Remember when Hot Topic was the place that freaks and goths took part in unabashed consumerism despite their obsession with nonconformity? I do, but I don’t blame them. That was when I was in high school and it was a really stupid, contradictory and hypocritical age. Just a part of growing up. I am now twenty-seven and the feeling never went away that “normal” kids didn’t shop there unless they had a binding contract with Barnum and Bailey. So a couple of years ago, when my “normal” 15-year-old cousin went into Hot Topic during a trip to the mall did I realize that, to modern teens, the store has become just another place to spend mommy’s (and by extension, daddy’s) money.
Skip ahead to last week. I’m walking through the mall when I pass Hot Topic as I’ve done before on several occasions. This time was different. Their new featured artist crossed the line, even for a non-consumer like me. Taylor Swift. Yep…that Taylor Swift. Right next to the Iron Maiden shirt and in front of the dog chains. Now, as I wrote earlier, I understand that Hot Topic was never a bastion of individualism. However, it at least offered something different. A girl could buy a tight, red, long-sleeved, midriff showing, make all my male teachers want to fuck me shirt at Old Navy, American Eagle, Holister, Aeropostale, Banana Republic, or Wal-Mart. But there was only one store where you could get a pair of rainbow-colored woolen gauntlets to match your bipolar disorder. And now that store is pushing Taylor Swift.
I feel sorry for kids these days. I really do. American culture is just one bland mechanism to squeeze every drop of individualism into the market share recipe. Is there any place left to express the natural need to be different?
Answer: Yes. Head shops.