I'm about a month away from my second non-consecutive term as the parent of teenagers. As a result, I'm once again catching up with youth culture through osmosis, as it's impossible to avoid the tastes when you're in close proximity. (I REALLY got caught up during that long drive to and from Florida last summer.)
The nostalgia curve, such as it is, runs roughly two decades behind. Do you want to know what age group an ad is targeted at? Take the year of the song, subtract 20, and that's the birth year of the target audience give or take five years either way. That investment firm using "Human" by the Human League? 1986, right at my age group. This explains the Everly Brothers in a denture cream ad and the simplified senior cell phones called the Jitterbug. Whatever was cool when you were 20 is what you will always think is cool.
The next generation then adopts the fashion with irony - the Happy Days fad of the 1970s, faux hippies in the late 80s. I slammed head on into this mid-last decade when my then-teen daughter (born '89) played me Bowling For Soup's "1985,"a direct shot at my college years and my stage in life:
Now it's happened again. My tween almost teen (not till March but he's already rounding up) has introduced me to a new song - the current number one hit, actually. But this time I don't feel mocked - I feel celebrated.
Our chart topper is "Thrift Shop," performed by - this is the actual artist credit - Macklemore & Ryan Lewis Featuring Wanz The Heist. Featuring is on most hits these days, but never puts out his own songs. When we finally get that album by Featuring it'll be the biggest hit ever.
"Thrift Shop" has got a few NSFW words, but without Tipper Gore's help I listened myself. The song is about, can you believe it, getting the coolest and most unique clothes at the secondhand store when there's only "20 dollars in my pocket." (Bonus retro points for the DeLorean in the video. 1.21 jigawatts!)
Savin' my money and I'm hella happy that's a bargain, bitch
I'ma take your grandpa's style, I'ma take your grandpa's style,
No for real - ask your grandpa - can I have his hand-me-downs? (Thank you)
Velour jumpsuit and some house slippers
Dookie brown leather jacket that I found diggin'
I'm digging, I'm digging, I'm searching right through that luggage
One man's trash, that's another man's come-up
Thank your granddad for donating that plaid button-up shirt
'Cause right now I'm up in her stunting
I'm at the Goodwill, you can find me in the (Uptons)
I'm not, I'm not sick of searchin' in that section (Uptons)
And some harsh words for bought-new designer label clothes:
Fifty dollars for a T-shirt - that's just some ignorant bitch (shit)
I call that getting swindled and pimped (shit)
I call that getting tricked by a business
That shirt's hella dough
And having the same one as six other people in this club is a hella don't
Thrift store shopping for grandpa-style clothes? And it's cool? I've been doing that for close to 30 years. I remember a certain song* about fining a hat at a secondhand store, in fact. (Yes, that's actually where I got it.) And while my tastes (and my hairline) may not fit in at the club, this granddad can't help but feel just a little bit cooler.
I have to be very careful not to tell the boys, or the concept will lose all coolness. However, we reserve the right to remind them of this song when it's back to school clothes shopping time.
* The Warren Zevon cover version; Prince is the most internet-unfriendly artist on the planet.