The dictionary defines the term "basic" as "forming an essential foundation or starting point, fundamental." If you're talking chemistry, it could also describe a chemical that has the properties of a base, with a pH over 7.
However, in the context of societal norms and casual conversation, basic has taken on an entirely new meaning. It refers to someone, usually a girl or woman, that prefers to follow mainstream fashion, trends, and tastes. It's a pejorative term, more negatively connotated than any of the previous neutral definitions I described. No one really wants to be labeled "basic."
And yet, how can most of us escape this term when it very evidently indicates association to the mainstream. That automatically categorizes the vast majority of the population, the average American. After all, an idea can't become mainstream unless many people start following it, practicing it, preaching it.
Take halter bralettes, for instance. They were certainly all the hype in middle school, at least in my years. And now, they're canceled, because they're "basic."
It's likely that the term and its connotations developed out of a desire to be unique, stand out of the crowd. That's what many of us wish for, right? To be unique, quirky, if you will. We all want to be special, but we also want to fit in. "Look no further than the living room," says Nathan Dewall, a psychologist at the University of Kentucky. Social acceptance and rejection is part of every TV show, every movie, every scene of the nerdy high schooler getting rejected by the popular girl. And it reflects and strengthens our perceptions of society, how we think, act, and talk: all in order to stand with the crowd and feel a part of the world around us.
So the fact is, we're all somewhere on the spectrum between fitting in and being special. The two are evidently opposites; you have to stand out to be special, and blend in to fit in. And following mainstream trends are a combination of the two; a cool new beanie starts out as something special, then becomes mainstream, normal, "basic," when everyone starts doing it.
I guess, in a way, nothing remains special, and everything is basic at some point. But there is, of course, the opportunity for things that were once mainstream to come back in style. Take jeans, for instance. I KNOW in elementary school all anyone wore was skinny jeans, and look how "basic" they've become in favor of older styles, like baggy or boot-cut.
There's no way to really avoid being basic, and there's no way to be perpetually special. So, I guess, the best thing to do is just not care what anyone else has to say about what you do. And if they do decide to call you out, just tell them: "being basic forms an essential foundation or starting point. So thanks for the compliment, I guess; I'm fundamental to society."