The Gaudy

My friend was, to say, always a peculiar individual. He was born with a lazy eye, his pupil and iris tilted asymmetrically towards his nose; he was nearly legally blind and wore bifocal glasses as thick as a children’s paperback. He was a wrestler, a peculiarity all its own; he tucked his sweats into his socks and spit in bottles and paraded around swollen ears. And when he got older, he adapted and evolved. He started wearing capris regularly, and hand-painted Toms, and was working on a man-bun before he up and shaved his head entirely. He wore tiger-striped, horn-rimmed glasses, which, much to my dismay and amusement, appeared to be relatively in style among a crowd other than my grandma and her bridge ladies. For a brief period, there was even a rumor that he was eyeing to try to make fanny packs cool (to date, I know nobody who wears a fanny pack or thinks that fanny packs are cool. To clarify: no, they are not.) His style was god-awful, gaudy and irritatingly eye-catching for its rampant deviancy.

He was a hipster. He made the concerted effort to look socially deviant, just for the pure fact that it was socially deviant. Like so many other so-and-so hipsters, who knew that band before they were properly ***that*** band, he just came off as, well, ***that*** guy. I despised his sense of style and oftentimes caught myself rolling my eyes when he’d wear short shorts just because. But, then again, in an equally peculiar sense, I related to him. In my own way, I too desperately fought against social tides. There was a sort of counter-culture that was widely appealing for its individuality of thought. Groupthink was not cool. Being like anybody else was not cool. Thinking like anybody else was not cool. But to think like a hipster felt, in a lot of ways, like it was.

In fact, much of music in the United States, and all its correlating, widespread effects on humanity, was controlled, in a sense, by the same sort of fanny-pack thinking. Blues morphed into the basis of rock and roll in the 1940s, the first wave of youth culture rallied behind the likes of artists like Frank Sinatra. In response, anti-rock hipsters launched trends of the first contemporary(ish) country music. In the 1960s, the popularity of the British Invasion — The Who, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones — gave rise to a youth counter culture that invented punk rock and heavy metal styles. The blatant need to be new and deviant led to a complex and diverse musical landscape, crossing styles and inventing new ones. Hip hop, rockabilly, Elvis Presley; hipster. It’s a watered-down history of musical culture, but in a sense it shows how nearly the entire ebb and flow of youth taste was the evolution of not wanting to be like everybody else.

It has a twisted sort of irony. Culture and fads and trends arise inevitably from the people who try so desperately hard to break those trends. It’s an interesting social enigma, a theory of pure chaos — whenever the bounds and confines of nature become too neatly organized, it all collapses again, a constant evolutionary game where culture feeds on itself and those who deliberately set the new trends. That peculiar little fellow with the gaudy fashion and horn-rimmed glasses scares me most, because he, a hipster of the nth degree, might be responsible for so much of popular culture. He and his compatriots, in a sense, get to steer the ship of social coolness in whatever abnormal and socially deviant direction it’s bound for next, fanny packs and all. Ultimately, though, that deviancy is a trait to be desired in and of itself.

Forming identity is one of the hardest things we as humans are demanded to do, and one the things we are allowed the most freedom in doing. We all want to be unique, buck the trends and the fads and hate the The Beatles because everyone else likes them so much. Er, maybe not that last one, but choosing an identity means getting to pick and choose the parts of the world that we find appealing and make them our own. So of course the things to pick are the things that no one else is picking. It’s what makes vinyl popular again (a trend, I admit, I find rather refreshing), and more importantly, the innate, passionate, fiery human desire to be a unique individual with style all your own, well, it makes you you. Besides, groupthink is a poison more than gaudy fashion ever was.

So, perhaps you don’t wear a fanny pack (for the love of all things good and holy, do not wear a fanny pack), but maybe, at the very least, you can bore some gaudy thinking and create an idea for yourself that really is all your own.