Tuesday, August 26, 2003


I haven't been to mall in a long time. And if you're from New Jersey, which I am, that is akin to saying I haven't eaten in a few days. The urgency is not the same but the activity itself is that normal and regular. It's like people in New Jersey eat and when they don't, they go to the mall.

Well, the other day when I went to the home of the first hats-while-you-wait in Bergen County, I realized it actually had been too long since I wandered aimlessly (also called loitering) with my fellow mall rats. It seems that since I had been there last, a great deal of my white trash bretheren have developed a serious sense of style. Everything had changed. While it had always been easy for me to scoff at their sports jersey and baggy pants uniforms, their propensity to pick everything out 13 and a half size too big, this time it was different. The kids, as many today call the youth ranging from 12-26, have traded in their Roca Wear for some Mickey Mouse ringer T. They wear tight clothing, cool clothing. It's no longer a goal to look gangsta. Hell, in the mouse theme, some even wear Modest Mouse t-shirts or vintage day camp T-shirts. Where was I when this happened? Where was moi when the whigger moved out and was replaced by the hipster? Well, in New York City, actually.... but that's not the point. What is the point is that they all found out about vintage clothing, about wristbands, about ripped jeans and clothes that looked like that had been through a blackout or two. I mean, I've been wearing a wristband for two years and now I just look like a goddamn pathetic high school kid. How sad is this? And even worse, how snobby do I sound?

I began wondering: What is with the obsession for vintage clothing? Why is it that most in-the-knows and those that are even not-in-the-knows are clued in to the aesthetic that most downtown New Yorkers have been secretly adapting for almost 30 years? Is style much like real estate--does it get to a point where it’s pushed out to the neighboring cities?

One could argue that the desire to look "broken-in" is connected to a wanting to relive the past or at least, to just symbolize it. That the clothes are significant because they represent an existing of a past, that the person wearing it is not just "right now" but is also "has been" and "will be." The vintage clothing represents to those walking by that I went somewhere (most probably a thrift shop), I have been to a concert, I went on a roller coaster, etc. Meaning I have a story or two to tell you and you can tell this by just looking at the words across my shirt ("My Parents Went to Florida and All I Got..."). One could say the same is happening in music. The whole retro rock scene is just a bunch of musicians saying, with music, that we've been around. We know the old stuff, the good stuff, we've heard Elvis, the Ramones, the Nuggets boxset. This is a way of showing you something about us. What we're into. Lyrically, we'll even tell you some stories. Perhaps things were better back then. When this T-shirt was new. When this sound you're hearing was fresh.

Incidentally, this could also be why most don't create music for the future or for that matter, wear clothes that would be considered futuristic (have you seen someone in the mall all dressed in aluminum foil?). There's no emotional attachment to the future. No one is looking forward to the next minute unless you're going on vacation. But even if that's the case, looking back on a vacation is always nicer than being on it. Nostalgia is the market to that everyone wants to profit from.

But then if that theory is remotely accurate, how do you explain the recent influx of chain stores washing and rewashing their clothing to make them look old and used....? And furthermore, what about the lower age spectrum of the "kids" that don't really have that many memories yet? That are wearing false projections. You weren't there (Bob Seeger '78? No way. You're 14!) yet and chances are you will never have been there.

Hmmm, good question. Well, the first answer: chain stores respond to teens, not the other way around. They're always one Ritalin step behind. And they've discovered that the Kids have caught on to emo, punk, the vintage look, from their rock stars, thier new role models. It's a new world out there where black people listen to hip-hop and white kids listen to people whining. Indeed, the emperor has new clothes....well, actually, they're vintage. But anyway...This new supply-demand model technically answers the second question. Not to berate the suburban population (how often do you get to say that?) but malls create conformity--no shock there--and the masses shop in the malls, God bless them. Hell, I even found a store in the mall that I think has great, comfortable clothing. I'm psyched about it and I'll be back there often! As far as I'm concerned I plan on shopping at Hollister Co. (www.hollisterco.com) even if it means that I'll find some high school kid wearing the same T-shirt as me some day. And I'm sure I'll look at him and he'll look at me and we'll both wonder, what does he mean by wearing that T-shirt? He'll then think; is that "Santa Monica '82" T-shirt we're both wearing more accurate on him than it is on me? After all, I've never been to Santa Monica.....


Post a Comment

<< Home