airhead" include preconceived notions that some people have about contemporary British "Essex Girls" and "Sloane rangers", Irish "D4s", and Australian "haul girls" known for their love of shopping for designer gear, and uploading videos of their purchases on YouTube.[10][11][12]



Before the 1980s, "airhead" was general American slang for a ditzy, clumsy or stupid person.[13] With the rise of the valley girl[14] and preppy subculture however, the term was applied to cheerleaders[15] and nouveau riche or middle class hangers-on who imitated the uptalk speech[16] and clothing of the upper class popular girls. These airheads, material girls or gold diggers were stereotypically viewed by their classmates as unintelligent, gossipy[17] bimbettes who were interested solely in spreading rumors about their rivals and entering relationships with the wealthy jocks.[2]

1990s and 2000s[edit]

During the late 1990s and early 2000s, airheads began to be regarded as a distinct, middle class subculture in many suburban American high schools, although appearance-wise they initially differed little from the traditionalist upper class preps.[18] At the time, many wealthy white jocks and younger preppies had begun imitating urban fashion trends, eschewing the semi-formal conservative look of the 1980s and 1990s in favor of gold bling, expensive designer clothes, sneakers, dark jeans, and sweatpants.[19] Rich girls who dressed this way were known as Queen Bees and their followers were known as plastics, or airheads.[20] Members of this clique believed their designer clothing, as a manifestation of conspicuous consumption, was key to being popular.[21]

2010 onwards[edit]

The term basic bitch was coined in 2009[22] by comedian Lil' Duval.[23][5] Over the next two years, it appeared in several American rap songs. In the songs "Hard in the Paint" by Tyga and "I'm not a Human Being" by Lil Wayne, the singers insist that they are not basic bitches, while in the song "Basic Bitch" by The Game, the singer warns others to avoid basic bitches because they are fake.[23]

In 2011, rapper Kreayshawn debuted her song "Gucci Gucci", which included the chorus: "Gucci Gucci, Louis Louis, Fendi Fendi, Prada ... basic bitches wear that shit so I don't even bother." In 2014 CollegeHumor released a parody video of a wife being diagnosed by a doctor as a "basic bitch", to the horror of her husband.[24][4][5]

Fashion and stereotypes[edit]

Ugg boots, often referenced in songs and cultural trend articles as a brand of footwear loved by so-called "basic women".

From the 1990s[25] until the early 2010s, both guys and girls from the predominantly white popular clique often combined budget preppy[26] clothes with supposedly edgy elements of mainstream hip hop fashion, in imitation of the outfits worn by early adopter black rappers such as Kanye West.[27][28][29] Miniskirts, Nike brand sneakers,[30] bleached blonde hair, pastel colors like pale blue or baby pink, expensive Aeropostale, Hollister Co[31] or Abercrombie and Fitch[32] designer gear purchased by one's parents,[21] grey marl sweatpants, crop tops, white Converse sneakers,[33] leggings,[34] and Ugg boots remained common among American airheads, Aussie haul girls[10] and Essex girls during the 2010s. Other items of clothing formerly fashionable in the 1990s, such as polo shirts with popped collars, have gone out of style. Common amongst this subculture is a love of brunch (often with Prosecco) and sweet, modern cocktails such as Porn Star Martinis.

Popular girls in Britain, Australia, New Zealand, United States and Canada are often accused of meanness,[35] gossip, snobbery, narrowmindedness, homophobia, intolerance,[36] flaunting their apparent wealth, backstabbing, shallowness,[37] body shaming,[38] slut shaming, contempt for the poor,[39] and openly bullying other girls to maintain their own privileged position.[40]

Interpretations and criticism[edit]

Referring to an object or a person as "basic" has a variety of connotations. When used to refer to people, it can mean a criticism of shallow materialism;[citation needed] in songs that use the term, popular luxury brands like Gucci and Prada are referenced to suggest that the people who wear them are buying, rather than earning, their fashionability and social status.[41] Decrying the basic bitch's love of bland, boring products like Ugg boots and Starbucks pumpkin spice lattes is a rhetorical technique that allows the singer to appear cooler by comparison.[42] Rapper Kreayshawn describes a basic bitch as: "A basic bitch is just someone who likes what's typical to like. The radio puts stuff on the radio that they think is typical and you should like it, and that's something a basic bitch would like. She likes those normal brands and wears them all the time because that's some basic shit."

In an article in The Guardian titled, "Why I'm proud to be a 'basic bitch'", journalist Daisy Buchanan has criticized the cultural trend of using "basic bitch" as an insult, pointing out that those who call out other women for being basic bitches are "dismissing all cultural feminine signifiers" and "make assumptions about a woman's interests and habits based on her gender."[43] Widespread usage of the term to mock the behavior and interests of girlfriends or wives "conforms to the most bland and uncreative stereotypes of late capitalist femininity" and suggests a misogynistic attitude toward all women, according to Michael Reid Roberts in an article in The American Reader.[42]

In the media[edit]

Since the 1980s, the airhead or popular clique have often been cast as the antagonists in high school and teen movies.[44] Examples include Valley Girl, The Clique, Heathers, Girl Fight, A Cinderella Story, Odd Girl Out, Frenemies, Pretty in Pink, Mean Girls, and Clueless.[45]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ United States of Basic
  2. ^ a b "In The 80s - Glossary of Eighties Terms".
  3. ^ Danesi, Marcel (1 January 1994). "Cool: The Signs and Meanings of Adolescence". University of Toronto Press – via Google Books.
  4. ^ a b Schreiber, Abby (October 16, 2014). "Why are 'basic bitches' taking over the zeitgeist right now?". Paper. Retrieved December 24, 2014.
  5. ^ a b c Alter, Charlotte (April 30, 2014). "How Conformity Became a Crime". Time. Retrieved December 24, 2014.
  6. ^ "50 Signs You're Dating a Basic Bro". Phoenix New Times. 10 December 2014.
  7. ^ "Most Basic Bros in Sports". Bleacher Report. 10 December 2014.
  8. ^ "23 Phrases That Let You Know You're Talking To A Basic Bro". MTV. 10 December 2014.
  9. ^ "Men's Fashion Trends".
  10. ^ a b "A spotter's guide to the emerging tribes of Sydney".
  11. ^ "19 Ways To Instantly Spot A Basic Bitch In Dublin".
  12. ^ Petridis, Alexis (20 March 2014). "Youth subcultures: what are they now?" – via
  13. ^ Ayto, John; Simpson, John (11 February 2010). "Oxford Dictionary of Modern Slang". OUP Oxford – via Google Books.
  14. ^ ""Valley Girl" and identity creation".
  15. ^ Stephenson, Hailey; Editor, Senior (14 November 2011). "Cheerleaders: is the media to blame for stereotypes?".
  16. ^ "We all speak like Valley girls now - NBC News".
  17. ^ "Valley Girl". 29 April 1983 – via IMDb.
  18. ^ Allis, Sam (16 July 2009). "Let me school you about preppies" – via The Boston Globe.
  19. ^ Last White Superstar. (10 January 2010).
  20. ^ "The Meanest High School Girls in Movies".
  21. ^ a b Choron, Sandra; Choron, Harry (24 October 2002). "the Book of Lists for Teens". Houghton Mifflin Harcourt – via Google Books.
  22. ^ "What We're Really Afraid Of When We Call Someone "Basic"". BuzzFeed News.
  23. ^ a b Maggie Lange (April 10, 2014). "The 'Basic Bitch': Who Is She?". Retrieved September 15, 2014.
  24. ^ Alex Abad-Santos (April 22, 2014). ""Basic": a beginner's guide to everyone's favorite new insult". Retrieved September 15, 2014.
  25. ^ "It's Baggy, It's Preppy, It's Hip-hop, It's What's In".
  26. ^ "Why Abercrombie & Fitch Isn't 'Cool' Anymore".
  27. ^ Runell, Marcella; Diaz, Martha (1 January 2007). "The Hip-Hop Education Guidebook Volume 1". – via Google Books.
  28. ^ "Son of Muffy: Preppy Style Returns, Extra Dry and With a Twist". The New York Times. 19 December 2000.
  29. ^ Bucholtz, Mary (23 December 2010). "White Kids: Language, Race, and Styles of Youth Identity". Cambridge University Press – via Google Books.
  30. ^ "26 signs you're the absolute queen of basic bitches".
  31. ^ Dishman, Lydia (25 February 2015). "Why teens stopped shopping at Abercrombie & Fitch and Wet Seal".
  32. ^ Wattrick, Jeff. "The Only Thing Worse Than Abercrombie & Fitch Is This Anti-Abercrombie & Fitch Movement".
  33. ^ When will Basic Bitch die?
  34. ^ Bickham, Liana Satenstein, Jorden. "7 Basic Fall Looks to Embrace Your Inner #Basic".
  35. ^ Carter, Nicola (16 May 2013). "Has Abercrombie & Fitch's CEO really made a 'Big, fat, marketing mistake'?".
  36. ^ "The Truth About Basic Bitches: They Could Ruin Your Life". 12 April 2014.
  37. ^ "Lisa Oldfield reveals co-stars drove her to drink". Mail Online. 22 June 2017.
  38. ^ "Gossip, one-upmanship and cruel jokes: I was the school Mean Girl".
  39. ^ "A comprehensive manual on becoming an EX4 basic betch". 21 October 2015.
  40. ^ Brown, Lyn Mikel (1 March 2005). "Girlfighting: Betrayal and Rejection Among Girls". NYU Press – via Google Books.
  41. ^ Peters, Lucia. "How to Spot the Basic Bitch". Bustle.
  42. ^ a b Michael Reid Roberts. "The Life and Death of American Slang, Part II: Bae and Basic Bitch". The American Reader. Retrieved September 15, 2014.
  43. ^ Daisy Buchanan (April 14, 2014). "Why I'm proud to be a 'basic bitch'". The Guardian. Retrieved September 15, 2014.
  44. ^ Pellot, Emerald (14 July 2014). "The 15 Most Basic Bitch Movies In History Ranked".
  45. ^ "Nostalgic News: Clueless released 20 years ago today". 18 July 2015.

Further reading[edit]