The Basic Project

Investigative journalism at its finest


Halfway between the first fifteen people who were ordering math equations instead of lattes and those who were unsure if this was the line for the bathroom, I started to regret my decision. It was day one of my Basic Project — a self assigned investigation into the world of a word so deeply embedded into our lexicon that it no longer requires the expletive, like when a celebrity no longer needs a last name — and there I was, officially late because of my Starbucks basic blend.

“No regrets,” I reminded myself. My secret Pinterest board said so.

“Basic” has become a basic word itself due to the term’s mainstream usage, but there’s discrepancy in its over-blogged and memed definition. Some believe that “being basic” applies to lifestyle choices and apparel, whereas others believe that basic is a sheep-mentality state of mind. Both have negative connotations. All I cared about is: in terms of living the so called basic life (lattes, froyo, flash tats) — was it really that bad?

The hardest part was getting dressed. This wasn’t because my typical outfits are so earth shatteringly unique, but rather because in terms of research there appeared to be a strong carryover of trendy-loungewear influence from the year 2004 (leggings, yoga pants, etc), yet very little information as to what shirts were considered B-word appropriate.

Luckily for me, I once blacked out and bought a tank top that says, “You can’t sit with us.”

Every day I wore some variation of the same thing: leggings, Uggs, aviators and a t-shirt. Minus the shearling footwear I felt like myself on the way to the gym or me when I tell everyone I’m going to the gym and then go buy a doughnut from that place around the corner instead. On days when it was below 70 degrees I made a big deal about wearing sweaters for fall. I sent Snapchats about it. Basic girls supposedly love the Snapchat.

On the weekend, one of my guy friends suggested I wear “one of those shirts made out of jeans.” (Chambray.) He told me that the commonality between all the women he considered basic is that they “look a little bit Western, like they listen to Taylor Swift.”

Apparently basic girls love scarves too, so I took one for a spin Monday morning and only experienced mild commuter heat stroke.

I was starting to see a theme here, which is that a lot of people like the things allegedly “basic” girls like — social media, for one. Scarves, for another.

In terms of lifestyle, I’ve already been told that the bars I frequent are kind of basic. Going to brunch the next morning was easy. I stepped up my gym routine (SoulCycle once, hot yoga twice), I drank green juice, coconut juice, and mixed my vodka with “a splash of cran.” On Tuesday I ate pumpkin spice yogurt. On Friday, I drank a pumpkin spice latte. (This, I will have you know, was the only time Starbucks spelled my name right.) People told me to Instagram sunsets with with earnest captions (“But do it from your fake account,” they cautioned. “Cheesy sunsets are embarrassing.”) And I took a lot, a lot, a lot of selfies.

“Nails,” declared one friend. “You have to get a manicure.” I mean, anything for the story.

I was starting to see a second theme here, which is that being basic rules. Who the hell decided these things were bad? Someone that hates the barely-country voice of a singing angel,  and comfortable clothes? Someone who has never been hugged by a girl wearing that delicious smelling perfume everyone seems to intuitively know to wear?

The Official Declarers of That Which Is Basic have clearly never experienced the freedom of sitting cross legged in yoga pants at the office, nor felt the love that is a sheep’s wig engulfing ones feet. Maybe they don’t have a Panera in their neighborhood (basic girls have a thing for paninis and salads) so it’s possible these anti-basics don’t even know what they’re missing.

MAYBE they once tried a pumpkin spiced latte and got scared because they liked it too much. That shit sure does taste like witch craft, so I don’t blame them for being suspicious.

I know I’ve complained about basic things, like Pinterest and Soul Cycle. But that doesn’t mean I don’t love inspiration, or endorphins, or remixed beats! I’m only human — I can’t help but get excited when the bass drops, or when temporary tattoos come in gold. Or maybe I just actually am basic; I did once wear a shirt with a peplum. To which I say: T-Swift, hand me the froyo.

Basic shirt courtesy of Ashish

Get more Humor ?
  • hahahahahaha. you don did it again, Amelia. I think I am 68% basic… sometimes maybe more. My disqus default is a picture of me in a maxi dress, drinking rose-yay on rocking chair, on a porch in Martha’s Vineyard after all. But here is where the other 32% comes in: what the people at home don’t know… I’m drinking alone outside on family vacation with the rest of my clan inside having fun together. I think I called my younger cousin outside to take the picture for me.

  • Thesem

    I enjoy things from this story, but I would hardly call myself basic. I love scarves… But my scarves are mostly what does that mean? Maybe I’m basic plus?

    • Amelia Diamond

      B+ !

    • daysleeper

      It means you’re pretentious instead of basic. Not sure if that’s an improvement.

      • S

        But that’s the thing. Being basic is about liking these stuff and then being pretentious about it. Thinking you’re better than everyone else when you are doing basic things. Being basic is thinking you’re hot when you’re average. It’s a word that is not really meant for mainstream media. It’s more for college and school kids. It’s on the list of things they just don’t get. Like thinking Miley Cyrus invented twerking and thinking Nicki Minaj’s Anaconda is celebration of a different figure. When it’s one of the songs that hip hop artists specifically make for strippers. Specifically for women who shake their booty for a dollar. When it’s celebrating the same thing that hip hop has been celebrating for years. The type of derriere that Nicki bought because there is pressure to have that type of body shape. Stripper anthems are not liberating!

    • jules

      Thesem: you’re basic with a bigger budget.

  • Lulu

    Interesting thoughts here, I like that you went all in for it. NEVER wear that “You can’t sit with us” tank again though! Like never ever!!

    • Amelia Diamond

      Hahah my friend just texted me the same thing! Sorry 🙁

      • Lulu

        Anything for a good story right?!! The sacrifices of research! Haha!

      • #sorrynotsorry

      • Kristen

        If you really wanted to get in on the whole “teenager basicness” then you should wear one of those tattoo chokers!! Every single girl at my school wears one and I want to choke them all with my hands instead

  • Tara Jayne

    This is about to get reallllll deep but I think my inherent fear of not doing basic ‘good enough’ just keeps me from doing it at all. Like I suck at instagramming and taking selfies and drinking PSLs and I would never go to Spin Class because frankly I would fall off the bike. Like, without question I would fall off and end up with a cracked skull + concussion.

    I bought Uggs once and it was the biggest mistake of my life. What are they good for? You can’t wear them in the snow bc they’re not waterproof and if you wear them inside you will seriously die of heat exhaustion! I don’t even know what I’m talking about anymore. I liked this post.

    • Amelia Diamond

      Don’t be afraid Tara! I suck at instagramming PSLs too. You just need a good filter or a snazzy background a la pumpkins via google image.

      Uggs are good for leaving hot yoga class, or to use a prop next to your PSLs while instagramming.

      • Tara Jayne

        I never thought about using them as a prop. I think this weekend I will walk to Starbucks with my dog in my uggs, get a PSL, take a picture of leaves, use the leaves as the background for the selfie I’m about to take and then see how that goes. Then maybe I’ll sign up for a hot yoga class and never go.

    • Jamie Leland

      Uggs are good for desert winters. Snow and dampness are never a concern, but cold tootsies on your tile are.

  • So, I have been a little out of the loop on what “basic” actually meant (i just thought it involved a lot of Brandy Melville), but now that I know, I definitely would qualify- I one time interrupted a college class to tell everyone that PSL were back and spend a stupid amount of time on Pinterest…. But, are you still basic if you are fully aware of how basic you’re being? Did I just disqualify myself through self-awareness?

    This post was awesome. I want your job.

    • Amelia Diamond

      I think being self-aware disqualifies it? I don’t know. You are awesome though! (the you can’t sit with us shirt is from brandy melville…but so are my favorite [non pictured] jeans)

    • liz

      I think self-awareness disqualifies for sure. While some basic things can be the actual worst (namely, psl instas. WHY THE FUCK DID I JUST TYPE THE ABBREVIATION?!?!), some of that shit can be the actual best (chambray, scarves, wine, netflix, etc). Like Amelia said, all that stuff is popular, because it more or less rocks.

      • TOTALLY agree about the PSL instas (no shame in abbrevs. It’s a fast moving world out there, we gotta keep up)

    • Marina Doshkevich

      I hope it doesn’t. I want to be basic. I certainly don’t feel like pretending to be some urbanista.

  • This was a clever and entertaining story! I was at yoga class this morning and these two chicks whom were on their 2 visits has noticeably gone from “oh lets try a new workout” to “we are so yogies look at our expensive store bought wrist beads.” That to me is basic, its safe to say assimilation is basic.

  • Charlotte Fassler

    I wore uggs and Vanderbilt sweatpants to a bodega last night and I can’t say I minded.

  • Rebeka Osborne

    I totally agree, people who are anti basic things DON’T know what they’re missing. I’m not saying you should do them all at once, but the occasional PSL is delicious and I’m all about yoga and the yoga pants too.

  • Esther Levy

    I actually just peed myself (so basic) “I can’t help but get excited when the bass drops” PREACH.

  • Kelsey

    This is perfection. Lessons in being basic part II: attend the Far Hill Races (more fashionably known as “The Hunt”, All these outfits, beverages, sunsets, and filters excel in this setting

    • Amelia Diamond

      The Hunt is my favorite holiday. No joke. I like it more than my birthday.

      • Kelsey

        Could not agree more! Come stop by my spot up on the hill!! Homemade chili, mulled cider & Mt Gay, Barbours, and foolishly placed bets on the steeple chase no one is watching 🙂 bails of hay and mums aplenty!

        • Amelia Diamond

          Hahah I will see you there Kelsey!

  • Amelia,
    YOU are my spirit animal. I hope you take that as the compliment it is meant to be. Wait…is having a spirit animal basic?

    • Amelia Diamond

      It’s a TOTAL compliment and no way. Animals can’t be basic!

  • I love you, Amelia Diamond! I think there’s something inherently basic about all of us, which may just have to do more with instinctual human characteristics/ adaptions than anything else. That being said, I’ve never been to a Panera, I do not support Starbucks, I’ve never owned a pair of Uggs and I don’t particularly like when the bass drops in a mediocre remix.

    If we can be subconsciously basic, are we also equally able to be subconsciously pretentious?

    • Amelia Diamond

      Probably. But Emma, I have to tell you something. Do yourself a favor. JUST EAT ONE ROLL FROM PANERA. ONE ROLL. OMG.

      • Agh, okay. I’ve been raised in a family where chains are avoided as much as possible (they’re hard to avoid in some circumstances, though!), but for you I will try one.

        • Amelia Diamond

          haha so was I. it was my only form of rebellion!!

    • Emma, you are the opposite of basic. And I agree with Amelia about the rolls. And while you’re at it, have about 15 from my other favorite chain, Bertuccis.

    • Tara Jayne

      I tried to get my boyfriend to be basic by dragging him to Panera “everyone says it’s amazing. We have to go”. He hated it. Everything about it. I am never going to get to go back there again and the tomato bisque was amazing.


        • Tara Jayne

          I’m going to end up sitting there on a tuesday night in my sweatpants with that fucking bread bowl now. thx.

  • Elodie

    Alas as an Aussie I’ve never experienced the joys of a pumpkin spiced latte, but our equivalent Basic Beverage is probably a crushed TimTam frappe-type concoction. And anyone who eschews its deliciousness, brunch, Havaianas or yogawear-as-about-town-clothing is woefully missing some of the great joys of life!

    • Amelia Diamond


  • I think it’s not so much the THINGS as the ATTITUDE. Like people who like things because everyone else likes them. Or maybe that just what I think because I don’t like pumpkin spice lattes or Taylor Swift or scarves and I just REALLY feel like I’m missing out.

    • Amelia Diamond

      TRULY, if I were to call someone “basic,” as a diss, I agree with you, it would be about the attitude not the things.

  • I was just trying to figure out this whole basic thing, but I think you explained it pretty well. I never use the term, but I have heard it being thrown around a lot. Basic isn’t all that bad.

  • andrea raymer

    Despite the fact that I literally developed a point system that my brother and I used to make fun of all the Basic girls in college (I’m a horrible person), I have to admit that i do have some level of basic-ness. I got really excited about buying a pumpkin last week, I can see a Starbucks from my bed, I have been to 3 out of the 4 Paneras in Manhattan, and I have a Pinterest board of inspiration for Fall apartment decor.

    I also love Taylor Swift way, way more than I care to admit.

  • Good to hear your experiment went well! While the taste of the PSL makes me want to gag…it doesn’t mean I haven’t been trying to make my own version at home.

    Being basic seems to be like wearing accessories – some of us do it sparingly, and others love to pile it on. 🙂

  • Lyric

    I think I eschew basic-ness because it reminds me of all the exclusive mean girls in high school who only wore abercrombie and fitch polo’s with their denim mini skirts and uggs. They made fun of my friends and I for being “weird.” In my mind they all just sort of grew up into basic bitches because they’d be ostracized if they ever did anything different or unique. Of course this type of thinking makes me sort of exclusive and judgy so…

  • I can’t decide

    Wait, I just learned the word hipster, now I have to learn the word basic? It’ll probably filter down to my part of the country in a year or two.

  • Maria Raquel F. Silva

    I discovery this basic thing only this week and I was actually kinda confused.
    All those things that supposed to be for basic girls were pretty usual and everyone had some of it? At least at some point in life? Maybe I still do get it…

  • Isabel

    Gosh I love this. Mostly because I feel like I am surrounded by basic b****** on a daily basis at school. But I definitely stop and think, omg am I doing some basic?!? But why is it bad? It’s so interesting, that the norm is really frowned upon in society, and my entire college seems to be victims because it’s North Face, leggings, Ray Bans and repeat up in here.

  • My main goal in life is not wear or own anything with a slogan on it, but every now and then I get Starbucks, especially when on vacation in a new country- free WiFi to update my insta with cheesy sunsets 🙂

  • RomyPaige

    This article reminds me of my struggles with high school. I went to a private school with a uniform. This uniform consisted of both the institution’s requirements and the social requirements of UGG boots, black converse, Canada Goose bomber jackets and leggings. I remember how excited I was for “Free Dress Day” (twice a year), so that I could wear an outfit that reflected my personal style, starting with olive green cargo skinnies. The day I wore my Free People skinny jeans and a yummy oversized knit and combat boots, I never stopped being asked why I was “sooo fancy” and “trying so hard”. It drove me nuts that I was always expected to wear leggings and always coordinate my outfits with my friends before heading to any house party. So to me, “Basic Bitches” are only basic if they can’t appreciate individuality. Not everyone has to be into wearing clothes that are not always comfortable, but as long as they don’t stop their friends from looking like an individual than they aren’t bitches to me!

    • Amelia Diamond

      wait. jumping in to say that I LOVED FREE DRESS DAY.

    • Quinn Halman

      Hi from someone still in the private school bubble! On our casual days I would always get the “why are you trying so hard” yet followed by “but I looove what you’re wearing”. Not my fault these girls are too chicken shit to dress for themselves and have to send a group message before going out to ask whether to wear shorts or pants

  • Lauren Ann Long

    Honestly, anyone who hates on Uggs have never experienced the pleasure of those bad boys during a polar vortex.

  • Anuntul – Galben

    So happy for you, it’s amazing products, I live in Bucuresti / Romania – anunturi gratuite so hopefully one day `ll be able to do it myself, lots of love and hugs happy to welcome you in this great day of anunturi gratuite. Pupiciii byeeee

  • Chase

    I just love that instead of spending an article hating on it, you went for it, and defended things that are pretty much just normal (normal but just in overabundance and therefore sometimes unoriginal). But thanks to those people, the originals can be seen as such. Thanks for positive and entertaining journalism!

  • liz

    My sister and I had this conversation the other day about what makes someone basic, because she told me my new phone cover was the most basic. BUT IT IS SOOO CUTE, I SWEAR. We came to the conclusion that it’s not so much things or actions that makes a gal basic. I pretty much go by my internal reaction regarding someone. If my brain says, “Mehhh, she’s aight,” that means she basic. I think it is more of a state of mind or predisposition than anything.

    I feel like free-thinking, interesting, intelligent, funny, kind, well-informed, and ambitious girls can’t ever be considered basic even if their outfits match way too well, their kidneys are battling an infection due to psl over-consumption, and their trendy-ass apartments are furnished with chevron tidbits. They just can’t. Amen.

    And in case you haven’t seen this. Is basic to post a video that has over 5 million views? I cannot win, I swear.

  • Claudia

    Amelia I totally agree with you! Further, I don’t think it’s fair to say that women who are a proponent of Uggs with leggings are basic. Is the look homogenous? Certainly. But what about the fact that women with a larger budget somehow preponderantly keep reaching for the same items? Valentino rockstud. Chanel boy. Celine phantom. Vince/Theory leather leggings. And in the past.. Marant wedge sneakers, Louboutins, Hermes collier de chien, Chanel espadrilles, ect. Isn’t the latter just basic with a higher budget?

    Style is dictated to the large majority of women. If I see a girl walking on Grand wearing an effortless Acne mape leather jacket draped over a pleated Issey Miyake jumpsuit and creepers (because, let’s be honest, aren’t we all sick of dainty flats and their slightly edgier counterpart, the sleek loafer??) I think “very chic with a high budget.” Then there are the stylish Williamsburg women who can make $3 jeans from Buffalo Exchange look like Rick Owens, to them I think “chic with a low budget.”

    However, the mass appeal “high fashion” thats happening on Instagram and blogs aplenty with the same items on rotation seems like the high budget version of a basic. Are these items great? Yes. But if I see a woman strolling through Meatpacking dressed in the requisite cropped leather jacket, McQueen scarf, Celine phantom, skinny jeans I think “high budget basic.”

    To tie it together, I think basic applies to any string of items that people wear in herds. It’s not necessarily exclusive to the Ugg and legging folk.

    • Amelia Diamond

      Isn’t the latter just basic with a higher budget? (yes)

    • Amelia Diamond

      High budget basic is such a real thing

  • The “SORRY YOU LOOK BASIC” shirt is everything! We love Asish….

  • Rosaly

    hahahahahahha everything about this. Now i just need that shirt!

  • Meagan Cortinas

    According to this I’m “basic” (sans Mean Girl quotes and Uggs). I’m not at all mad about it, not one bit! I love scarves- if I spill my PSL on my Chambray shirt it can double as a nice cover up. I can guarantee at least one cheesy sunset pic (from a plane prob w/ a #nofilter, nonetheless) and it was a beautiful Instagram post.
    To quote French Montana I’m basic and “Beesh I ain’t worried ’bout nothing.” I mean do what makes you happy whether it’s being basic or being avant garde.

    • Amelia Diamond

      I can recite mean girls, verbatim, from opening credits to closing credits. it’s so sad.

      • Meagan Cortinas

        I’m the same way with Bring It On…

  • Alejandra

    If I liked pumpkin spiced lattes two years ago am I basic? Someone please answer this. I also remixed a song for pumpkin spiced lattes..and it gets worse, the song was the caption of the picture I instagrammed.. Oh no! I am basic.

    • Alejandra

      proof I am basic…


  • ihavenobones

    Please be advised: Lululemon, Juice Press (post-sellout), thigh gap photos, Starbucks, GOOP, makeup contouring, and Southern California are all known causes of Basic. Take care of yourself and be aware of the signs.

  • I feel like.. being basic rocks!

  • Michelle Gonzalez


  • Meg

    I’m probably 100% basic, maybe with a splash of lazy.

    Check Out My Blog At:

  • JuJu Beez

    Wait, if I hear the word basic one more time my head is going to explode. Would that be basic of me?

  • Hilarious investigation. Amelia your writing had me in tears laughing. “That shit sure does taste like witchcraft.” Thanks for this!

  • strugatz

    this is everything meelz

  • Snapchat is becoming the best platform to find out how truly funny your friends are!


  • Cherry Chen

    So is it bad to be basic?..

  • MetsFan17315

    I still don’t get it.

  • ok youre hilarious i literally love u

  • Kelsey O’Donnell

    I love this post. Subtle and clever.

  • Aizen Anrui

    Really painful read for a gen x person. Feel dumber.

  • PCE

    Ugh, the “basic” negative connotation. Glad you realized that being labeled “basic” really shouldn’t be negative or mean sh*t to anyone anyway. I’m basic, and I don’t give much of a f*ck who judges me for it. Leggings are comfortable, Uggs may not be a great fashion choice but they’re the warmest footwear I own and NY winters require them. Can’t have PSLs because diabetes is a real thing, but I would if I could because WHY would you not have something delicious simply because people might JUDGE YOU?? It’s so illogical. Live your life the way you want to, and if someone calls you basic or a sheep, just roll your eyes and continue on your merry way, since you’re doing your thing and those people are so boring their only entertainment is judging others. Sad.

  • Marina Doshkevich

    I am not sure how basic I am, naturally, but ever since the mean comments, i have made sure to be as basic as I can be. Sort of a FU to people who think you need to wear outrageous clothing in order to be interesting.