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Don't be cool

..or at least know that trying to be almost always fails



Call it circular logic. I have this fascination with newspaper inserts--advertising inserts. I read them, much to my wife's chagrin, with great interest each Sunday and I try to stay up on the big pre-weekend sales flyers as well. It's not that I'm going shopping, it's just that I'm trying to understand earthlings--and Americans in particular.

And do these circulars ever have a lot to share. I can tell from Dick's Sporting Goods when I'm supposed to be golfing or fishing or sitting in a tree stand. Each January, just after the holidays, exercise equipment dominates the covers of J.C. Penney, Sears and all the biggies just as tacky sweaters were the it item a month earlier. You have to remember that the ad people have numbers--some of the best to be had--telling them how to time product to your demand. One morbid case in point: After coverage of the Terri Schiavo case went wall to wall, electronics and computer stores added living will software to their circulars' featured titles.

Right now the whole Back to School trend is dying down, and along with it some of my bloody outrage at what I've seen.

Yeah, yeah, boho is cool (when is it not?) but that's not what's buggin me. It's the T-shirts, more specifically the so-called message shirts for your teens and tweens. Some are just violent (Sears' "Trample the Weak, Hurdle the Dead" from the Aggressive by Nature collection), some are just a little disturbing ("Soldiers Are So HOT" is available only in juniors), but most are just stupid--or, rather, for people who want to come across as such along with ignorant, selfish and overly dramatic. Of course, if that ain't America right now, you ain't been watching FOX.

Question: What kind of message is a parent sending if they buy their kid a shirt that reads "I know a kid who knows a kid on the honor roll" or "born to shop, forced to study"?

Answer: Ha, ha, ha, son or daughter. We think you suck.

If you think I'm screening out the positive messages (I'm not sure "princess" and "angel" are always meant as positive; I know "drama queen" isn't), take a spin through the racks or visit some of the keen online displays for major department stores. Here's what you'll see: a lot of made-up sports team names, a lot of who-cares-I-got-bling themes, and a lot of slightly faded vintage band shirts. It's the band shirts that really boilt my blood. Not that Floyd or the Stones or AC/DC aren't cool, but think of those poor kids showing up for class in a Stones shirt. The other kids are not gonna be like: "Dude, that's a vintage Sticky Fingers tour shirt! You are so with it." No, they're going to be like: "Dude, your Mom got you that at Wal-Mart."

Bad for the kid, bad for the Stones.

But you've got to wear something to school--even in Chapel Hill. Here's where the Indy can help. I'm no fashion maven, but over the years, I've seen some pretty stylin' local band Ts. They won't cost you a lot--rarely more than $15--and you're not going to see everyone else in one.

So where do ya get 'em?

Shows, of course, but other than local music stores, there are few shops that carry local Ts. One exception is Roulette, a little boutique above the Friendly Barber in the 100 block of East Main Street in Carrboro. Owners Kara Lafleur, Alyssa Keziah and Rebecca Moore, who recently bought the place when former owner Kate Talley moved to Texas, have been doing a surprisingly brisk trade in band shirts. Names like North Elementary, Pawnshop Ruby, Work Clothes and My Dear Ella are in stock but are moving fast, Moore says. (Other designers and bands are getting the word and more stock is on the way, she adds.)

And in an odd twist, the T-shirts are driving CD sales--at least a bit. The store keeps some of the artists' CDs in stock as well as the shirts. "People will get the shirt and then pick up the CD," LaFleur says.

Now that's cool.

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