‘We’re just heating up’: How Hot Girl Summer became Sad Girl Fall

Megan Thee Stallion’s anthem of carefree confidence has transitioned into a mantra for any season

How was your summer? Your Hot Girl Summer, I mean. Hopefully as Megan Thee Stallion intended when she coined the term, it was breezily unselfconscious, body positive, full of outdoor drinking sessions and fun selfies. As the 24-year-old rapper posted on Twitter back in July: “Being a Hot Girl is about being unapologetically YOU, having fun, being confident, living YOUR truth, being the life of the party etc”. Now, as the nights close in, there is a sense of transition in the air. What comes next?

It was a question posited by Jimmy Fallon last week, when the Tonight Show host duetted with the rapper for a seasonal sequel, Hot Girl Fall. The answer? “I’m here to tell you that the weather may be getting cooler but we’re just heating up,” Megan explained, before listing the many ways in which you could bring the Hot Girl attitude to autumn (turtle necks, turkey, wine, new stationery, pumpkins, flu shots). Supporting this theory further was the long-awaited September drop of Megan Thee Stallion’s video for the original single. Hot Girl Summer ft Nicki Minaj and Ty Dolla $ign was first teased in a tweet in July, but we didn’t get to see Megan and Nicki’s pool-lounger twerking until 3 September, the traditional summer cut-off in the US.

Then Hustlers – surely Hot Girl Summer in celluloid form – didn’t come out until 10 days after that. The film features cameos from ultimate hotties Cardi B and Lizzo, but stars Jennifer Lopez and Constance Wu as scamming strippers, who use their wiles to keep the party going even after the markets crash in 2008; real hot girl shit, as Megan would say. Lopez – still an undeniable Hot Girl, at 50 – spends much of the movie in skimpy outfits that would fit right in at Nicki’n’Meg’s pool party. Notably, though, when taking rooftop ciggie breaks, she covers up with a floor-length chinchilla coat, large enough to also envelop stripper newbies like Wu’s character. That’s one way to keep a girl hot, even after the sun goes down.

For some, though, the onset of cold weather will always signal the start of Cuffing Season, that period from October to March when everyone wants a significant other to snuggle with. Luckily there’s a get-out clause for those guys, too: “If you are cuffed up, you can still have a hot girl summer,” Megan advised in a recent red-carpet interview. With one proviso: “But you still gotta be on your bullshit.”

If you’re happy with the general Hot Girl vibe, but require a seasonally appropriate title change, then the continuity candidate is “Thotumn”. It’s a pleasing portmanteau – autumn and “thot”, a reclaimed slang term for a woman who likes sex – that’s currently riding high on Instagram. If, however, you’re the sort of person who gets grumpy about seeing fairy lights in shops in November, that won’t do at all. You’ll need a distinctly new mood for the new month.

It might be simplest to start with what’s definitely not coming next. Like “Christian Girl Autumn”. This mini-meme was born on 10 August when a 19-year-old self-described troll from Long Island Google-image-searched the terms “cute church outfits” and “all scarf outfits”. He came up with a photograph of two perfectly coiffed white women posing side-by-side during a shopping trip and posted it along with a few red leaf emojis and the caption: “Hot Girl Summer is coming to an end, get ready for Christian Girl Autumn”.

When the replies took off – along the lines of: “This picture asked to speak to my manager” and, “This picture asked me not to kiss another man in public and if I could please leave the restaurant” – the tweet eventually got back to the photo’s real subjects. These were lifestyle bloggers Emily Gemma and Caitlin Covington, who objected to their depiction as clueless homophobes, but eventually got in on the joke, giving the story its happy ending. As Gemma told BuzzFeed: “I think people realised that not all white girls who love fall fashion and pumpkin spice are what we’re all categorised to look like.”

Then there is “Hot Boy Summer”. The equivalent of #AllLivesMatter or a Straight Pride parade, it is also therefore a hard “no”. Nah, nope, never gonna happen. Next! Not least because, as has been made clear by Tom Hanks in a sassily front-tied shirt or Tony Soprano on a lime-green lilo, men too enjoyed their Hot Girl Summer and have no need of a heavily gendered follow-up. The same goes for Soft Boi Autumn, suggested to coincide with Bon Iver’s 30 August album release date.

In terms of gender politics, Sad Girl Fall is a better shout. Elle magazine called it earlier this month, in a trend report characterised by sombre transition. We were informed that “skin-tight mini dresses have evolved into voluminous gowns, cycling shorts have morphed into slouchy suits and vibrant neons have dulled to dark hues.” Sad Girl Autumn makes sense, but it doesn’t exactly pop with positivity, does it?

What’s needed is not so much a pendulum swing as a stylistic shift. During a discussion of her future plans in mid-August, Megan Thee Stallion herself suggested Hot Nerd Fall, which, crucially, still has the word “hot” in it. “Everyone knows I’m still in college,” she told Access Hollywood. “It’s gonna be a real hot girl semester, you know what I’m saying? Real Hot Nerd Fall, so I’m just about to start puttin’ on for all my school girls.”

However, for Ashley Perna, a writer and comedian from Ontario, Canada, it’s the “hot” part that rankles. She’s been tweeting instead about Awkward Woman Autumn: “Nothing at all against hot girl summer,” she says. “But I definitely don’t always feel ‘hot’. Awkward Woman Autumn is about embracing what makes us unique style-wise while also being comfortable in our clothes … For example, I love the shape of my legs but not how pale they are. Autumn means tights, which is perfect for me!”

Some Hot Girl Summer follow-ups take the “hot” and run with it; others are all about the “girl”. Some embrace self-love, while others find “self-acceptance” a more obtainable seasonal goal. The important thing is that there is a decent selfie-posting excuse in there somewhere. Otherwise, what even is the point?

Which brings us to “Modern Non-Binary Slag Harvest Time”, a concept introduced by singer and musician Shy Charles in a September Instagram post. Charles envisages this as a time to “take your lover to a pumpkin field” then post a selfie “wearing warm autumnal hues”. Why “Modern”? “It is important to be as modern as you can, to really get the edge and participate in creating the culture of your own generation,” they explain. Why “Harvest Time”? “We all need to ground ourselves with an earthy vibe and also practise gratitude.” And the “Non-Binary Slag” part is self-evident: “Being neither man nor woman (or both), liking a good time and not caring who knows it; what’s not to love?!”

There’s only one thing, and that’s the fact that Hot Girl Summer has to end. We can accept the changing of the seasons, but it’s a shame if the Black Girl Magic and body positivity of summer 2019 are dismissed as passing trends. And if that seems a lot of analysis for a selfie hashtag, so be it. Overthinking things is very “Hot Nerd Fall”, y’know.

Contributor

Ellen E Jones

The GuardianTramp

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