Terms such as ‘way back when’ and ‘back in the day’ (or some iteration of one of those catchphrases) are usually thrown around when one feels nostalgic about how things used to be. They are usually thrown around in conversation today in a bid to recapture or evoke the past, but are somewhat hopeless to any contemporary cause. You see, more often than not, when it was, ‘way back then’, the magnitude of the cultural momentum wasn’t totally apparent to those faced with it anyway. It is only when looking back that the fondness appears. Indeed we don’t always recognise at the time when these collective waves start to roll, and the youth of the time starts to quake, but it is usually clear when they start to stop. And it is heartbreakingly clear when we wish that wave would come back.
In 1995, OJ was acquitted. The DVD was invented. TLC filed for bankruptcy. MJ released HIStory. Robbie quit Take That. The guy from that mega, one hit wonder, Blind Melon, OD’d. Sonic Youth released Washing Machine. There was still Bikini Kill. There was still Fugazi.
That year was about the opposite of being Iconic. It was about being Ironic. Hedonistic Status free. It was about the bellybutton. It was about the grind. Back then, the term Hipster wasn’t a breed of mediocre yuppies that lived in Williamsburg or hung out in Old Street and rode reclaimed vintage bikes. It was about how you’d tramp on them ‘til there were holes in them. How you’d grind in them. It was a time when the refusal to bow down to preordained status symbols was rife. It was about, fuck the cowboy killers, fuck status, fuck money, fuck the rich kids (even if you were one). Fuck that. Fuck royalty. Bring on smacked out utopian street ecstasy. Put your hands up in the air. It was about Drew Barrymore dancing naked on Letterman. It was a violent version of the American Dream Factory that brought you Courtney Love on a hot plate. Only a year prior Kurt had done it, on my birthday nonetheless. It was happening. In ‘95, Kate Moss didn’t have a voice. You didn’t have to hear about her riding her horse on the weekend at her parents’ estate in between modeling for Vogue, and how much she just loved being able to inspire young girls and wear skinny jeans. You didn’t have to hear how she liked to listen to some band like Mumford and Sons with whom she coincidentally had done her A levels. Indeed if you had to listen to that, you perhaps would have asked yourself, ‘inspire us about what, Kate?’ Minus the tweet stream, you just got to imagine that Kate was as cool as fuck and willing to throw it to the wind. And she probably was.
Bella is wearing a T-shirt she bought off Net-a-Porter and had Premier delivered to her mum’s place in Primrose Hill. It looks reminiscent of a vintage varsity top but cleverly says 71’ Gesquière, her favorite designer, in bold print on the back. She is eating a prawn sandwich while her iPhone charges on a mofi shaped in a caricature of Karl Lagerfeld’s face, which she thinks is hilarious, in a cheeky way. Bella tells me she considers herself “not a huge fashion fan”, no more than her friends, but likes it when fashion doesn’t take itself too seriously. She uses Instagram to keep up to date and get inspired and is one of Delevingne’s 2.1 million followers, for Cara’s wacky attitude to the Paps and the way she mashes up street swag with luxury. Currently she is listening to The XX on repeat in her car – a vintage Benz which she chose because it’s not new, new splashy but still feels like something special. When pressed to talk about what gets her going besides the above, she candidly describes her passion for vintage book jousting on the weekend, tea time as a must, Ketamine as her drug of choice and making homemade Pimms cups ‘low fi’ style on her roof with friends.
In ‘95, there was still mystery. It was happy hardcore or the last tail of grunge. It was Kim Gordon. It was MTV. Starbucks wasn’t yet pruning downtown and you drank your coffee black. The only models’ names you knew were Cindy and Naomi and Linda and what you knew of them was beauty spots and thighs that rolled. They didn’t go out with dudes from One Direction. They kicked it with Guns N’ Roses. They were proper women and they were rife.
Back home, at the time, we would all meet at Linfield station on the north line with rocket fuel in Poland Spring bottles and ride those stops looking for house parties to crash for some kid’s (sweet) 16th or 18th. Sometimes we’d make it out to the sticks of Homebush, where the Australian 2000 Olympics stadium eventually was erected, but prior to that it was frequented as a mash up for us lost teenagers wanting to nod out stadium style to happy hardcore. Showing your abdominals was imperative. It was all about that pop, slap, messy, colour explosion that got us. It was cut and sew. It was true trash. We wore Nike Huaraches or Adidas Sambas and would buy kids Disney T-shirts, which we would later cut in half to make them even smaller still. It was key to show your snail trail. It was key not to give a fuck. It was key to wear tearaways and Kappa jackets and we used to thrash in a skip-trip-hop-hammer style to Bam Bam Bam Alice, or however that track went. Part hybrid raver, part Pavement enthusiast. If we got a car it was a Mazda and we’d pay for it with some cheque from a hair-modeling gig one had done when streaking and layers were in. It was an attempt at the time of polemic generational paving, when Skittles were for dinner and everyone smoked these cigarettes called Holidays cos you could buy them in a pack of 100 for less than 8 bucks.
2013, New York.
Lizzie lives in Tribeca with her parents. She has a PS1 Proenza book bag, and wears Superga sneakers, now that the Olsen twins are the creative directors there. When we meet at her designated spot, Gemma on the Bowery, she ordered an egg white omelet and a mimosa. She tells me Brunch is her favorite meal and cites Kate Bosworth as her style icon. Manicures and pedicures in edgy colors like turquoise or pale grey are her new statement. Having just applied for a job at Opening Ceremony, she is currently hanging out ‘til she hears, listening to Edward Sharpe while tending to her recently acquired edgy cartilage piercing. When pressed, Lizzie admits that her new weird, ‘faux pas’ is using social media to flirt with boys that she has never met before but hopes she one day will. Last weekend she attempted to do a fun Brooklyn vintage hunt but ended up leaving empty handed and going to Cat Bird, the trinket shop she heard was where Erin Wasson sources her ‘not vintage, vintage jewellry finds’. Lizzie likes to have her friends over to her home when the live-in nanny, she has had since she was born, cooks enchiladas. After the enchiladas, Lizzie usually grabs coconut water from the fridge that is stacked with them in bulk and likes to hang in her room where she has an inadvertently upside down hanging Murakami on the wall and a matching bedspread to boot in pink. She will show you her collection of Acne wedges and talk about doing cocaine here and there if she has a night out at One Oak or Le Baron and feels like getting, ‘Cray’, on the dance floor.
Nostalgia isn’t worth much today; recapturing doesn’t make much sense. You can’t ‘like’ it twice. Not even on Instagram. We can only move forward with the Now and hopefully in the act of that, come up with some newer representation of the young and the free that perhaps remembers to champion the ones willing to grind. The ones who don’t bore you in their interviews on YouTube, the ones who don’t want to be like the rest. Let’s return to Rebellion as the status quo. Let’s create that collective wave that says UP with the real adolescent hell makers not the faux ones. Says UP to those whose names aren’t Sooki but who give themselves their own names; the ones that go by Grimes, the ones that create epic orchestral nu-rave tracks, on a boat, wearing hemp, the ones that go by Iggy. Looks ain’t for nothing. Kicks shouldn’t be for free. We need our Courtney. We need our Kate. I know they are out there. Now all it takes is for us to be sure we sing their names.