Was Re: Skinny Jeans

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“Every semester that I teach my underground music course, I ask my students what they think the word ‘indie’ means, and somebody inevitably gives the same answer: skinny pants.

I want to come clean here and tell everyone that I have never worn skinny pants; they look awful on me. But the answer is telling. The idea of skinny pants as a signifier may be what leather jackets were in the eighties or tattoos in the early nineties.

These trappings had previously been a signal from one member of the indie subculture to another that we were alike, that we’d have something to talk about, and, most important, that we might be able to help one another out with a place to play a gig, crash, or make art.

Once these kinds of signifiers cross over into the mainstream, that context is lost, and my students, being as media savvy as they are, know that skinny pants are not a signal of being tuned in but of being sold to.”

From the preface to Kaya Oakes’s fantastic book, Slanted and Enchanted: The Evolution of Indie Culture. She continues…

They’ve been sold indie not as a philosophy but as a genre, and thus they are logically cynical about it. It’s an interesting moment. Indie is a backlash, and when there’s a backlash against indie there has to be some sort of reinvention.

For the record, I’ve never worn them either (for the same reason), but I am guilty of sporting Threadless tees on a regular basis (I just love ’em)!

This paragraph near the end of the preface really caught my attention:

Indie is not just about DIY, though DIY remains its central tenet. It’s about serving your community, self-actualization via creativity, and it’s about empowerment, all of which occur as a result of DIY. None of this book would be possible without the examples put forth by the people who passed that idea down to my generation, nor would I be able to write without the examples of the people who are reinventing indie today.

Stirring (and accurate) words.

By the way, Oakes is also a  poet, and when I bought her book Telegraph a couple years ago, I had no idea she was working on something this ambitious.

So I guess that means I was a fan before she was big.

So there!


Jeremy Hatch is a writer, musician, and professional bookseller leading a cheerful, aimless life in San Francisco. He is the Junior Literary Editor of the Rumpus and has a blog which he updates once in a while. More from this author →