Life & Death & Capitalism

If you shop therefore you are, what does it mean when the things by which you define yourself have become ubiquitous, everywhere, not-you?

The age old American question, the conundrum of attempting to survive and thrive in a capitalist nation. It sucks. It’s that thing where you love something, where you adopt an item, only to see it rise in the trend world to make it look like you are actively choosing to be like everyone else. It’s as if everyone around you became your little brother, copying your style: the situation starts as cute and flattering but eventually burns as you realize that you participated in cultural character development.

This feeling is exhausting. We may not think about this since it is a very tiny type of exhaustion but having to use shit you pay for that other people made to define yourself is draining. That’s what it is to be American though – and it’s really, really dumb.

That’s the primary reason why I’m trying my best to not buy anything new this year, particularly new clothing and new home goods. By seeking out vintage things, by searching and being more thoughtful about how I “consume,” I’m making a conscious effort to break out of the boxes that this political economic model has offered us. Plus! We have enough shit in this world. Why the fuck do we need to keep creating new stuff? Consumerism ends when you stop consuming.

Anyway, I had a really giant “Pour one out.” moment yesterday while poking around the internet. “Why Can’t I Walk 5 Blocks Without Seeing a Carhartt Beanie?” was the story and it made me feel terrible.

Carhartt was a workwear company founded in 1889 in Michigan for railroad workers and blue-collar manual laborers. It’s rise to the city streets and street-style cool seems like an unlikely turn.


Things really started to spike about three years ago, says Tony Ambroza, Carhartt’s chief brand officer, when skate culture began its march into the mainstream. WIP, with its historical European skater associations, moved on up with it. As streetwear made its way to the runway, the brands that have operated around it got a second wind, too.

Sigh. It’s sad. I was recently in Portland and everyone was wearing Carhartt beanies. I felt like I was everyone, a multiplicity of mirrors. I felt gross. Not that it’s about being first (“first”) but it’s about being special, different, one-of-a-kind. That is fashion to me. That’s style. When you see yourself everywhere, your style – Your identity! – has been robbed. You and the thing have culturally habituated vanished. The sheen has been buffed out.

It doesn’t really matter but I love this hat. I have worn it for years, a vestige of the past, of my short-shorts, wearing tank top donning, boots and beanie loving grandfather. Moreover, it’s a folding of personal past and present from living my late teens in Georgia, where bros wore the hat to go hunting paired with finding fashion in something so cheap, something that I literally bought at hardware stores. The hat wasn’t to be cool or at least not cool in the skater adjacent street style sense it is now: it was to mock the white, young Republican teens I grew up with while tipping the hat to old grandpa. My appropriating the hat in my queer ensembles was always making them the butt of a sartorial joke. Now the joke doesn’t exist since the hat is everywhere.

It’s not surprising but it is disappointing. This keeps happening and happening, where authenticity – real or not – disappears in your hands. Love La Croix? Seeya. Rosé? Bye. I didn’t invent these things, no, but they get so tied into an identity that their loss to mass culture seems like robbery.

Such is life. Such is trying to differentiate yourself. Such is cultural appropriation, be it stealing from a minority ethnic group or the working class.

As I pour many Kroger brand sparkling waters out as I opt for Goodwill beanies, I leave you with the comment of pamb456, whose note at the bottom of “”Why Can’t I Walk 5 Blocks” story summed up my frustrations. Thank you, pamb.

One of the few times this Midwesterner yucks it up at the hipsters in Manhattan is when they decide the average stuff we’ve been using for years is hip and trendy.

First it was LaCroix, which we’ve been drinking for years. The flavors are great, but really? Try Polar water next, they have great flavors too.

Now it’s Carhartt beanies. My husband got them for my kids at the Farm and Fleet (I know, a cliche, but they were there looking for heavy duty gloves anyway, so…) a few years ago and they are the definition of basic. Not particularly warm, but they are cheap!

Photo via.

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