Recently, when a nice hipster girl heard me ask a stupidly lame question about how a record player needle works, she asked me with surprise “Do you not own a record player?”, as though it was a more essential thing to own than two functioning lungs. My initial response was “Fuck off, do you own two cans tied together with a piece of string? No, you have an iPhone”, but that was much too rude to say to a nice hipster girl who asked me an innocent question. So instead we discussed how cool record players are (which I know they are, despite the fact that I don’t own one, because they make a unique, inimitable sound that you don’t get with modern technology. As does a string-can phone...) and I wished very much that I had one, and even more that I WAS a nice hipster girl who knew that a record player is just something one should have, and not my daggy self who still owns a Discman with anti-skip function and heaps of tapes but no tape player. And once again I was forced to grudgingly acknowledge the glaring truth, as I have had to so many times over the past two and a half decades.
I am, and always have been, just the wrong amount of cool.
You see, this is how it works:
Cool People – Those who are always in the right fashion, at the right bars, with the right technology (or old ironic versions of it), listening to music so up-to-date that they are Facebook-ing about a song on Spotify before the artist has even written it. If you don’t understand that sentence, you can’t be in this group.
Uncool People – Those who have no idea what ‘Spotify’, ‘Snapchat’, ‘Espresso Martini’ or ‘Fashionably Late’ mean. And generally have no idea/concern for what is considered cool. But not in an ironic I’m-too-hip-to-care-because-I’m-so-effortlessly-cool way. In a lame I-genuinely-don’t-know-because-I’m-busy-with-World-of-Warcraft-and-soup way.
Me – A fairly good recognition of what is cool, but consistently unable to pull it off.
And just to complicate shit further, today’s cool kids have thrown a spanner in the works by suddenly making all this traditionally uncool stuff cool, like knitting and chess and regrowth. So now, some lucky folk are so naturally uncool that they come full circle and are suddenly considered cool, because of their impressive knowledge of 1980’s video games and range of argyle socks. I call them the ‘Accidentally Cool People’. And then there are the ones who work too hard to be cool, and their hysterical obsession of current trends negates the all-important effortlessness of being cool. They are known as ‘Try-Hards’ (think of the dude from ‘Pretty Fly For A White Guy’). From all my run-ins with nice hipster girls, I have finally understood that I am (along with many other people, surely) somewhere between all of the categories. I don’t care enough to be a Try-Hard, I don’t know enough MarioKart cheats to be Accidentally Cool. I am just the wrong amount of cool, because I’m definitely not cool enough to be considered Cool, but I fluke it just often enough to be cooler than Uncool. Get it?
|Nerds Vs Hipsters: Cool People blurring the lines but still excluding me.|
The thing is, I've never really been good at trends. No, actually, that’s a lie. I’m good at trends, I’m just really bad at timing. I’m either a few years too early, or a few years too late. I was shopping at Salvos when I was 12, because I was buying singlets to make me look like the cool kids in Roxy and Stussy clothes, but I was saving my hard-earned pocket money for my rock collection. For real. Though I prefer the term ‘Precious Gem Collection’ (which a decade later is still worth zero dollars, despite all my purchases at National Geographic and childhood hours spent trawling the beach). Shopping at Salvos* is now cool, and for all I know so is rock-collecting (again, PGC sounds cooler). But they sure as hell weren't cool when I was doing it in secret.
I remember about 7 years ago dressing in all my baggiest clothes with slouchy boots and putting all my hair on one side, and thinking emphatically ‘Wow, I look cool’. And I walked out of my room, and my housemate said ‘Wow, you look... cool’. The same thought that I had had, but it was clear by her pause that she meant ‘Wow, you look.... weird’. She was right, I did look weird, because ‘over-sizing’ wasn't around yet – a current fashion that means skinny girls wear baggy jumpers and jeans with big loose bangles and look heartbreakingly cool (and even skinnier). Turned out I was bit early on this fashion, which you think would’ve got me a bit of street cred... but it only got me weird looks from my housemate. (In her defense, I did look fucking weird!)
Years before the maxi skirt came in style, I bought and wore a floor length skirt until someone told me I looked like Ol’ Mother Hubbard. That’s because the only floor length skirt I could find in shops was a maroon number with a gathering of material at the back that resembled a bustle. Although the maxi skirt is now in (Is it? At least it has been in the last few years at some point), I can’t imagine my disastrous early version of it is. But I still have it just in case. I also beat the boat and got left to drown with onesies. I remember a discussion with my awesome dance teacher about a decade ago about how much we secretly wished someone made onesies for adults. Because it was not a concept that existed, I had the grand idea of lying on a piece of folded polar fleece, asking my sister to draw around me, and then I’d cut and sew the two halves together to make a fabulous for-my-eyes-only onesie. My sister kindly pointed out to me - as I lay on the material, starfished and ready to be outlined - that my garment would be fairly uncomfortable and I wouldn’t have the room to lift my arms or sit down properly. Ten years later, I still don’t own one, but not because I can’t find one in stores.... because they are so damn popular that I can’t afford one.
I’ve used the few examples I have of being ahead of the times, in the hope that it is making me sound like some kind of accidental fashion icon (If you are thinking that, I like you especially. But I guarantee you that all above cases left me looking like a massive dweeb instead of an unappreciated legend). So for the sake of balance, I will give you the less flattering examples of me missing the point like a blunt pencil.
- I have just started drinking coffee, so that I can order a skinny latte like the cool kids always have. Except just as I am jumping up on this bandwagon, it has driven off and started ordering pots of green tea.
- For an embarrassingly long time, I thought it was the ‘Hot Red Chili Peppers’... and I still occasionally get it wrong.
- Up until this year, I had MySpace.
- I bought The Sims Livin’ Large last year, 13 years late.
- I try to take cool, hippy, old-fashioned photos of leaves and raindrops, but they are always out of focus (How and why is this generation of Cool People so fucking good at photography?! I use Instagram too, but I always look like a posing phony rather than a bohemian flower-power love-child of the world...).
- I had my first ever Pho on Monday. Apparently, Pho has been 'in' for two years.
- When I’m in a situation where I have to use my own iPod to play DJ (like on a roadtrip), I always choose the same playlist from a mixed CD that was given to me by someone with cool taste... because all I have on my iPod is Michael Buble and hits of the 90s. (It works until someone asks ‘who sings this?’ ...and I change the subject.)
- I used to think that smiling showing all of my teeth was really flattering. ALL of my teeth.
- I faint when I get overexcited.
- On more than one occasion, I have been trying to pose leaning on a bar like a sexy cool girl, and my Nanna tissue** has fallen out of my bra.
- I’d still kind of like to get a Pandora bracelet.
- Or maybe a Nomination bracelet.
And apparently, most damagingly...
- I DON’T OWN A RECORD PLAYER.
I don’t think I’ll ever be able to keep track of whether crocheting is now cool or sad, if elbow patches make me a dork or a stylist, if that hat means that guy is hipster or homeless, and whether I should have modern technology or a phone with Snake and an aerial. I just don’t know. But you can bet your sweet bottom dollar, I’m going to be here, in my floor-length skirt with my Nanna tissue showing, jumping towards the bandwagon, and missing it by a record-player needle.
Ol’ Mother Hubbard, over and out.
*More on this touchy subject of op-shopping another time – mainly, screw you hipsters for making it too trendy for me to be able to afford it anymore.
**Nanna tissue – a tissue kept tucked inside the top of my bra on a daily basis for emergencies. Cool emergencies only, of course...
By Lucy Gransbury. Follow her on Twitter @LucyGransbury. Or follow her in real life. She's probably at Salvo's.