The Price of Being Hip

November 1st, 2006

By Chelsea Theis

I’ve never been as cool as I was in the sixth grade. Legging-clad, I strutted myself down the carpeted hallways jammin’ to my Walkman. I was so badass that I won three elections that year. Who cares if two of them were unopposed? I’ve never recaptured that essence I held so dearly to my heart that year, and it has taken me years to understand that maybe I’ll never get that back.

It is hard to believe I wasn’t socially massacred for my past faux pas decisions, but, living in a small, secluded town, I was fairly safe. We didn’t know what cell phones were, much less have service, or buy the newest, trendiest clothes, as the closest mall was an hour away. Growing up with simple circumstances, stories from the big cities trickled down to us about kids who cut off the leather “Calvin Klein” brand labels in stores to sew them onto their jeans that had no name brand to show. To us, this was weird. But to the kids in the city who resorted to stealing labels, this was just the price of being hip.

Although I have left behind my days of potential social embarrassment and I now actually own a cell phone (which I still can’t use when I’m at home), my past has enabled me to wear what I want. However, after spending a summer in California, I realize that if I want to get back that fire I had in sixth grade, my ways are all wrong. If I want to be hip, I can’t wear what I like; I must wear what is “in.” I must be at all the right places at all the right times and must always act seemingly disinterested. If I do my hair, it should be gracefully disheveled. No one can know it took me an hour to get it that way. Being cool isn’t just about brand names anymore— it’s a way of life.

With American consumers putting a record $2.2 trillion on credit cards last year, a sum larger than the entire Canadian economy, it’s quite apparent that being cool is getting expensive. It might also be that Canadians are just significantly less hip, but either way, being keenly aware of or knowledgeable of the latest trends isn’t enough anymore. To be fashionable and stylish, the best accessories must accompany an attitude.

Being cool isn’t just getting expensive and ridiculous, but also dangerous. In 2004, a 15-year-old boy was murdered in New York City by a 16-year-old for his iPod, which has been a poster item of cool since its release. An violent crime among teenagers in cities has increased over the past three years; high tech consumer products just don’t mesh well with the limited budget of teenage spending. It’s more affordable to just steal.
I became more educated on the subject of cool while living in LA, when I glanced over only to see my unemployed roommate counting out a wad of cash. She saw me staring at the green and knew I was silently inquiring how she managed to get all that money within legal boundaries. “I sold some clothes,” she said. I investigated further.

It turns turns out her friend had taken her to a thrift store on Melrose that pays five dollars for every item it takes. The store accepted only one item of her friend’s fifteen, while my roommate had sold all nine items she had brought to sell. She hadn’t expected them to accept anything, but, as it turns out, she’s cooler than she thought.

The next weekend we moseyed on down to the thrift store where she had sold her clothing. It was hardly a thrift store, with prices as high, if not higher, than regular clothing stores. We saw my roommate’s torn-up purple Converses sitting on the shoe shelf, in their more-than-used state. We flipped them over to see what they were going for: three dollars less than regular sale price. A salesman saw us with our mouths slightly agape and came over to see what item we couldn’t live without. When he discovered we were simply amazed at the scheme, he insisted that they were already broken-in, and therefore worth the price. My roommate grumbled that if she’d known she could have sold them for more, she would have worn them in a little more.

Again, I realized I wasn’t cool when when my roommates and a few of my fellow interns decided to go to a club. The club opened at 10, and if you arrived before 10:30 p.m., it was only five bucks to get in, but if you came after, it was $12. I innocently asked out loud why anyone would go later. My roommates, who know the world much better than I ever could, said, “Because Chelsea, that isn’t fucking cool.” I obviously wasn’t going to make it.

“Club Bang,” located on Hollywood Boulevard, asks their attendees to wear their trendiest outfit and look as “scene” as possible. If you’re lucky enough to be one of the best looking scenesters in the place, they’ll even take your picture and put it on the internet (ClubBang.net) so you can prove to all your friends that you deserve the title of cool. Needless to say, my picture wasn’t taken. But I did dance the night away with many emo boys that had side bangs (or aforementioned disheveled hair) and girls that tried to make it look like their pointy shoes weren’t a problem. I felt lucky. I paid seven dollars less than them, and my feet didn’t hurt at all.

Evidently, showing up at 10 and being the only people in the club didn’t turn out to be the worst thing in the world. Once all the hipsters wandered in, no one could tell we had been the vermin that showed up before (gasp) it was cool. But that’s the price of being hip. And it turns out, the price of being hip is not really that affordable for me right now. So watch out, because I’m looking for an iPod, and that means blood.

Chelsea Theis is a junior journalism major who has an extensive collection of worn-in sneakers. For retail inquiries email her at ctheis1[at]ithaca.edu.

Whaling Wall Matthew Farrell
Chow Feng Shui Josh Elmer
Stained Glass Ceiling Emily McNeill
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