What Does It Mean to Be Dressing Tacky?

The word tacky is used to describe things that are considered cheap, flashy, gaudy, or otherwise overly obnoxious. When used to describe the way a person dresses, it generally means the clothes that person is wearing are so lacking in style that they draw attention to themselves.

Tacky products usually combine bold features, colors or designs with inexpensive production. Clothes that are considered tacky fail to follow the expectations of fashionable daily wear and are often ostentatious. Tackiness is often associated with poor taste or a lack of class. In addition, tackiness can be applied to people and is used to describe when someone makes a rude statement or blatantly flaunts expected social norms.

The term has long been used with an intention of demeaning or insulting the target. The word originated in the 1880s, deriving from the earlier term, tackey, used to describe an ill-fed or neglected horse. Coined in the southern United States by the wealthier upper class, the term was used to describe people without an extensive family tree or lineage of wealth. Those individuals or families that had recently become wealthy but lacked the instincts or upbringing to follow the upper-class social norms would be described as tackies.