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Here We Go Again

Written by Alex Berger

April 8, 2024

Have you noticed an uptick in skinny jeans, mangy fur-collared jackets, and distinctly shit-stained mud washes draped over the pencil-thin frames of the hip, urbanite, in-the-know-crowd? Has the smell of freshly smoked American Spirit butts proliferating the sidewalks around thrift stores and obscure techno venues graced your nostrils? Does everyone you know suddenly want to start mixing (I am also guilty of this—I currently have browser tabs open as I search for Bushwick apartments—dear god what have I become?) Well, if these novel trends ring a familiar bell, you may have noticed what the cool kids are calling the “Indie Sleaze Revival.” So grab your Zig-Zag rolling papers, lace up your P.F. Flyers, and kiss your framed Polaroid photograph of Carrie Brownstein because we’re going back to the early 2000s!

The early 2000s to early 2010s was a bizarre and somewhat benign cultural period in America. The jeans were tight, the music was trashy, and fixed-gear bicycles were the primary form of locomotion. This era coincided with my burgeoning adolescence. I was about three feet tall (I still am), I began smoking (I still do), and I was an avid user of iFunny (no comment). In this era, the birth of internet culture and the shift towards increasingly fragmentalized media allowed people to begin to generate personalized media content. That was a very long-winded way of saying people started blogging. The aforementioned development was neither good nor bad, but I distinctly remember tiny mustache tattoos appearing on the index finger of every boho hipster sporting a pair of Toms. Actually, I take it back—with mustache tattoos in mind, one should just regard one of the most substantive technological leaps forward in human history as a net negative. Fuck you, Zooey Deschanel. “Fingerstaches” are indeed insipid, but I digress. Through blogs, zines, and other modes of cultural dialogue, various subcultures arose. The blog gave niche populations unprecedented access to musical and sartorial information. This new digitized zeitgeist born from the common blog now wore American Apparel v-necks and held its finger upon the pop cultural arteries of America with just a couple of keyboard clicks—mind you that finger still had a stupid little mustache etched into it. Very original zeitgeist, you're so unique! As a result of this digitized cross-cultural pollination, new forms of music and fashion were born. Specifically, the phenomenon of “Indie Sleaze” was gaining popular traction and had sauntered its way into the limelight with undeniable swag.

The original Indie Sleaze was an interesting subculture. It was rather amorphous, as it combined elements of 70’s rock, indie revival, and whatever the relevant cultural flavor of the time was. Sonically, the era was defined by acts such as The Strokes, Crystal Castles, MGMT, MIA, and other groups with obnoxious acronyms for names. A mix of indie rock and techno-inspired pop seemed to be all the rage. In regards to dress, Sleazers were attracted to body-hugging looks and rock-inspired cuts as defined by the works of Heidi Simane of Dior (It must be pure coincidence that his last name sounds like Slim-man, it has to be) and the colorful zany designs of Jeremey Scott. But perhaps the most important influence of early 2000s youth fashion was the massive economic recession of the era. As a result of the recession, young people could not afford to buy new clothes designed by the likes of Slimane and Scott. Instead, they found solace in the American mecca of affordability: the thrift store. Fuck you, Macklemore. In the cramped aisles lined with the threadbare hand-me-downs of suburban moms and construction workers alike, the fashionable tastes of the impoverished Sleazer were crystallized. Slimane and Scott set the cuts and patterns while Goodwill and Salvation Army added the gritty edge. The inspired Sleazer now looked like a cross between Marlon Brando, Julian Casablancas, and a 19th-century ship captain, all of whom are tightly wrapped into an ill-fitted American Apparel zip-up hoodie.

Now the modern Sleazer may not exactly resemble the millennials of the 2000s and 2010s (to say millennial culture is being revived within pop culture is making me reach for a bottle of bleach to scrub my hands clean after typing this affront to all things cool, but hey, that's the truth), but the echoes of the original Indie Sleaze are certainly present. The distinct slim figures and musical traditions of a seemingly bygone age have reemerged in the 2020s, albeit with a modern twist. Brands such as Bldthnnr (edgy American Apparel), vintage Slimane, and a rediscovery of the slim chic rock-esque designs of Ifsixwasnine are gaining popularity. However, Indie Sleaze Revival differs from the original in its adoption of dark color palettes that further emphasize the original’s downtrodden, grimy image. The music is similarly poppy and electronic with a certain sonic similarity present in the works of artists such as Snow Stripper, The Hands, The Dare, and others. With the re-emergence of these super-slim cigarette-puffing rockers, one begins to wonder: what is the catalyst? The rise of the Los Angeles electronic music scene certainly has helped popularize the trend with artists such as The Help. One could also attribute the success of the modern Indie Sleaze movement to the music and image of the duo Snow Stripper. But I think that there is a deeper cultural reality that is driving the Indie Sleaze Revival.

The economic state of North America is equally dystopian for today's young adult population as it was for the millennial generation in the early 2000s. As a soon-to-be college graduate, I am quivering in my oh-so-perfectly slim trousers and ironically kitschy graphic print t-shirt. I can now roll a cigarette in 3 seconds flat. Yes, the job market is that bad. The economy may not be in the same condition as the great recession of the early 2000s, but there is a sense of fear in the air among members of my cohort. Just to cite a few factors that seemingly dampen the spirits of every 20-something-year-old undergraduate: every company seems to be hiring, but they require two to three years of experience for entry level jobs. Salaries are only now catching up with inflation, but it’s a little too late, as the national cost of living continues to skyrocket to astronomical levels (and no, I don't want to live in Iowa because I made the mistake of studying public relations as an undergraduate). And then, the icing on the proverbial worst cake ever baked is Donald Trump’s 2024 campaign. That alone should convince you of the sorry state of affairs in “the land of the free and the home of the brave.” The only thing that's free in this capitalist hellscape is the pruno I’ve been brewing in my toilet because a shot of vodka in Boston costs approximately $9.50. Fuck you, LiveNation. There is no hope, and there is no future, but I’ll be damned if “Under Your Spell” by Snow Stripper does not have one of the best hooks I’ve heard in recent memory. On that note, I think I finally found a decently-priced Bushwick apartment.

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