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“Oh, it’s just what all that shit represents. The stencil bullshit, the wheat-paste bullshit, the fake skate bullshit. I just can’t believe kids buy into all that. It’s like, “nice Obey hat, bud.” You know?”
Jason Dill, 2011, Vice Interview
In line with Frank Costanza’s Festivus tradition of airing grievances, it’s important to vent to create space for goodwill in time for the Holidays. It’s also the time of the year when everyone’s creating lists of the year’s best lists, so I hopped on the bandwagon as a negativity purge with 10 things I hate at the moment:
1. There’s a Lot of Douchey Bloggers Out There
The GQ ‘Oral History of Menswear Blogging’ was amazing. It read like pitch-perfect satire, with talk of elaborately strapped shoes and a pervading sense of self-congratulatory bro backslapping that was two steps from college dudery (less Take Ivy, more apply Rohypnol), hi fiving over semi-conscious co-ed spitroasts. It was awesome. Menswear blogs might be influential, but there’s still a feeling of an emperor trotting around in Allen Edmonds Double Monkstraps, but sans clothes, resulting in an oral history of something that could’ve just been summarised with, “We got bored of Dunks so we write paragraphs about pants.” Of course, A Continuous Lean is excellent, but from his contributions to the GQ conversation, it’s evident that Michael Williams just started a project based on his personal interests and the rest of the internet took notice. I’m not familiar with many of the other cited sites — maybe it’s an American thing. Recently Scott Schuman made a bit of a cunt out of himself when he wore a fancy scarf and sneered at children who’d built mini fashion empires. An adult mocking a child for their business structure is a bit like swearing at a cat for not knowing how to drive — it’s unnecessary.
My main bugbear is the sheer volume of characters who look like they should be great company are just a walking spending spree with nothing to actually say. I blame the internet. Do people beyond PR folks looking for a quick fix buy into this cliquey bullshit? Judging by the ad spends and traffic, I guess they do. Camo shorts, beards, Dirty Bucks, beards and no fucking depth will get you far in life, but this uniform look masquerading as individuality is a solitary placket detail away from Ed Hardy douchebaggery. There seems to be a lot of mileage in guides on how to wear ties by people who don’t need to wear ties. If you slavishly follow that stuff, then you’re part of the problem. Fuck your blog.
2. You Still Give a Fuck About Blog Mentions?
It’s nice to be recognised, but there’s got to be a bigger aim for your brand, site or “steez” than a mention on a blog that’s got you at page three by 6pm. Aim higher. Blogs are hungry for information so they might mention your product — there’s more product out there to counter that increased appetite, so it’s flattering to be featured. Shit, it might even drift through Tumblr for a few weeks too. But you can murmur about longtails all day long, but you’d still probably get more lasting attention if you hired a town crier. Of course, if your product is exciting enough to elicit the holy click through, cool, but if you’ve ever been featured, count those clicks to your page and try to calculate how that can be profitable before you start doing the Carlton on amphetamines dance. There’s at least twenty more things covered extensively that day that will drown out your product and create the equivalent of white noise (beige pixels?) that’s impossible to differentiate between. Step your game up and brands paying for online PR need to be more vigilant of the byproduct of blog mentions. Brands need to be a little more flexible if a “leak” happens too – that’s better handled if you employ people who know their stuff rather than a legion of jobsworths who are clueless enough to crumble and demand deletions when a smarter solution would suffice.
3. Everyone’s a Social Media Expert and Brand Consultant
I like stuff but it doesn’t make me qualified to consult on things. I drink several glasses of water a day, but I’ll be damned if I understand what water is made up of — I’m guessing it’s atoms or some shit — so why does time spent relentlessly tweeting a prop-hunting list of @ brands or names after everything you do with the same thirst that I approach those pints of H2O make you some kind of social media guru? It makes you look lame. Same goes for hashtag hunger. There’s far more to social media than being a gobshite.
Brands using emoticons, a thousand exclamation marks and offering incentives (“Help us reach 1000 followers and we’ll suck you off!”) to amass a freeloading army probably isn’t creating the most useful groups of contacts from a commercial perspective. Once you go wack, you never go back. Bringing some person in to tell you that you should do what some other brand did earlier that year is also the fast track to tedium. The internet might seem like the Old West, but that’s no excuse for hiring cowboys. It’s good to hire people who are passionate about the product rather than some dead-eyed buffoon hunting “experience” but sift a little more and you’ll find capable people with an interest too.
4. Do You Still Care About Collaborations?
For some reason, tired, tiered collaboration systems still hold weight. You can collaborate with blogs and they’ll give you more considerable coverage or with a credible brand or store that gives you some cool by proxy, but it’s been the plague of the last decade. Who still pitches in full-scale collaboration projects that water down what adidas did with the early incarnation of Consortium or Nike’s first experiments with AF1 city packs? Some brands still go for it, but it’s more beige pixels on the blogs. Collaboration apathy — collapathy if you’re looking for a twatty buzzword — means the only stuff that grabs attention is the stuff that makes sense and at least feels like a passion product. Forced product with Vimeo videos where every partner looks deeply unenthusiastic are terrible. At their best, collaborations were an interesting way to pay respects, bring in external expertise for fresh perspective or seek outside assistance on what couldn’t be realised internally. At their worst they’re those things you don’t even click “after the jump” for more images.
5. Your Lookbook is Terrible
Skinny dudes with side partings walking around a park in Obey hats, Vans Eras and chinos! Now I hate your store even more. And that Penfield lookbook of the cheery couple? Lame. If you haven’t got an original idea for your showcase of styles, don’t bother. Lay them flat on the ground. Maybe you can put them on a tramp or something if you need a model. Every store seems to hold the same homogenous collection of brands and demand from imagination free dudes who still have the gall to look down on Superdry is at an all time high. Hire a proper photographer while you’re at it, and spare us the behind-the-scenes of the preview of the video of the lookbook too.
Is it a plus point if the people in a lookbook are just dressed like the same old dickheads you’ll see in any chino hotspot? And people still seek stylist credits for that? Amazing. This is what happens when Streetwear Dave consults for a project and brings his fellow Streetwear Daves into the fold. But seeing as taking an Instagram shot, writing a tweet and getting dressed in the morning could be enough for somebody to claim that they’re a multifaceted creative with photography, journalistic and styling experience, nothing should surprise you any more, and at the current rate, nothing is liable to ever surprise you again.
6. Why So Serious?
Linking to gripe number one, the solemn faces behind the blogs are extremely amusing. How do people take the topics of shoes, apparel and music so seriously? How do people keep a straight face as they stand in front of stacks of orange boxes despite being of drinking age? I’ll never know. It’s all meant to be fun. It can be profitable and it can build careers, but if you’re being paid to write crap about products at least have fun with it. Engaging in overwritten explorations of how influencing operates? Give it up. Just enjoy the fact that people throw money at people for doing very little compared to anybody that works in the public sector, doing a proper job. In the event of a dirty bomb and the subsequent rebuild of mankind, you’re going to be low down on the pecking order. What we going to do? “Blog” a teaser of the crude rebuild of a health centre onto a piece of slate with a rock? Let’s enjoy this nonsense while it lasts.
7. Content, Content, Content
Content is apparently king. It doesn’t matter what content it is. Just as long as there’s content. If you’re skilled at writing crap, then you can declare yourself to be a content creator. At some point in the last couple of years, someone decided that you should bang out as much content as possible. That makes sense — it keeps people coming back, keeps them gawping at the page in an era of low attention, can up your search engine rankings and could get you traffic that you can turn into revenue of some sort. But content for the sake of content is pointless. Why write 100 words when 20 would suffice? Just as we evolve into beings capable of expressing ourselves in 140 characters, we’re cajoled into writing as much as possible. When I started getting paid to write, I’d fill whatever I was writing with pointless asides, cultural references and as much padding as possible in order to keep my job by creating as much text as possible — more words indicated that I knew what I was talking about, but only a handful of sentences were relevant. Now, that might be called content creation, but back then I called it bullshitting. That was the birth of the verbal diarrhea, stream-of-consciousness style you see right here.
Content focus can lead to the dreaded thesaurus blogging, when somebody writing about a baseball cap might drop meta-epistemology into their discussion of snapback knowledge, or start writing in a pseudo-scholarly, ‘Monocle’-lite manner. Good features can go up and be eclipsed almost immediately by another wave of content with the speed that a speed blog is wiped off the screen by the umpteenth piece on Banksy. Your own content can be copy-pasted in its entirety to a new spot without your permission in the quest for content, so nobody ever clicks through to the source, because somebody’s put the link in small letters beneath a couple of images in the unscrupulous manner that blogs seem to feel is appropriate. But it doesn’t matter, because it’s all about the content. Some people still call themselves curators, because once they suggested a shirt, or commentators, because they once said that something wasn’t as good as the last one – but in a cushioned, barely informed manner that would ensure they’d stay on the seeding lists. You aren’t cultural curators. You’re free — or very cheap — publicity that’s easily replaceable. Just blog better.
8. Putting it to the Vote
How do I make this point without looking like a fascist? Sometimes it’s nice to just be told something by an authoritative voice, rather than it becoming some terrible poll or one of those horrible attempts at brand interaction that’s launched because some consultant said that you should engage with the consumer. You say crowd sourcing — I say you’re lazy and out of ideas. It’s great to interact, but there’s a time and a place, and when one of my favourite brands wants to know what I had for breakfast, it’s time to get back to doing your own thing without worrying about my daily routine. Most people are idiots, so asking for their opinion will only steer you down the path of mediocrity. In fact, I blame this daft social media and WordPress democracy for the sheer volume of bland rubbish around these days. Most people will big up whatever their “boy” is working on at the moment, regardless of quality, so their opinion is null.
9. Never, Never People
If you’ve ever emailed anybody asking for advice because you’re “…thinking of starting a blog” then you’re already lost. The tools are out there, yet you’re pondering something you could set up in minutes? What’s that all about? Just go out and do it. Fill it with talk of “fits” and some kind of quest for “fresh.” Call yourself an online lifestyle magazine. Just go and do it. If you feel the urge to amass a team of “content creators” do it, but remember that 70% of them will post two things before giving up, because their real world enthusiasm isn’t matched by their blog work rate. So to speed up the process, just do it yourself. What’s so hard about that? No need to ask advice. Just go and do it.
Emailing people with your entirely reblogged Tumblr as a demonstration of your work ethic isn’t advised though – that’s like rocking up at a job interview with a half-filled scrapbook of other people’s work. And please, please, please don’t be that guy who spends December and early January shouting on twitter about how “2012 IS MINE” and talking nonsense about powermoves in progress before doing absolutely nothing for the next 365 days of the year until shouting about your doomed plans on social media season starts again (according to my calendar, doomed plans on social media season runs from late November until the 15th of January the following year).
10. Paper Doesn’t Always Beat Pixels
There’s great magazines and there’s some print projects that should have stayed on-screen. Now it seems that nobody cares for pay walls, the best articles seem to exist on newsagent shelves as well as heavily “Liked” features online. The boundaries are a little more blurred, but those features come with certain expectations with regards to research and quality of writing. For the most part, without amazing designers, writers and a fresh perspective, we don’t need blog-style content that’s redundant before it ever went to press, if we can glimpse it as rolling news online with exactly the same level of journalistic skill.
Curiously, brands still place great emphasis on expensive advertorials in print that are so stylised and riddled with low key, barely branded gear that no message is ever conveyed. Hong Kong and Japan’s print press seems a little more relevant and capable of breaking items before the blogs get there. Now iPad magazines are a buzzword around tables where depressingly big budgets are the norm — for anybody working on these, it’s often fruitless, because iPads still aren’t commonplace in the real world and nobody reads magazines on them, because they’d rather be playing Fruit Ninja. Still, a good time to be an iPad app developer, because where there’s no clue, there’s a lot of cash for the taking.
Gary Warnett has inexplicably forged a career out of a misspent childhood obsessing over hip-hop, films and sneakers. He is editor and some sort of manager at Crooked Tongues, a frequent copywriter for brands like Nike Sportswear and Arc’teryx Veilance, plus an occasional blogger on his own blog which is full of self indulgent, unstructured paragraphs like this piece. He also writes for Dazed & Confused monthly and semi-regularly for some other publications, sites and brands. When he’s not being professional with clients, he is cavalier in his approach to grammar and angry with his Tweets.