Brand-new Second Hand
Macklemore’s Goodwill Hunting.
He wasn’t the first blonde Seattle rock star to spit lyrics while wearing a green thrift-store sweater. But somehow Macklemore managed to skirt comparisons to Kurt Cobain after the Seattle rapper debuted “Thrift Shop,” a video that evangelizes the fine art of thrift store shopping.
Flouncing through store aisles in a fluffy fur coat, Macklemore expounds on the science of sporting ridiculous old swag—then he shows us how it’s done. He flirts with dressed-down models, clowns with an all-ages crowd and triumphantly skims behind a speedboat on what he claims is a thrifted kneeboard. He raps about personal finance. He rails against Gucci as a trap for suckers.
And he gives Cobain a flash cameo in minute two (as a face on a T-shirt)—so let’s talk Northwest counterculture, Kurt Cobain, Macklemore, and thrift store shopping.
Cobain broke the pop-star template of his time and rebuilt it from scratch using two-dollar parts. Wielding both his music and his personal style as a snide comment against mainstream commerce, Cobain bragged to international media that his clothes were bought at thrift stores, effectively inciting a citywide, then nationwide, then worldwide scavenger’s riot. Before the dust of the secondhand uprising cleared, 90210 actress Jennie Garth was bragging to Sassy magazine that she’d thrifted her clogs. The more your clothes cost, the less cool you were. In retrospect, that may have been Cobain’s most far-reaching cultural contribution.
Then, in a post-grunge pendulum swing, opulence made a comeback. The newest recruit to consumer greed? Hip-hop. A music with scrappy something-from-nothing beginnings bent its battle skills and nouveau riche “got mine” materialism to corporate causes, with rappers name-checking and even launching so many designer brands that folk singer Ani Difranco rightly ranted in 2003, “Hip-hop is tied up in the back room with a logo in its mouth.” For more than a decade, hip-hop’s prevailing talent advertised designer labels and shilled custom extravagances like gold grills on cars and teeth. Sixteen-year-old suburban rich kids of all ethnicities believed the hype.
But Macklemore is mobilizing new troops, polishing the forgotten armor of the countercultural fringe (literal and figurative), espousing ideals that are bigger than him or his town. If the “Thrift Shop” video’s viral popularity—more than 3.5 million views at press time—and impassioned fan comments are to be believed, Seattle has yanked its self-designed identity out of the dumpster and is rocking it afresh. Hip-hop, the logo spat out of its mouth, has plenty to say. And as a come-up from the whiny ’90s, this late-breaking rebellion pairs the old defiant attitude with a newfound sense of humor, solidarity and diversity.
Brace yourself, Seattle-area secondhand shops.
Photo by Zoe Rain Baxter.