Fan Request 6: Has Hot Topic sold out?
My latest Fan Request, this time from subscriber Jonny Be Good, asked my opinion on a rather interesting trend, specifically whether or not retailer Hot Topic has in fact, ‘sold out’.
For those who are unaware, Hot Topic is a store chain in the USA that has for years been the main retailer for several youth subcultures, especially ones made up of outsiders like Goths or Metal-heads. Their repertoire of corsets, chain jeans, and CD’s and band merch has become a staple of malls across the nation, and the image they peddle has become the flagship for many people in their teens and twenties who choose to go against societies mainstream.
Now to be clear, even when I was growing up, I never tended to shop there, despite my association with the various crowds and scenes that do. I always found something fishy about going against the establishment by shopping at a retail outlet found in shopping malls across the country, but I admit the stores were cool to browse through at least, and they were the only store that sold decent metal band merchandise. Plus, any store that attracts women in corsets and school girl uniforms is OK in my book.
These days however, even I must express shock and sadness at what the store has morphed into. The Tripps have been replaced by skinny jeans, and the corset clad goth girls by scene chicks and Twilight fans. If there is any rock band merchandise left, it’s either in the clearance bin or buried behind t-shirts featuring Ke$ha, Nicki Minaj, Britney Spears or Death Cab for Cutie. Even Justin Bieber merchandise has found a home in a store where his typical fan would have once feared to tread. While a few people might have complained about the crowd the store attracted before, Hot Topic today is frequented by hipsters. I hope every one of you cringed when you read that. Hipsters.
While Hot Topic has without a doubt undergone a metamorphosis, I do not think that the store itself has sold out so much as realized it’s full potential. For my readers who are curious about my logic behind that, fear not, for I shall explain.
The sorts of subcultures it used to cater to, such as goths and metal-heads, have always thrived on being part of the underground, functioning as a foil to the mainstream for all who desire it. Any sort of venue that serves them must function as such, and frankly, I can’t see a nationwide chain that is typically footsteps away from a GAP or American Eagle do that, certainly not for long. With that in mind, it makes perfect sense that Hot Topic go after the far more financially lucrative mainstream, especially when it for all intents and purposes had it’s foot in the door from the beginning.
To the stores no doubt many former patrons saddened by this change, let me ask you if this is really such a bad thing. The subcultures that Hot Topic has turned it’s back on existed and indeed, thrived for years prior to Hot Topic, and will likely exist for years to come. These subcultures exist not because of a certain fashion or music or store, but because they are made up of people who felt alienated or not at home with the mainstream, and their own social circles are shaped accordingly. So shed no tears at this change. Thanks to the Internet, it’s even easier to be a part of a subculture more to your suiting, and you can even shop accordingly. Finding a group that you belong with and that accepts you has never been easier.
That in the end is the important part. Stores like Hot Topic sell an image, and if you don’t like that image, shop elsewhere, or better yet, find your own. Because if you shop at a place for the image more than for yourself, you’re hardly better than the hipsters that shop there now.