Fashion’s Night Out is now in its fourth year–an annual night for residents of New York, LA, and other fashionable cities to get dressed up in sky-high heels and totter from retail outlet to retail outlet, pushing through hoards of similarly clad city dwellers attempting to partake in free cocktails and canapes. Stores host “celebrity” appearances — though it seems to be mostly reality TV stars and folks whose 15 minutes may have faded a few years ago. Overall, it’s a fun-filled chance to celebrate fashion and leave a huge mess behind for working-class folks to clean up.
Do I sound bitter and jaded about this “fun” and “fashionable” night of joyous revelry? I am. I am because this year, for Fashion’s Night Out, the PR team at Paul Frank in L.A. decided they would host an event called “Dream Catchin’ with Paul Frank” a “pow wow celebrating Fashion’s Night Out.” The Hollywood Reporter described the event as:
… a neon-Native American powwow theme. Glow-in-the-dark war-painted employees in feather headbands and bow and arrows invited guests to be photographed on a mini-runway holding prop tomahawks.
In the midst of her excellent takedown of Urban Outfitters’ “Navajo” appparel line, Sasha Houston Brown focused on one suspiciously-named piece of underwear:
I doubt that you consulted the Navajo Nation about using their tribal name on sophisticated items such as the “Navajo Hipster Panty”. In fact, I recently became aware that the Navajo Nation Attorney General sent your company a cease and desist letter regarding this very issue. I stand in solidarity with the Navajo Nation and ask that you not only cease and desist selling products falsely using the Navajo name, but that you also stop selling faux Indian apparel that objectifies all tribes.
Wednesday, Sasha passed along an update to the story from the Indian Country Today Media Network: a few days after UO spokesman Ed Looram said the company had “no plans to modify or discontinue any of these products,” the word Navajo has been completely scrubbed from its’ website.
Spends more time per week changing hairstyle than showering: ok, ew, sooo NOT check
With the exception of the final point, I qualify pretty solidly as a card-carrying member of hipsterdom (*though, according to Carmen, the first rule of being hipster is never admitting to being one*). I’m what one could call a “conscious hipster,” as oxymoronic as that sounds. I genuinely care about the world. I blog about race and gender, I recycle, I hold doors for the elderly. . . but I also devote a lot of time to fashion, music, and other facets of materialism on which I find worthy enough to throw money. Does that make me a bottomless pit of indifference? I think not.
Unfortunately, pop references to hipsters are never quite flattering and, to be honest, I think most of us “have it coming.” After reading the piece on Wes Anderson, and the responses thereafter, I began to wonder whether my pending defense of hipsters had a future in the metaphoric trash heap. Afterall, this site, among many others, has been nothing close to forgiving for hipsters’ behavioral faux-pas, including, but not limited to: political indifference (passed off as white liberalism), superficiality, aversion to personal hygiene, endorsement of the objectification of women under the guise of post-modern feminism, and an inexplicable hunger for overpriced clothing that looks as though it’s been bought, sold, and worn three times over.
And more than anything, perhaps as a means of highlighting their flaws while simultaneously skirting the risk of inciting the wrath of equal rights groups or the anti-racist blogger community (*wink wink*), they are portrayed as overwhelmingly white.
The problem that lies therein, however, is that in this attempt to criticize a group that is considered to be teeming with silent predators to developing neighborhoods by way of its voracious consumerism in the face of poverty and quasi-colonial gaze, the people of color who make up a sizeable portion of the hipster clans in major cities are swept under the rug, virtually ignored for the sake of ease. Given, it’s much easier to stereotype a group when they are all exactly alike, right? Yet once the idea of color or class or queerness ends up in the mix, the critics get a little vertiginous, as their previously asserted sweeping generalizations may end up pulling them into a vortex of inaccuracy.
I decided to do a little impromptu research into the history of people of color in the United States who would probably be considered hipsters, at least if they were somehow superimposed over a backdrop of post-millennial modernity. I thought of Pachucos (more on them in a sec), people of color who were members of the beat generation, the followers of and participants in rock in its earliest (predominately black) stages, and even my mother, who identified as a “hippie” during her college years (and sometimes still does, though, nowadays, more as an optional fashion statement as opposed to an indication of political voice). Long story short, they’ve been out there for quite some time— people of color trickling back into the movements to which they gave birth, later to be co-opted by whites, and vice versa, and it’s still very much the case today. One particular “hipster” cultural movement, if you will, is one for which I have yet to find a name. Read the Post A Case for Hipsters (of color)?