2015 was the year of the “It” girl, with models and personalities like Gigi Hadid, Cara Delevingne, Kendall Jenner and the rest of the Kardashian ilk permeating pop culture at every level. A few short years ago, the cynical among us would have dismissed them as “famous for being famous”, but this year legitimized their pop culture reign. Now Gigi and Kendall are the representatives of multiple brands, official insiders in the most exclusive squad on earth (#BalmainArmy), and the catalysts behind the rise in social media profile of many designers. You can’t scroll through your Instagram feed or browse the Internet without running into one of their many campaigns. The combination of society’s obsession with them, coupled with their ubiquitous presence, prompts the questions: What exactly is an “It” girl? Where did the term come from? How is “It” status achieved?
The “It” girl is a relatively recent invention on the scale of humanity, with the first known reference to the term made in the 1927 film It starring silent film actor Clara Bow. Elinor Glyn, who wrote the screenplay for It, stated the definition in simple terms, “With ‘It,’ you win all men if you are a woman and all women if you are a man. ‘It’ can be a quality of the mind as well as a physical attraction.” Our attempt at trying to define an “It” girl is ironic given that she is inherently indefinable, imbued with a nameless sort of magnetism or je ne sais quoi that draws people to her presence. To put it simply, an “It” girl is someone that “everyone” wants to be.
To put it simply, an “It” girl is someone that “everyone” wants to be.
The difference between the “It” girls of today and yesteryear mainly comes down to social status. In the 1960s, Twiggy earned the label because of her singular look: she was all doe-eyes and sharp angles; alluring but innocent at the same time. Twiggy came from humble beginnings, and was discovered at the age of 16 due to a very fabulous haircut. While throughout history, you’ll find many “It” girls who grew up as socialites, or who had rich and famous parents, there are still plenty of rags-to-riches examples that confirm there is still a chance for someone who comes from nothing to achieve “It” status based off of little more than their ineffable charm, poise, and sense of style.
Circumstances are radically different in the 21st century. There are little to no “started from the bottom now we’re here” stories anymore. You’re either born into “It” or achieve “It” after a stint on reality television. While there are some ambitious young women who manage to rise through the fashion industry ranks with hard work and dedication, none have managed to usurp the presence that Gigi, Kendall, Cara, et al. are commanding. We are obsessed with them because they represent the top tier of things women want but rarely have access to: fame, beauty, youth, money, fantastic clothes, amazing travel opportunities, handsome beaus – the list goes on forever.
The “It” term has been tossed around so frequently and applied to so many – both deserving and undeserving – that it’s become a tangled mess to sort and define. A few short years ago, “It” girl was magazine terminology deployed by the lazy editor who wanted to easily and simply convey that the subject in question was beautiful, stylish, and effortlessly magnetic. This term has transmogrified rapidly, thanks to social media, and now represents a very select and elite crop of girls who have parlayed social status into careers. “It” girls of 2015 have their own makeup lines, their own books, their own apps, and a handy squad of fellow tastemakers that help them ratchet up the likes on Instagram any time they post a picture together. In 2015, “It” equals influence.
What’s brilliant about Gigi, Cara, Kendall, Joan Smalls, Martha Hunt, and all of the other enviable “It” girls of 2015 is that they have turned their status into multi-million dollar jobs, which is an extremely shrewd approach to the whole pop culture circus if you ask us. While we’re on the subject, we think it would be a much better idea to stop carelessly tossing around the term – “business mogul” is a much more fitting term, don’t you think?