September 5, 2002

The Rant

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Strolling through Urban Outfitters one has to wonder why a ratty couch that looks like it just came out of somebody’s garage is priced at a brain-numbing $3,000. Granted, that’s reasonable for a nice couch. Of course, this presumes that a) it is, in fact, a nice couch and b) you’re not a college student.

Moving through the housewares department you might also notice that, apparently, Tiki-ware is back as are Decco ashtrays and lengths of multi-purpose printed fabrics (read: sheets that you can tack to your wall, use as a window dressing, or — surprise! — use as a bedspread). You feel slightly bothered, but for no discernable reason … it’s not the colors that get you, not the style. You tell yourself trends go in cycles so it’s only natural that the clothing and housewares your parents once cherished are back with a millennial spin.

And then, as you fondle a precious paper lantern you realize that it’s not the revival that has you upset, but rather the exorbitant prices. As you set the lantern down, you decide that it isn’t really the home that makes the man (or woman), but as the old adage says, it’s the clothes. That said, you move on to the duds.

But whether it’s Urban Outfitters, American Eagle Outfitters, or Abercrombie & Fitch, you’re bound to run across a phenomenon that hasn’t been witnessed since one of our country’s most terrifying historic periods — the mid ’80s. Complete with denim jackets and intentionally ripped jeans, all of the above retailers are guilty of marketing shoddy clothing to the public. What’s worse is that the current market calls for such atrocities. I will say this for the ’80s, however. At least back then you could pay a ridiculous amount of money for some light blue Levis, cut them up yourself, toss on a little bleach, and call it a day.

Modern retailers have taken your hands out of such handiwork and done the grunt work for you. Now, you can get that “I just got this at the Salvation Army” look for an 800% markup. Not a bad deal, right? Why actually go to a grubby thrift store when you can get the look for significantly more?

So, with your head down and your poor wallet not nearly full enough to pick up those classic Adidas, you head for the door empty handed. And then it catches your eye, a bright red baseball tee that boldly proclaims “ANTI.” across the chest. “That is so Alt,” you think to yourself as you remember that your parent’s credit card is tucked away in your back pocket, “For Emergencies.”

“What qualifies as an emergency if this doesn’t?” you ask. Here you have the chance to proclaim your disdain for bad music, bad television, bad fatty fast food places, bad pollution and global warming, bad movies or books or concerts. Here, within this single shirt lies the power to proclaim your individual take on the vapid mass of peons surrounding you.

You feel that internal void slowly filling up with personal satisfaction as you imagine your peers seeing you in the street, your chest blazing your new monicker: ANTI. (note the finality of the period). You’re no longer ‘alt’. Wave goodbye to your ‘indie’ phase. You are deep and contrary. How interesting you are.

As you return to your pit of an apartment (a “studio”) you prepare to bask in the glory of an underappreciated East European filmmaker while wearing your new shirt. If only you had a couch.

Archived article by Nate Brown