Firefly Pointer Fiberglass Jacket: What happened to Hot Topic?

Sunday, June 3, 2012

What happened to Hot Topic?

You got it wrong. It goes 'sex, drugs and rock n roll'

 Hot Topic emerged when I was just starting my Freshman year in high school. Growing up in suburbia sucked for a lot of reasons. One big reason being that there really were not any record stores, rock t-shirt shops or head shops in the area. I actually made my own rock t shirts for years, using stencils to spell out things like "The Beatles" and t-shirt iron-ons. You had to get creative and in many ways it was teenage DIY at it's best.  I was introduced to Hot Topic the same way every bored suburban kid going to the mall. When you live in the suburbs, all there really is to do is to visit the mall. And I did a lot of that in my youth. When I discovered Hot Topic I was pretty pleased and I could finally find shirts that said "Blondie" or "The Ramones" on it and I didn't have to make it myself. I was excited to find a store that sold so much of what I liked.

 Not long after Hot Topic hit the strip malls there was a lot of backlash against it. I'm not quite sure if it was the marked up prices, poser vibe or what. From my perspective; there weren't any other choices. I had no access to any places that sold anything I liked in the suburbs until that point. I hardly minded the slight mark up, and simply ignored the bad music and poser vibe that the employees had. Hot Topic was also one of the first places I remember seeing employees with dyed hair, Buddy Holly glasses and actually pretty cool clothes. If it were up to kid Becca, I would have loved to be able to go to Bay Area record stores and hit up their numerous vintage shops (which I now do) but that was not an option then.

 When you're a kid without a car, you make a lot of compromises. As the years rolled on, and even into my college years, the backlash only got worse. Like it or not, Hot Topic started out with lots of rock and roll t-shirts and stuff. Would I call it a rock t-shirt shop? No, but again, it was a hell of a lot closer than all the other chains I grew up with. Eventually I moved to the San Francisco Bay Area, where there actually is a Hot Topic just by the University. Since moving, my going there has been pretty spotty, mostly just for some hair dye that I can't find anywhere else.  Now I can go to the real stores, REAL vintage stores, REAL record stores, and buy something that isn't made for a size 0 teenage girl.

 In the last few years, Hot Topic has been changing. The music went from more rock to more punk, and then another kind of punk that wasn't Misfits. The music started to become pop and it has now changed into dubstep. Dubstep seems to be the new thing. If you haven't been in a Hot Topic recently, the music is dub step, the colors of everything are neon pink, yellow, and green, and a single Ramones shirt is nowhere to be found. In the past few years Hot Topic dabbled in movie t-shirts and cartoons like Invader Zim. But now it has gone into a completely different realm. I don't even know where I am anymore.

 The other shitty thing about what Hot Topic did start is rock t-shirts turning into logos or brand names (I wrote a blog about this awful phenomenon). In the early 2000's, it became hip to be a poser, especially if you happened to live in Southern California. This is when I discovered people starting to buy band t-shirts and not even like the band. How did I know this? I would get excited like I found another person like me and enthusiastically asked them what their favorite song was. I heard  the forever traumatizing response "I don't listen to the band, I just like the shirt."

 Of all the times I wished I could get away with murder, this was on of them. What kind of person wears a shirt with a band on it and doesn't like the band? I just don't get it. At this point in time, band names turned into logos for the fashion conformists. Believe it or not, I've still ran into people like this in Berkeley. The last time was, coincidentally, at a Hot Topic. The girl behind the counter was wearing a Clash shirt, which to her was more like a work uniform than a band that she loved.

 That seems to be the vibe HT perpetuates. The last time I went in I noticed a "Sex drugs and Dub step" t-shirt and was like "WTF?" what happened to the rock and roll? When did dub step push rock and roll out of that long time saying? HT used to be all about the Misfits now it's all about Skrillex. What happened?

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