Here's a little secret that may completely destroy your image of me as a hip, young, and dare I say sexy pop-culture provocateur: I'm old.
And I always have been.
My own personal curse and blessing in this world (leaving out the 48-inch vertical leap and mad rhyming skillz) is that all my life I've looked young and thought old. This isn't a huge thing, like being rich or the ability to remember to floss every night, and it doesn't impact my life directly.
All I'm saying is that somewhere in someone's attic there's a picture of me in one of those stocky fedoras, a Paramore tour T-shirt, sporting a sweet tattoo that says "Smug Life," and you can't tell but there's two tickets to a 3D showing of Twilight: Maybe That Pale Guy Dies in my back pocket.
Looking young means I can get away with wearing what I want. Thinking old means my brain won't let me, because I know how old I am, and I have no interest in being a Trend Killa (despite the fact I just used the word "killa," but that's just an ironic device that I like to think helps Fonzie over the shark).
Stay thirsty, my friends.
My own fashion and pop-culture sense is personal, unique, and simple, defined by nothing more than the occasional getting-over-of-myself when I think I'm about to look stupid. For example, the opening of this column is a perfect manifestation of that sense. There are at least three slapable moments in these first few paragraphs.
But I'm over myself, and I'm going to get slappier.
This jeans-and-T-shirts, Episodes-IV-and-V-and-maybe-VI, earring-holes-are-forever, dude-and-awesome lifestyle that I've meticulously maintained allows me to act as an independent observer, a control, if you will, for trendspotting.
Trends, especially fashion, are fickle and can be killed in the blink of an eye, taking all their followers down with them, at least until they can be told what to put on, in, and around their bodies by whatever authority is currently guiding them. Live by Hot Topic, die by Hot Topic (which reminds me, Southpark as uneven as it is, is still the reigning trend serial murderer).
I know. This is frightening. It's that feeling you get five minutes after dropping a wad of cash on an HD-DVD player, a Smart car, a Palm Pre, or Paris Hilton -- stinging buyer's remorse that makes you wish you had that subscription to Consumer Reports that you're always talking about but just can't bring yourself to buy because they should make it free online like everything else.
But there is a way to determine what's about to be next year's men's blouse-cut dress shirt. There are two places where trends obviously go to die.
I'm talking about the strip and I'm talking about the nightlife. It should also be noted that Vegas is a representation of all of those pockets with pretend versions of real nightlife, the most egregious example of this (that I've ever seen anyway), are those nightclubs that are part of Walt Disneyworld. They're designed to be just like the hip, young, and dare I say sexy real nightclubs past and present. You may think, "Wow, this is what it must have felt like inside of Studio 54!"
It is not. And even if it was a brush stroke copy of the real thing, like coke spoons scattered around the cocktail tables, it still is not. This is because it's full of people who were, not four hours ago, wondering if Splash Mountain was a little too aggressive an experience.
What happens in Vegas, usually bores the crap out of the people you're not supposed to be retelling it to.
But trendkilling in Vegas is a little hard to spot because there is some actual trendsetting going on. In fact, Vegas is where I saw my favorite T-shirt ever: "Ask Me About My Explosive Diarrhea!" Which, by the way, I am young enough to love but old enough to know I could never wear.
Anyway, any place people come from all over the world for the nightlife, you'll find those two distinct points that make a cool line, which makes a trend. The problem is when you start to see a dozen, thirty, a hundred points, which makes a cluster. And there's just something about the nightlife in Vegas. Anywhere else you'd see one or two too many people wearing the same thing. In Vegas, it's literally every 21 to 24-year-old.
Or one 50-year-old.
If this happens to you, immediately disrobe (it's Vegas) and go to one of those hole-in-the-wall souvenir/camera/liquor stores and buy the ugliest shirt you can find with the words LAS VEGAS on it. Boom. You're not fashionable, but at least you're ironic.
Like Vegas, when I say "The Beach," I'm referring to the beach mentality. This is any beach: South, Myrtle, Venice, whatever. And it could extend to include, I don't know, lakes in the Midwest or something, even though that's like the beach but with mountain people thrown in, which is the anti-thesis of trends. Trends for them include electricity and John Denver CDs.
I'm not bashing the Midwest, the dirty secret is most trends actually start there.
I'm taking a backhand swipe at all things Jimmy Buffet; that sort of laid back, margaritaville attitude that overtakes us all when we smell that first whiff of Panama Jack. I'm right there with you though, dude. When I get to the beach, I won't wear a shirt or deodorant for days. But that's the thing about it. It's the beach. We don't try.
Unlike Vegas, it's not so much the nightlife, but the shorelife, where you'll see the trends dying painful deaths. Go into any beach store, and along with the boogie boards and water wings, and knockoff Ray-Bans (yes!), you'll find bins filled with the recently deceased, be it an Obama beach towel or a "Michael Forever" airbrushed T-Shirt.
The beach is also primary outlet mall real estate, which is like a dead trend morgue.
Here's the rule of thumb for the beach. Anything that you know would be hip at home that you see at the beach with flip-flops, or maybe it has a beer gut hanging out of it, that item is on life support. If you happen to be sporting said item, again, disrobe immediately (it's the beach), and just continue drinking.
Look, I'm not saying I'm hip or you have to be. Just remember, if age is creeping up on you, be fashion Switzerland. In the end, you know you don't want to wear the short-sleeve dress shirt. Just make sure you're not caught wearing the shiny short-sleeve dress shirt.
Joe Procopio trades in pop culture and tech culture, allowing him to poke fun at so many things. He's written for a number of online and offline publications from the late, lamented Smug to the fancy-pants Chicago Tribune and also for television. He's a novelist, a shredder, a joker, and a family man. Scoff at joeprocopio.com or follow on Twitter @jproco.
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7.2.10 @ 2:31a
As Eddie Izzard once said: "On one side of the circle there's looking like a dick head, then you've got sort of average looking, then cool, cool, hip and groovy....looking like a dickhead! The cutting edge of "hip and groovy" is right at 'looking like a dickhead'."
candy green gustavson
7.2.10 @ 7:29a
humility: always remembering that you just might be looking like a dickhead to someone else?
7.2.10 @ 11:02a
I thought your grown-up suit in Vegas was quite stylin'.
Allison aced you, tho.
7.14.10 @ 9:04a
Fashion sense? I am not too sure you have any since over the last 10yrs of going to Vegas with you, there was always one night where you would wear the same dark sport coat, t-shirt, jeans and sneakers.
Change that previously mentioned t-shirt to a mock turtle neck and you would look just like Larry Ellison.