This codger in his previously-worn attire is styling in a hit video called Thrift Shop. Now that’s a place My New Old Self can relate to. Who knew that a song about a thrift shop was the 29th most watched video on YouTube, with 372 million views as of mid-2013? The song’s popularity is even more impressive given that it was independently released, i.e. rapper Macklemore and his partner Ryan Lewis are not with a mainstream recording label.
Thrift Shop is about places that sell the kind of clothes we used to wear. “I wear your granddad’s clothes, I look incredible,” raps the rapper. “I’m in this big-ass coat from that thrift shop down the road,” he raps as he romps around the thrift shop, wearing one of what he told Gentleman’s Quarterly are his fave finds: “old women’s fur jackets”. The song ends with a little girl asking, seemingly in admiration, “Is that your grandma’s coat?”
This pro-thrift song is a welcome response to the annoying veneration of bling worshipping spendthrifts in pop culture. In case you thought this was a western phenomenon, it also thrives in the developing world, sprouting strange hybrids like the small South African youth subculture (and “Black Twitter” term) izikhotane who wow township crowds by publicly destroying their expensive designer clothes and burning cash in a kind of nihilistic, consumerist version of rappers’ dissing battles.
I’m pleased to report that izikhothane has been widely condemned. Writing in the Divas Inc online magazine, young and diva-esque Bongi Nkabinde even spares a thought for the moms and dads – and grannies and grandpas – who fund this pointless squandering.
“If you are going to hassle a parent or grandparent for a belt that costs R500 ($50), I believe that you should show appreciation by helping around the home and not burning that belt in show of your ‘prosperity’,” she cautions her peers. “We are from different backgrounds, so whether rich, middle class or poor, it is important not to put anyone else in financial obligations for things that aren’t substantial. Rather hassle your parents to take you to a better school, to open a bank account for you or to help you start up a business.”
So you can see why My New Old Self loves Thrift Shop. Not just for its thrifty-is-nifty world view but for linking thrift to other important traits, like originality.
“Let’s save some money, let’s spend as little as possible,” Macklemore told MTV. “How fresh can you look by not looking like anybody else?”
Thrift Shop isn’t the only Macklemore song that would seem to hold appeal for older people. There’s also his moving music video Same Love. Is it tolerance that’s being celebrated? Rather than that word so often used in Human Rights-speak, My New Old Self prefers acceptance.
Why? Try changing the context from homophobia to something that older people can relate to, whether gay or straight: ageism. Surely what we all hope for in our advancing years is to be accepted, not just tolerated, by people of all ages, notably by those less decrepit than us. We hope that people will be able to transcend stereotypes about old farts and old biddies and accept us for who we are and always have been. And not be diverted by superficial issues of changes in appearance or attitude, like wrinkles or a bit of forgetfulness.
So My New Old Self says Respeck (rap spelling) to young from old and back again, and offers this response to Macklemore’s exhortation to “press play, don’t press pause – progress, march on!”
We gotta press play
cuz we can’t rewind
even if we wanted to.
We can’t press pause
even if we try.
One more thing about thrift shops. Of course many of them ditched the frugal angle long ago by re-branding their used gear as vintage. Which brings to mind that classic New Yorker cartoon with the two older women outside just such a shop, complaining, “We can’t wear vintage – we are vintage.”