Why Being “Indie” is a Bunch of Bunk

by Brett & Kate McKay on August 10, 2008 · 102 comments

in A Man's Life

The term “indie” has a somewhat amorphous meaning. Once applied strictly to underground music and films that were not made or financed by large corporations, the label can now be applied to a whole culture. Still, it’s hard to pin down exactly what it means. So I turn to that great and reliable resource, Wikipedia:

“The most general definition of the word is to be independent from the mainstream. The word has become most often associated with a subculture defined by its associated music, fashion, behavior and beliefs. Indie culture is a lifestyle which follows social trends that are considered to consciously deviate from the mainstream. One common belief within indie culture is anti-conformity.”

Many, including the entry of Wikipedia from which I gleaned that quote, have pointed out the irony that the indie culture, while seeking to be unique and independent, has developed a somewhat uniform and readily identifiable aesthetic. Indie connoisseurs wish to be different but are surrounded by a cadre of people who dress the same, watch the same movies, listen to the same “underground” music, and spew the same arguments denouncing the banal bourgeoisie.

But such a point is overdone and easy. I’d like to explore another reason that being indie is a bunch of bunk.

The indie identity is based on the idea of being independent from the mainstream. To this end, indie people buy clothes, CD’s, furniture, books, food, and concert and movie tickets that are not popular with the masses. Instead of going to Chili’s, they frequent their local Thai restaurant; instead of going to Wal-Mart, they go to Whole Foods; instead of picking up the new Coldplay CD, they buy an album from Blood Red Shoes; instead of shopping at the Gap, they buy from American Apparel; instead of buying a Dell they buy an Apple (sure they’re a big corporation, but they’re so cool). But what is the common denominator in all of those things? Spending money. Consumption. Indie people express their independence from the mainstream by doing the single most mainstream thing possible: basing their identity on what they consume.

A decade ago it was cool to wear clothing with a company’s logo splashed all over it. Nike and Gap labels were proudly displayed as badges of honor. These days such clothing is considered laughable; now shoppers want clothes that look unique or vintage (although frequently that “vintage” tee costs $40). But the underlying motivation remains the same; people are still expressing themselves by the clothes they buy. It doesn’t matter that instead of buying things from big corporations you buy free trade coffee, organic apples, and handmade Guatemalan rugs, you’re still basing your personal identity on your identity as a consumer. You are driven by the desire to consume something first before it is consumed by the masses. It’s the new millennium’s take on “keeping up with the Jonses.” And it’s just as conformist as it was in the 50′s.

Of course there is nothing wrong with liking certain kinds of music or clothing; it is entirely possible for a man to be interested in, and consume, all the aforementioned indie products, and yet not base his identity on them. But all too often such consumption is used to buy a persona, instead of actually putting in the work to it takes to attain an authentic one. Such accouterments instantly bestow some hipster cred but do nothing to transform the inner man. A man’s identity literally becomes a coat that can be put on or taken off, and there’s nothing cool about that.

Free yourself from being defined by what you buy or do not buy. Define yourself by the things you cannot purchase: values, ethics, and what you actually do. Let your actions speak louder than your ironic message tee. Want to be truly independent from mainstream society?

-Use your free time to serve people, not numb you mind with entertainment.

-Be virtuous

-Be courteous

-Stop “finding yourself” and embrace commitment and responsibility

-Don’t wear outdoorsy apparel, go camping

-Don’t spend big bucks to look like you shop at a thrift store, actually shop at one

-Don’t be ironic and sarcastic, be sincerely passionate

-Don’t just buy clothes and cell phones that support a charity, become charitable

-Don’t just buy a political bumper sticker, get involved in politics

-Stop being a boy and man up

Image by Suburban Cowboy

{ 102 comments… read them below or add one }

1 kaisersoze August 10, 2008 at 7:46 pm

I find that it has that catch 22. Like the Hollywood types that want to be famous so much that when they find fame they wear sunglasses and disguises so not to be found.
It’s hard to be individual when everyone around you is also an individual doing the same thing you are and doing likewise.
Overall I believe it starts with having principles you won’ t concede, work from there.

2 Sandbox August 10, 2008 at 8:02 pm

“The one thing a non-conformist cannot tolerate the most is another non-conformist that does not subscribe to the pervailing standard of non-conformity.”

I wish I could remember who said that, but it’s pretty damn true.

3 eric August 10, 2008 at 8:36 pm

I liked this blog when it first appeared and have been following it since, and it has become more and more elitist and preachy. I like things like, “how to shave,” “how to wear a hat,” and things like that, but the constant “get married, have a kid, and imitate teddy roosevelt” stuff is starting to get old. how about some new topics?

4 stephen August 10, 2008 at 9:21 pm

Going to wikipedia to look up a mis-understood stereotype is like looking in the dictionary for what it is to be a man…you’re just not gonna find the real answer.

Indie is what people make of it, just like emos and skaters….it’s just another word that people use to group people that look alike, even if they couldn’t be any more different on the inside.

5 Isla August 10, 2008 at 9:21 pm

lol @ Blood Red Shoes

6 Tron August 10, 2008 at 10:06 pm

I’ll agree with the post as a whole, the ‘indie’ title is just another subculture like emo, punk, goth, preppy etc. etc.
I’m gonna have to side with Eric about the, general, message alot of the later posts have been about with the whole ‘get married, live like it was the 50′s’ thing.
the older articles (seem to me anyways) to be more general and can be enjoyed by everyone as oppose to those with paticular mindset.

Stephen the whole thing with people looking alike, is they will be judged to be what they look like.
EVERYBODY makes inital assumptions based on appearance, and if anyone says they dont they are simply lying to others and to themselves.
an example of myself is, at work i dress professionally/behave professionally etc.
but outside of work im what you could call a punk rocker and my style of dress at home/out at a bar/with friends is such that anyone looking at me would (usually) be able to take a stab at my music interests etc.
so yea, im being judged on my appearance and im fine with that. Doesn’t really bug me one bit.
Anyone who gets upset because someone makes an assumption based on what they wear needs to either A. get more comfortable with the style of clothing they wear/there attitude etc. or B. Find something they truly ARE comfortable in and being identified as, as oppose to dressing a certain way to ‘fit in’ or however you want to put it.

7 Jaye August 10, 2008 at 10:17 pm

I always find my teeth grinding uncontrollably when people refer to me as simply a ‘consumer’ as if I were a simple resource to be catalogued filed handled managed used and then disposed of. Independent usually has meant self reliant, can handle and survive on ones own, and to be independent requires a certain level of movement away from being a consumer. I am not saying we don’t consume (as we all do, we consume media/goods in much the same way we consume food, though we don’t have the same production of waste material as we do with food… though sometimes we do have a rant about what we have consumed which could be referred to as our ‘shit’ along with packaging.) we should be independent and self reliant mostly just so that people don’t simply assume that we are consumers who will simply blinding take whatever new fandangled new nahawhooie (a technical term) and reduce us to like everyone else. When they start seeing us as people again (and in this specific case) as men again, to be dealt with personally, and not as a stereotype (no typical old spice shit either, not every man cares for old spice) which yes is remarkably inefficient, and costly but damn it maybe some of us are worth the one on one personal interaction, we wouldn’t be independent otherwise.

8 Wrathbone August 10, 2008 at 10:54 pm

Finally, someone nailed it. I used to think it was peculiar back in high school when all the punk/goth/emo kids used to tell me they were “expressing their individuality.” By looking and acting like thousands of others…The fact is that there’s only two groups which seek to kill your individuality: military and subcultures.

The military trains soldiers and sailors in boot camp to work collectively as a unit. The worst thing to be in combat is an individual. So conformity is a requirement and it’s bludgeoned into the subconcious through rhetoric and uniform. Same haircuts, same clothes, same slogans, same EVERYTHING…sounds an awful like the so-called indies out there, doesn’t it?

Then again, this hypocrisy isn’t just exclusive to the indies. Ever seen the rap crowd? They claim to be “keepin it real,” but their identities couldn’t be more fake. Or how about those country guys who wear cowboy hats and have never ridden a horse in their life? I think if anyone can label themselves as being part of any niche crowd, they need to be smacked upside the head. Think for yourself, decide how you want to dress, what you want to watch, what you want to listen to…all you indies/emos/goths/punks/metalheads/gangstas/country boys/hippies/conservatives/liberals…man, I could go on forever.

9 Kevin August 10, 2008 at 11:15 pm

I once thought this website stood for the enrichment of males everywhere but there is nothing manly or virtuous about having a holier than thou attitude towards another group, let alone one so misguided and unsubstantiated.

10 Manic Rage August 10, 2008 at 11:31 pm

The trend to be ‘Indie’ here in the UK has indeed become something of a misnomer whereby most ‘vintage’ clothing now comes at a price!

Take for example the fact that there is an Oxfam charity shop in Manchester that now sells second-hand apparel and housewares at premium prices, which, for a charitable organisation is admirable as a means to make money, but it is marred by the fact that the ‘Independent’ people now consider it a haunt.

No one can be truly indie/independent, because of the societal need to bracket everyone under some pseudo-title. As human beings, we are all consumers, food, clothing etc and as such cannot avoid such title..but it just depends to what degree.

The worst type of ‘Indie’ person is the one who overtly claims non-conformity and yet has that underlying herd-mentality they do not want to admit is at the back of their minds…they are attention seeking whether they like it or not.

There are means of being independent [to use the word correctly] and that just means being yourself.

11 evan mathews August 11, 2008 at 2:49 am

Well, I’ve been around a while and I have see “wannabees” ever since I was a kid. It’s the way the world is – perception – There’s a lot of people out the that want to be “soldier, tailor, tinker, spy” or shall I say they want to look that way. There’s an old saying from my mentor and goes something like this “Those people who look like they are, aren’t. Those that are don’t look like they are because they know they are and don’t have to fool anyone” Nuff said.

12 Marc Troy August 11, 2008 at 3:46 am

For me Indie means independence: No second (hidden or not) agenda behind a product. Just the product. I like independant music, films, clothing, designs, culture, etc. because they screw less with me :)


13 Emily August 11, 2008 at 4:00 am

This crap has been obvious to me for years, and yet no one else has managed to point it out, at least not as straightforward as this article. From middle school to high school and all through college, I never belonged to a particular “niche.” I wear/watch/eat/listen to what I like, and if it’s mainstream, fine, and if it’s “indie,” that’s okay too. Actually, at one point I tried to get into the “indie” music thing and I realized that all of their music sounded the same to me. That’s when I realized how laughable it all is.
Don’t criticize someone for being a “consumer.” We are all “consumers” on some level. The trick is to give back once in a while.

14 James August 11, 2008 at 4:16 am

You’re not your f*cking khakis.

15 Lyndon August 11, 2008 at 4:19 am

Since when does being proclaiming to be indie mean being anti-consumerist? Being “indie” means involving yourself in independent pursuits. Plus, it’s a terrible thing to paint an entire group of people with the same brush. I know lots of people that shop at Wal-mart that are not charitable and I know plenty of purportedly “indie” people who involve themselves with organizations like “Food not Bombs.” You have it in your head that everyone who wears a messenger bag hates the bourgeois culture and decries consumerism, but you’re committing the same mistake that these phantom “indie” people are committing: You’re over-generalizing.

Besides, shopping at places like Whole-Foods and listening to Pitchfork magazine approved bands does not an identity make. I love this site, but I think your soapbox is a little shaky on this one. You’re in law school, right? You, out of anyone, should understand that strong arguments have to be predicated on facts and not ill-informed generalizations.

16 Brett August 11, 2008 at 5:19 am


Fact: You cannot buy an identity.

Fact: I pointed out there could be exceptions. See here:

“Of course there is nothing wrong with liking certain kinds of music or clothing; it is entirely possible for a man to be interested in, and consume, all the aforementioned indie products, and yet not base his identity on them.”

Your comment unfortunately doesn’t counter these facts.

17 Granata August 11, 2008 at 5:25 am

This indie scene reminds me of the punk scene which I used to associate with. I pierced up and wore a mohawk to rebel against mainstream society, evoke judgment upon myself (so that I could say I was being judged), worry my parents, etc. The irony is that I moved out of one scene (suburbia) into another.

Then I grew up, individualized, found my own identity and set of values and have never looked back.

18 Tom August 11, 2008 at 5:34 am

I’ve noticed that your website advocates accepting commitment and responsibility, (which is good), but the underlying suggestion seems to be ‘get married and have kids’. This is fairly sound advice, but the caveat should be ‘make sure you’re ready first ‘.

Keeping with the Indie theme I saw ‘Control’ this weekend, about the life and death of Joy Division singer Ian Curtis. This guy made a massive mistake getting married at the age of 18, and when he became a father the pressure on him (combined with his epilepsy and an extra-marital affair) led to his suicide. Obviously you can’t be a kid forever, but being responsible sometimes means putting commitment aside until later.

19 Hayden Tompkins August 11, 2008 at 5:42 am

You could also say that of any musical subgenre – there is usually a very LARGE cultural element attached to it.

I’ve always considered myself “alt”, as in “alternative”.

I lovelovelove pop, rock, rap, hiphop, classical (including opera!), salsa and merengue (no so much bachata), goth (industrial and ebm), techno (not so much trance, house, and jungle), blues (NOT R&B), and bluegrass.

I love shows like Star Trek: TNG (trekker) and anything done by Joss Whedon. The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, Sell This House, Big Spender, any of the Law & Orders, CSI: Las Vegas, Mad Men, America’s Next Top Model, The Simpsons.

With food, I am also all over the map. How do I dress? Either very “office”, or kind of punky/edgy. I also adore the retro look for women.

I typically read science fiction (Orson Scott Car, Asimov), some fantasy (David and Leigh Eddings) and romance novels. Not even romance novels with literary pretensions – just straight up, formulaic, can’t-read-more-than-once Harlequin Romance. Magazines are equal parts “Scientific American” and “Allure”.

So whether you want to talk recent developments in physics or celebrity gossip and fall fashion trends – I’m your girl. Now put that in a box and smoke it.

So I just sum it up as “alt”, as in ‘alternative’ to everything else.

20 Brett August 11, 2008 at 5:42 am

@ Granata- Agreed. I also ran around the punk scene in high school. I remember being at a show and looking around at everyone with their jean jacket vests with Mustard Plug and Drop Kick Murphy patches safety pinned on ( because sewing them would look too tidy and conformist) and I realized that these people weren’t non-conformist; they’re just a bunch of sheep and I got suckered into it.

Thankfully, like you, I grew up and found my own values and have been doing my own thing. That’s not to say I don’t listen to All or MxPx every now and then. I just won’t feel guilty enjoying “mainstream” pop music anymore.

21 BE ENGLISCH August 11, 2008 at 5:47 am

Way to go attacking a caricature of a stereotype. Indie and Hipster are just labels that people who don’t know any better apply to certain patterns and trends that arise out of youth culture.

You are the digital equivalent of an old fart yelling for the damned kids to get off your lawn.

22 Brett August 11, 2008 at 5:50 am

@ the people who don’t like the get married message-
We’ve had this message from the beginning and will be discussing it in the future. So if you don’t like it, you probably not going to enjoy this site. Getting married (when the time is right of course) is an essential and vital part of manhood.

What is interesting is that when we do posts on grooming or “how to’s,” I get angry emails about how we shouldn’t be talking about such “fluff.” And when we do posts about manliness, we get complaints about how we need to do more stuff on fashion and grooming. Listen fellas, there’s lots wrong with men today, from their values to their clothes, and this site is going to cover it all. It has from inception and it will continue to do so. We’re never going to please everyone, and that’s okay. So simmer down.

23 Marlon August 11, 2008 at 5:58 am

“Of course there is nothing wrong with liking certain kinds of music or clothing; it is entirely possible for a man to be interested in, and consume, all the aforementioned indie products, and yet not base his identity on them. But all too often such consumption is used to buy a persona, instead of actually putting in the work to it takes to attain an authentic one.”

This is very true. Because it is true I would like to suggest that judgments are not made instantly upon seeing someone. There are in fact intelligent, good people who from appearance would appear goth, emo etc. Assuming anything from that would simply be a logical fallacy.

To be more specific, it is the Aristotelian logical fallacy of the undistributed middle. Something we would all do well to learn and not fall into.

24 NoPantsJim August 11, 2008 at 6:06 am

To me the worst thing about “Indie” is when you ask someone what kind of music they listen to, and they respond with “Indie”. The problem there is they think indie means their specific brand of music they like, when in reality it just means music from an independent label. Theoretically, you could have indie polka music and indie death metal.

“Indie” is not a genre of music.

25 John August 11, 2008 at 6:10 am


“Getting married … is an essential and vital part of manhood.”

Say what now? This is wrong, wrong, wrong. Being a man means owning up to your commitments and standing by your word. Marriage is not necessary for this.

The preaching of your narrow little view is getting old.

26 Dustin Boston August 11, 2008 at 6:37 am

Huzzah! Great point.

27 Lyndon August 11, 2008 at 7:34 am


I must respectfully disagree with two points:
Firstly, I believe you can buy an identity. I think the best example of this are some rap stars. They purchase expensive items and vehicles to cultivate a specific identity. And, we all do it to a certain extent. Being a consumer and purchasing things that help improve our self-identity is the natural order of things. The term “Consumer” isn’t a pejorative; being an uninformed consumer could be.

Second, the argument that, ““…there is nothing wrong with liking certain kinds of music or clothing; it is entirely possible for a man to be interested in, and consume, all the aforementioned indie products, and yet not base his identity on them.â€?
is exactly what I was saying. My argument simply points out that the article is over-broad. It singles out one group of people that are very, very loosely related by music, fashion, food, etc. and chastises them for not being courteous, or virtuous. However, I believe that ultimately, you’re concerned with “indie” people’s alleged self-righteousness and selfishness. Unfortunately, I think it’s an age thing and not an identity thing.

I think selfishness knows no boundaries; age, sex, affiliation with a certain group, or otherwise. As I’ve grown older my tolerance for selfishness has diminished. Now I’m going to generalize, but I believe that the younger you are the more selfish and self-centered you are. As you grow and mature you see more of the world and you gain more empathy. As a general rule, I can confidently say that most people experience some form of empathetic growth.
In my opinion, everyone should follow the list of qualities on the blog, not just people who where messenger bags.
Hey guys, the messenger bags look dorky. You’re not a 16 year-old girl.

28 Brett August 11, 2008 at 7:46 am


I agree that the things you buy can create a indentity, but I don’t think it is an authentic identity. I think a true indentity is rooted in our values and actions, not what goods we possess.

I’m not saying that indie people aren’t courteous or virtuous, as many are. I am saying that if you want to be independent from the mainstream, which is the impetus behind the indie style, then you should cultivate truly independent values, not try to buy the appearance of them.

29 Lyndon August 11, 2008 at 8:02 am

I agree with that. At the end of the day, no matter how hard you try, it’s just stuff. It’s how you act and treat people that matters.

30 Matt Thomas August 11, 2008 at 8:59 am

Nice post. Those interested in its general premise might want to check out, among other things, the thought-provoking book Nation of Rebels: Why Counterculture Became Consumer Culture. That is all. Carry on.

31 Chris August 11, 2008 at 11:15 am

I think some people may be missing the point. The important part of the article is at the end–yes you may disagree with the critique at the top. However, it is trying to point out that if you really want to be different and go against the prevailing ‘culture’ be virtuous, don’t be a narcissist but think of other people, then it doesn’t matter what you look like or consume per-se but you’ll certainly be going against the grain in any age.

32 Darren August 11, 2008 at 11:50 am

People are social animals, and since the dawn of time, the most important thing to any social animal is fitting into the tribe or pack. If you take a look at another social animal, the wolf / dog (I group them together because they are genetically identical), a dog will endure an enormous amount of abuse just to fit in with the pack, or said another way, the familly. We humans are the same way. Fitting in with some tribe, group, subculture is of the utmost importance. We will wear the uniform of the tribe, speak the language of the tribe, worship the tribal Gods. All this builds the unit cohesion required for survival. We all do it. That being said, Indies seem like 21st Century beatniks to me. It will be interesting to see how they grow up.

33 Jay August 11, 2008 at 12:00 pm

**I put this at the bottom, but am adding it at the top for emphasis, Indie music actually means Independent Record label (or possibly independent film). And “Indie” is a term fools use who want to categorize people by their musical preference **

Wow, what a deep and insightful article that I am sure will cause a mental awakening to any 15 year old out there experiencing an identity crisis.

But seriously, low caliber post, probably the worst I have seen on this site. Sure, on the internet, everyone is a critic. And I didn’t even read the whole article! I tried, but stopped at:

“Indie people express their independence from the mainstream by doing the single most mainstream thing possible: basing their identity on what they consume.”

(insert obvious and over-used Fight Club quote in the place of actual thought)

Or possibly, there are people who enjoy certain things in life that did not get much attention before (such as music that was previously not on MTV) and these things are now getting attention, and all sorts of people like yourself throw around vapid and superficial labels.

Believe it or not, labels are applied to people that don’t really mean anything! There are some of us that do need other people or clothes or cool movies (really, is living by Fight Club quotes any better?) or cool blogs to define us and we just like. what. we. like.

How about instead of your preachy list, just one:

Respect other people by treating them as you would like to be treated and respect yourself by being your own person.

The rest is a bunch of bullshit. I don’t necessary disagree with the list, just the tone. The list is just not for everyone.

(Did I mention that this post has all the nuance of an 8th grade locker room? Next, let’s go after the sk8trz vs the preps! Or how about nerds vs jocks!)

– as a PS, I am going to give you the real scoop on Indie music. It’s not about being different! It’s about enjoying good music.

See, previously the dominant market force (and subsequently, dominate voice to music consumers) was record labels promoting through mass media such as radio and television, where it was often pay to play at worst, or at best you have a very small group of suits deciding what the hot new sound was going to be.

Along came the internets. Here, through survival of the fittest that would make Darwin proud, the good stuff rises to the top through word of mouth. You no longer had to impress a record label exec to get your music out there.

The birth of Indie music (as we know it today — though independent distribution existed before the internet, it is no coincidence that indie became prominent with the internet). And it is as simple as that.

Indie music actually means Independent Record label. Wow! I did not even need to go to wikipedia to figure that out!! And now people who listen to “Indie” music are being labeled as “Indie” by hopelessly uninformed folks like yourself.

You know what they say, it’s better to be thought a fool than to open your mouth and confirm it to the world.

34 Jay August 11, 2008 at 12:02 pm

Missed the point? The point was to paint with a broad brush and use garbage like music tastes to define a group of strangers. This article was hopelessly flawed from the outset.

Next up : critique on why men who wear glasses should stop going to Star Trek conventions.

35 Jay August 11, 2008 at 12:10 pm


Hey, let’s have at it

“Fact: You cannot buy an identity. ”

Fact: putting “Fact:” before a sentence doesn’t make it a fact.

That sir, is an opinion.

“Fact: I pointed out there could be exceptions. See here:”

A nice little escape hatch you have built.

For your next article, I suggest you rail against liberals, because they are America hating, tree hugging hippie doves.

(Just include an exception that not all are that way)

Hey guys, authors at AoM write poorly researched (wow, you went all the way to wikipedia???!) preachy opinion fluff pieces dressed up as useful social commentary! But oh, some exceptions apply.

36 woodenkimono August 11, 2008 at 12:12 pm

I am going to have to agree with some of the comments previously made. This post definitely comes across as condescending . It seems that this post runs against the general conventions of this blog. Doesn’t being virtuous and courteous include refraining from speaking ill of others?

As for the issues you’ve raised in this post, the real issue seems to be that language has not kept up with culture. The term “indy” was much more fitting in the 90s, but that subculture has largely become mainstream. Now the term is a bit of a misnomer. The same is true for modernism that is roughly 70 years old and largely dated. Do we blame the modernists for now being retro?

37 Jay August 11, 2008 at 12:24 pm

@ Brett

“I am saying that if you want to be independent from the mainstream, which is the impetus behind the indie style, then you should cultivate truly independent values, not try to buy the appearance of them.”

The real title of this piece? Don’t be a poser!

And, actually, those few words would be sufficient for the body as well.

I’d go as far as to suggest removing this post from the site because it is an embarrassment of ignorance.

38 Matt August 11, 2008 at 1:12 pm

Criticizing a group by criticizing a stereotype of that group is sophomoric.

I consider myself a fairly non-mainstream person and am, in fact, an indie musician, but I find little in common with the urban hipster fantasy world this post paints.

I buy music I like, go to concerts that I like, shop at Gap & Kohl’s, drink store brand coffee, eat Taco Bell, have never paid more than $20 for a piece of furniture, rarely walk or bike, and work a 9-5 job with a 401(k) — and the fact is, so do most of the people I went to concerts with and listened to records with in college.

There is a fine line separating music enthusiasts from the subset of “scene” types who live to outdo everyone else in terms of indie-ness. These are the “posers” to which Jay alluded, and the latter suffer from consumerism.

You make a legitimate point about consumerism and how some “indie” folks display traits that parallel their “mainstream” consumerist counterparts, but all this post did was single out the indie subset for cheap shots when you could have made a broader and more insightful point about consumerism turning up in unexpected places.

39 Eric August 11, 2008 at 1:17 pm

Dude, this article is a few years too late. “Indie” no longer means to be counter to the mainstream, it’s just a term used to describe a genre of music. It no longer holds the meaning it once had. This happens often (see: Punk). There are “indie” bands on major labels and mainstream mediums. This isn’t really a contradiction. Indie is simply the term that ended up describing a particular sound of music and style of dress. Surely you could have found something more siginificant to begin the week with.

40 Rich August 11, 2008 at 1:43 pm

@ Jay

First off, Brett made no “Fight Club” quotes. Secondly, as amazing as it sounds to say that “indie” music (both the genre and labels) made became popular through their own merits, this is not true. Some bands did have talent and, through the “internets,” created a fanbase. But once this happen, major record labels scooped them up and began mass processing bands that sounded exactly like them because these bands were “cool” and everyone believed that they were unique and special for listening to them. And as nice as it is to think that survival of the fittest worked with these bands, how many talentless bands are now making millions because they are Myspace/Youtube stars? Darwin’s theories don’t apply here, Marx’s do.

41 Rob August 11, 2008 at 2:07 pm

I think a lot of people (Jay-dude you are one angry hipster) are missing the point of the post. Nowhere does the author take “cheap shots” or disparage people who are into indie stuff; they simply says that buying that kind of stuff is not alone sufficient to become an independent person, you must change the inner-man too. Where’s the controversy in that? I swear…some of the posts on this site that are “controversial” are that way only because readers don’t read the whole post or simply don’t understand nuance. Perhaps the authors of this site need to dumb down their material and make every thing ultra-explicit for the pointy headed morons who frequent the blog.

42 Chris August 11, 2008 at 2:23 pm

Something I’ve noticed that bothers me…..why do some Christians have to be “indie” Christians? Living the teachings of Jesus should make you independent enough. But it seems a lot of Christians want to show that hey, I’m Christian but I’m still totally cool and edgy.

43 Matt August 11, 2008 at 4:05 pm

@Rich: Capitalism is Marxist?

44 Jay August 11, 2008 at 6:05 pm

“But what is the common denominator in all of those things? Spending money. Consumption. Indie people express their independence from the mainstream by doing the single most mainstream thing possible: basing their identity on what they consume.”

The criticism in this post is about American consumerism, not about indie at all. The author takes a few gratuitous swipes based on broad and ill founded stereotypes and no actual research, just anecdotal evidence. Simply put, there is no correlation other than Americans like to spend and some Americans like indie music.

The author does not even understand what the term “indie” means, yet decides to wag his finger at people who enjoy the music.

The attack on indie is just an ignorant swipe.

To quote President Bush 43, in his call to Americans to make a sustained commitment against the War on Terror ™,

“I encourage you all to go shopping more.”


Your beef is with Bush, not people who listen to music released from independent labels.

Also, @Rich do you understand the concept of Marxism? Because what you are describing, even if it were accurate (it is not) is Capitalism, as in– consumers vote with their wallets.

And just because you only see the corporate cash cow acts doesn’t mean the other music is not out there.

45 John Lockwood August 11, 2008 at 6:33 pm

Interesting piece, and has a similar kind of theme to an Adam Curtis documentary called “Century of the Self”, which will probably be avaialble to view on one of those sites that does stream video documentaries.

Buying stuff wasn’t alwasy a means of expressing your identity – it s relatively new concept that started when prouduction lines in the early 20th century meant mass-produced goods could be bought at relatively cheap prices. Companies needed to get people to buy this stuff and turned to the help of a nephew of Freud’s who used his uncle’s ideas to appeal to people on an emotional level, rather than the weirdly factual advets you see at the beginning of the 20th century.

Then the hippies came along – at first they were politicl, but after getting shot at Kent State and beaten with batons at the ’68 Democratic Convention, with retreat to like their wounds and decided society coudl be changed by individuals changing themselves – the Easlen (?) Institute in Big Sur, California ran workshops encouraging people to express their inner, repressed identity.

This idea was immensely popular and soon everyone was an individual and wanted to express themselves, just like everyone else. The marketing people noticed this, and realised that with short-line massed produced items they could get people to buy stuff to express their individuality. Then Reagan and Thatcher noticed it and promised to pull government off people’s shoulders and let them ‘be themselves’ – ushering in a decade of ugly consumerism in the 80s.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, was how teenagers express themselves by wearing the same clothes, listening to the same music and following them same fads as whatever sub-culture we happen to land in. When they get to adulthood they are all still pretty much concerned about the same things – money, job security, family – as everyone else, so so much for being an individual.

46 amy August 11, 2008 at 6:56 pm

sheesh, looks like we have a lot of disgruntled indie kids on our hands ’round here. i thought it was a great post, and a very fitting welcome-back-from-vermont post to boot! hope y’all had a great vacation and keep on with the well-written and well-reasoned posts- i love ‘em!

47 Marc Davenport August 11, 2008 at 7:31 pm

I feel like a lot of the commentary on this post has been on either side of a value judgment about how you spend your money. And that judgment is based either in the symbolism of the objects you buy ( for example: a messenger bag) or the amount you spent ( see conversations about vintage pricing). People seemed to be vexed by the other side. But I think the strongest point is missed by alot of the commentary. Then again I also think that what could have been the strongest point was not made prominent enough, because it didn’t make the punch list at the end.

I found it in the paragraph quoted below. I’ve blanked out the word “hipster”, feel free to use any genre/category/stereotype/ whatever word you’re comfortable with. I think that “indie” or “hipster” is a good case because it is a very pervasive youth culture, with a pretty uniform look and seemingly uniform attitude, particularly from the outside. A hipster in Montreal can look alot like a hipster in Texas, and the same can be said for Melbourne.

“Of course there is nothing wrong with liking certain kinds of music or clothing; it is entirely possible for a man to be interested in, and consume, all the aforementioned indie products, and yet not base his identity on them. But all too often such consumption is used to buy a persona, instead of actually putting in the work to it takes to attain an authentic one. Such accouterments instantly bestow some _______ cred but do nothing to transform the inner man. A man’s identity literally becomes a coat that can be put on or taken off, and there’s nothing cool about that.”

The important part is the transformation of the inner man. It is the examination of one’s self; deciding if purchasing specific objects ( be it clothes or computers), or the activities you engage in really line up with ideals or aesthetics you hold or want to hold. Rather than the reverse, purchasing objects, and engaging in activites and seeing what ideals or aesthetics you have left over. If you look at all these things in your life and you still find yourself with “all the aforementioned indie products”.. great! you’ve got an identity that is based on you, rather than those products. It is hard for us cynics, but you know there is some guy or girl in Wiliamsburg who is living his life and it is an examined one, it just happens to be lined up with the image we have for a stereotype. For other examples, see Goths, or RPG Gamers, or Frat boys, or drunks.

And yes, of course something like “indie” is going to get co-opted by the main stream. It is a culture that started in the youth culture. That’s how the mainstream puts food on its table. Its already happened, it is happening to something else right now, probably Brazil, and it is already got it’s eye on the next meal . But you know, I find it a funny thing about the “mainstream”, no one wants to be part of it, but few want to stray to far from it. It gets lonely out there.

48 Phil W August 11, 2008 at 7:38 pm

Like most of the stuff on the website well written!
Wikipedia thing was humorous and I do agree about the whole consumer society so get over yourself please, it’s so true.

The greatest thing is all the disgruntled people coming out of the wood work, listen people the writer is saying were all part of the same consumerist society so please new subgroup of society that is emerging don’t be pretentious, and welcome to the fold.

49 Neil August 11, 2008 at 7:57 pm

Another semi-sensationalist blog title from AoM, I feel. Instead, I’d have picked “Why Consumption Doesn’t Equal Being Indie”…

I consider myself pretty “indie” – but I’m also one of the most frugal people I know. To me, being indie equals living within your means, doing what matters to you (including perhaps living an alternative lifestyle), and having good taste in things like people, music, movies, food, fashion, etc. I think each person has a different definition of it, though. The punk movement ran into many of the same problems of definition/conformity, but was (and is) still a valuable sub-culture, so let’s not write off the new “indie” version in its entirety.

While we’re on the subject of ideas that are bunk, I somehow dislike the new Febreeze Dog ad that popped up on the AoM homepage – it’s intrusive and unmanly. Please destroy! :)

50 Ray Brown August 11, 2008 at 8:04 pm

This is one of the most brilliant posts I’ve seen on this site. Keep up the great work, my man.

51 Jay August 11, 2008 at 10:04 pm

I do highly recommend any documentary by Adam Curtis. Century of the Self, certainly but also the Power of Nightmares.


The Corporation
Why We Fight

Excellent documentaries. Even if I am an idiot, you should at least look these titles up — they are phenomenal. Why We Fight is a BBC production that includes interviews with high ups, including John McCain. If you are looking for more, Iraq for Sale is important as well.

As tot he post,

I hardly think it is defensible to apply stereotypes to groups of strangers based on Wikipedia articles, but to each their own.

I guess it would be too much to ask that people be considered by their individual merits and not clumsily lumped into categories based on arbitrary similarities such as music or fashion preference.

Let’s face it, there are only so many different ways to be. But there are over 6 billion people.

Superficially, a lot of people are going to appear the same.

So if you want to feel superior, then this is a good start. If for nothing else other than irony factor.

But the reality is much more complicated then this overly simplistic posting that describes a large segment of our population based on something as meaningless as musical preference.

Defend it as you please.

Just be honest and admit, it does not match reality.

52 Jay August 11, 2008 at 10:15 pm

Just to be clear,

the problem: this post draws unjustified correlations between (a) vapid consumerism, (b) being a phony and (c) listening to music released by independent record labels (for those who have been a part of this for a long time, that is what the term means).

Which one does not belong?

Musical preference is a personal opinion. You might as well go after people that listen to rap or country. It would be just as uninformed.

Oh, but not everyone is like that!

Well, actually since you have nothing but personal experience to rely on (unless I missed data you sourced), your exception could actually be the rule.

Anyone is free to take shots at me, but this is shoddy work. As mentioned elsewhere, every group has vapid consumers, that’s what we do as a nation. Every group has pretenders.

You are not criticizing indie, you are criticizing phony consumer whores. I agree with the sentiment, for the record.

But you are being disrespectful to a large portion of people, and no your exception does not excuse you. You are perpetuating a baseless stereotype.

But I am thankful that you allow dissenting points of view in your comments. That’s what being a man is all about.

53 Manic Rage August 12, 2008 at 2:02 am

So…this blog post has become a distinctly polarised argument.

You cannot avoid consumerism, regardless of who you are, you will inevitably still shop at some large corporation [Walmart] for basic necessities. Or not. It just depends on personal preference and location.

Also being ‘Indie’ IS being defined as a genre – as a means to add yet another title to something the mass-market does not understand. Further to to posts I’ve read here, ‘Indie’ as a term does somewhat specifically define the type of person found in the image above. However, you could call any music ‘Indie’ if it struggles on a small label somewhere before ‘making-it-big’. [To which it would be disowned as soon as it becomes mainstream]

In the UK, I know of a few people who seem militantly ‘Indie’ and preach how Independent they are, and how they buy their LPs from the bargain bin and how their Converse trainers are limited edition…but I avoid them purely because of their seemingly elitist attitude to be Indie and how they disregard anyone else’s opinion – because they, of course, are right. [The same could be said about certain factions of geeks, LARP players, Rap fans, the list is endless.]

Rather un-gentlemanly.

It reminds me of how in ‘thee olde days’ when nerds we beat up on for indulging in technology the Jocks didn’t understand, which these days has become De Riguer for the Jocks – the latest must have Camera MP3 Phone.

It could go on forever and inevitably will.

Be a Gent. Simple.

54 Ryan August 12, 2008 at 9:28 am

“the label can now be applied to a whole culture.”

I read that as “whore” culture the first time

55 Enrique August 12, 2008 at 12:45 pm

I’m all for not letting the definition of a word define your actions as a person for the sake of fitting in, and I’m also against consumerism for its own sake. Despite this, I find this article to be pretty demeaning and horribly researched.

It’s like the author was trying desperately to find something to criticize rather than write about the principles and practices that have enriched their own lives for others to follow, the types of articles I have subscribed to this blog for. I honestly don’t think the people that are subscribed to this site are looking for such articles either.

You do not win anyone to your side by criticizing the way they define themselves, you’re preaching to the choir at that point. You have to lead by example and treat people like rational human beings as opposed to children. If you treat them like children, they’ll stay that way.

I listen to indie rock (as well as pop, rap, classical, electronic, etc.) , try to shop away from stores like Wal-Mart and frequent my local Thai restaurant instead of Chili’s. I do all this because I like the music I listen to, disagree with the practices of the companies in question and like to support local restaurants (not to mention the fact that I like Thai food). You can do all these things for good reasons without being contrary for its own sake.

56 Joe August 12, 2008 at 12:48 pm

Damn your blog has gotten big. Good article

I think you meant ‘your’

“-Use your free time to serve people, not numb you mind with entertainment.”

57 Jonathan August 12, 2008 at 12:50 pm

Wow. This is contradictory to everything I’ve read on this site up until this point. As a man, I generally steer clear of people who make rash generalizations of people, be it the color of their skin or the label on their cardigan. Painting a group with a broad brush – about anything – is self-righteous, arrogant and isolating.
You neglected to make any valid or seemingly productive point other than the fact that you have a grudge against a certain group of people; what a useless waste of energy and a waste of subscribers time. If we wanted scathing opinion and rhetoric, we could just as easily listen to any of the limitless pundits with bad attitudes and a soap box.
I’ve appreciated quite a number of your posts and it’s usually very apparent that you’ve done your research and put a fair amount of effort into them. This is an unfortunate exception to that pattern and strangely similar to the kind of elitism you claim to be condemning. Sometimes being a man is knowing when to keep your mouth shut.

58 Neptúnus Hirt August 12, 2008 at 4:39 pm

Following up on what Jonathan just said: Sometimes, being a man is knowing when to admit you made a mistake. I think such is the case with Brett & Kate, this time.

The good points in this article are overshadowed by pretentiousness, and might have done well without any mention of “indie” at all. I don’t follow the indie crowd, nor any other (to a point), but I thought this was hastily done, and quite out of key when it comes to the rest of the site; which is mostly excellent!

59 Jonny August 12, 2008 at 6:16 pm

It’s always been cool to be uncool. Now, think about the paradox of this statement and you’ll get my point.

60 Sean August 12, 2008 at 6:26 pm

I always thought being an adult, educated, and….a “man” is by and large letting others “live and let live” and not getting lathered up about how someone else chooses to spend their money.

Some of you blokes need to grow up, and, quite possibly, graduate from high school.

I do like this site, but a lot of posts are thin, and not entirely serving any deeper essence of what men need; posts about what others purchase really do a genuine mission to relate to men in a new, conciousness-raising way a terrible damage.

That being said, everytime I see a hipster, I too want to punch them in the face, or hope they fall asleep on the train and end up in Ozone Park.

61 John August 12, 2008 at 6:40 pm

>And it’s just as conformist as it was in the 50′s.

I’m not sure this is true. Some “indie” folks may believe that if you’re not their kind of indie, then your not indie. But I think there is another strain that is in favor of most anything unusual.

Sure, indie folks are “conforming” by restricting themselves to the space of things that aren’t mainstream. But the space of things that aren’t mainstream of is a much larger space than the space of things that are, so it’s still a net win.

Still, a sensible approach is even better.

62 JW August 12, 2008 at 9:11 pm

I think its hilarious that people are criticizing this post for being “poorly researched.” It’s an opinion piece! What kind of research were they supposed to do? I am sure it would have been hard to get a hold of the 2008 study on “Indie Hipsters and Their Inauthentic Identity” conducted by the Indie Hipster Research Institute.

63 Rich August 13, 2008 at 12:36 am

@ Matt and Jay-I was speaking more of Marx’s sociological theories, not his economic ones, meaning how specific people in power are able to exert a large influence over the masses. After submitting my comment, I realized Marx was not the best person to bring in, but what could I do after submitting? Perhaps I should have put down Adam Smith. Despite this, yes I do understand Marx’s theories and I nowhere claimed that Marxism and capitalism were the same.

@ Jay-What was I describing that wasn’t accurate? How capitalism works? Because if that was it, I assumed most people had a general idea of how it works. Was it success of “indie” bands? The “cash cows” as you call them? Because if my idea is not accurate, could you please enlighten me to the accurate one? And seeing as how I listen to underground bands, some of which I can almost guarantee you have never heard of, I more that well aware of the existence of music outside of what major record labels/radio/t.v. release. And my point was not that these bands didn’t exist, it was refuting your idea that the cream of the crop were being rewarded for their abilities.

64 Darren August 13, 2008 at 6:10 am

When I see someone on the train that can best described as “Indie”, and they have multiple facial piercings, large plugs in their ears (that will never close without surgery) and violent images tattooed in areas that cannot be hidden by a suit, I think to myself; why would someone go through the time and expense to make themselves unemployable? I’m sure they would say that “you can’t judge a book by it’s cover”. But, when someone makes themselves look so frighteningly strange, I have to wonder if there is some sort of pathology involved. People are hard-wired to take in most of their information through their eyes, so appearence is important. When one has rejected mainstream society to the point of irreversable self-mutalation, one should try not pass it off as some sort of virtue.

65 E. Donk August 13, 2008 at 11:58 am

@ Jay:
You are a troll. Piss off.

66 Jay August 14, 2008 at 12:52 pm

@ E. Donk:
You are a troll. Piss off.

See how easy that was? Now do you have something of substance to say?

67 Paul August 14, 2008 at 2:30 pm


I’ve been a long-time reader and proponent of your blog, but this post had me reluctantly unsubscribing my feed. This tirade unfortunately reads like one of those ’50s propaganda pieces about “the gays” — equally stereotypical, ill-informed and inaccurate. You’re writing from an outsider’s perspective about something of which you lack a complete understanding, and it plainly shows. I wouldn’t consider myself “indie” despite having a fervent interest in non-mainstream culture, however your post throws its net so blindly wide that even I find it offending. Do a find and replace “indie” with the word “cultured” and you might gauge how silly you sound from another perspective.

To put it another way, being a studying law is a bunch of bunk, because law students all wear suits because they think they’re better than everyone else, and they study law so they can screw the poor people. And all law students are Republicans. Man up and don’t be a law student, be a doctor?

I’d suggest removing and revising this post, because as it stands, the only thing you’re showing is your own ignorance and arrogance.

68 Brett McKay August 14, 2008 at 2:54 pm


Unfortunately, your comparisons really don’t make any sense. The reason that being “indie” is bunk is because it is essentially an attempt to buy an identity. It is style without substance. You cannot buy a lawyer identity and you cannot buy being cultured. These things require action, not purchases. They result in inner changes not superficial ones.

Interestingly, after posting this piece, someone sent me a link to an Adbusters Magazine article that makes essentially the same point. I hardly think a magazine like Adbusters can be accused of spinning 1950′s-esque propaganda.

Finally, by unsubscribing from a site you generally like after disagreeing with one article, it is you who shows his ignorance and arrogance, not I. Good luck navigating the world with that kind of attitude.

69 AK August 14, 2008 at 3:59 pm

@JW – HA! You’re killing me!!! :) I think we all applaud the IHRI’s ground-breaking work in the field!

@Brett – Loved the point of the article. I’ve thought the exact same thing quite often! I’ve run into way too many people who identify themselves based on what music they like and what clothes they wear, as though that is what makes them who they are. Only the thoughts, deep convictions, and actions of a person truly define who they are and not enough people recognize that. Music changes, fashion changes, but character is what lasts and will set you apart. There are very few men worth my respect, but when I do meet one, I sit up and take notice.

A person enjoying ANY of the myriad of music genres and styles of dress is fine with me, as long as it is a genuine reflection of what they connect with. But what really annoys me is when a small percentage of these people (regardless of what sub-culture they identify themselves with) become indignant the second whatever they like gains notoriety in the popular consciousness. Suddenly it becomes clear that their motivation for choosing these bands, clothes, movies, whatever, was not simply because they LIKED them, but because it made them DIFFERENT. It’s this need to appear unlike others, that is so obnoxious. Their choices aren’t actions based on true identity or convictions, it’s just a reaction to everyone else around them, and there’s nothing inherently “independent” about that. In fact they are as much slaves, in their need to be contrary to the masses, as the masses are in their need to be the same. They’re still sheep, they just belong to a different herd.

I LOVE indie music, but it doesn’t define the kind of woman I am. My beliefs and how I treat others are my identity and you are absolutely right – not enough people spend the time contemplating and refining THAT.

70 Skeffington August 16, 2008 at 8:36 am

I have a number of issues with this article.

First is the topic itself. I fail to see the connection with the general idea of manliness. Sure, eventually you connect it with a bullet point list, but even so, it felt as a last ditch attempt to link it to the blog’s main topic. Why target that specific group of people? If the Indie ‘lifestyle’ was generally associated with manliness I would understand, but it’s not and I don’t. Especially when considering that women just as well as men can be classified as ‘indie’.

But let’s say for a moment that being ‘indie’ was somehow connected with manliness or lack of it (tell that to a number of my ex girlfriends who, although they would hate the idea, would probably fall under your brilliant Wikipedia definition of ‘indie’) . Stylistically, the article comes across as clumsy and lecturing, and not up to the standards that some of the earlier articles have achieved. The article boils down to a holier than thou ‘Indie sucks!’ I personally thought that humility was one of the many attributes of manliness, wouldn’t you agree? If you made any points which were subtler, I’m afraid the hectoring tone meant that they eluded me.

That said, I look forward to your article about marriage, which, if it follows current trends will probably be called something along the lines of ”Get married, you nerd!’. But hopefully I am wrong and said article will display more of the interesting thoughts found in earlier entries.

71 Joey August 18, 2008 at 4:32 pm

I dig this post. It’s not saying that being indie is bad, but simply that it’s not enough to break free from the mainstream. I couldn’t agree more.

72 Shean August 18, 2008 at 5:34 pm

So dope– nice article. I”m going to go lace up my chucks and smoke some cloves now… but with sincerity. ;-)

73 iRandal August 19, 2008 at 10:37 am

I believe the correct term you are referring to is ‘HIPSTER’


a related article on exactly what you are articulating:


74 Lani August 20, 2008 at 1:34 pm

I bought an Apple because I liked the way they make their computers

I eat Thai food because I like the taste of it and Chiles food is sub-par

I shop at Urban Outfitters because I like the look of the clothing

I shop at Whole Foods because they have fresher produce and less chemicals in their goods.

I don’t buy Coldplay albums because they make my ears bleed

I made these decisions based soley on my individual likes and dislikes, not to “purchase” my way into some fad. You make horrible generalizations in your article Brett, claiming that people make the choices they do simply to look cool and not because *gasp* they actually like said products. And yes I read the part that not all people do this, but why single out Indie kids? Everybody in the US is guilty of trying to “buy cool” at one point or another If you can honestly tell me that you’ve never bought a single product in your lifetime because it was “popular” then maybe you’d have a right to state such blatent lies as you did in this article. Face it, outside of sewing your own clothes, growing your own food, producing your own music etc etc..there is ABSOLUTELY no way to escape popular consumerism. So in a sense you are just as guilty, but try and make yourself seem a little more righteous by attacking (ignorantly so) a genre of culture you simply don’t understand.

So when people start to follow your advice at the end of the article (getting involved in politics, being charitable etc..) are you going to suddenly start attacking these people as well for “conforming” to such idea? Ridiculous.

Oh and another thing, why oh why are you and your wife so nasty to people on here who have opinions that differ from your own yet you praise and commend those who agree with your every word? Highly unprofessional if you ask me, have a friendly debate with those who disagree, but sometime you (and especially your wife) come off as extremely high and mighty, perhaps you two should research and write an article on how arrogance is an highly distastful trait.

75 Kate August 20, 2008 at 4:40 pm


We singled out indie kids because that is the most popular form that the pursuit of coolness takes these days. And because some men buy into the idea that this pursuit makes them independent from the mainstream. The dichotomy between being “indie” and truly being independent was something we thought was interesting and worth exploring.

“If you can honestly tell me that you’ve never bought a single product in your lifetime because it was “popular?” then maybe you’d have a right to state such blatent lies as you did in this article. Face it, outside of sewing your own clothes, growing your own food, producing your own music etc etc..there is ABSOLUTELY no way to escape popular consumerism.”

The article is not about not consuming things that are popular or not being a consumer. I have no problem admitting that I am a consumer and like popular goods, and indie goods as well. The article is about not buying into the perception that you can buy an identity and resting on that perception instead of putting in the work to change your inner man not just your outer man. This article was never intended an an attack on indie people, but as encouragement to not just stop your transformation with your belongings but to be sure to carry it into your actions and behavior as well.

“So when people start to follow your advice at the end of the article (getting involved in politics, being charitable etc..) are you going to suddenly start attacking these people as well for “conforming”? to such idea? Ridiculous.”

Again, this article is not against conforming. I wouldn’t have a problem with a man conforming to his religious ideals, or conforming to the rules of the military or conforming to their social group’s expectations. The problem we are addressing is believing you can buy an identity.

I’m truly sorry if I come off as nasty or high and mighty. I don’t think I even responded to this particular post so I am interested in examples of where you think I display this trait. Truly, I’m not being snarky here. We certainly welcome people to disagree with us and to do so civilly. But unfortunately, many people use some pretty over the top language in condemning what we write and it is admittedly hard to put on a happy face in response. It’s not right, and I try not to, but it is hard to not respond using the same tone as the commenter. For example, while you label us as being nasty in our tone, you say we possess the distasteful trait of arrogance, our points are “ridiculous,” we use “blatant lies,” and are ignorant. I fail to see how your tone differs from the one you are condemning. When such inflammatory language is used, it’s hard not to respond in like with inflammatory language. Nevertheless, we should indeed try to be bigger people and not respond at all.

76 Lani August 20, 2008 at 5:36 pm

Do you believe that Indie kids choose to label themselves as Indie? No! People are usually stereotyped with terms and labels created by those outside of that particular fad. Thats like saying people who are labeled “rednecks” should physically have necks in the color of red. Indie is simply a term invented by somebody to label a group with similar interests. As a person with many “Indie” friends and one who considers herself to have somewhat of an “Indie” persona, I have never once thought of myself as such because I have an independent views or am trying to break outside the norm. I simply go along with the label because its what people will group me in regardless. I don’t see it as any different than any other steretype, yet you and your husband singled out this particular cultural group to insult and frankly it is rather nasty of you. Did an Indie kid spit in your soup or something?

You and your husband should be promoting cultural acceptance instead of adding to the ever increasing amount of stereotyping going on these days. So I say shame on you. I could say that by you insulting popular culture you yourselfs are trying to conform to a certain persona. Any stereotype can be “bought into” consumerism is so overwhelming these days that any persona can be purchased. So I say again, why the bias towards Indie kids? I could make claims of jealousy on your behalf, but thats short-sighted of me so I’ll wait for you to give me a valid reason besides your claim ” that is the most popular form that the pursuit of coolness takes these days,” which I find to be untrue.

I have never met an indie kid who purchased his persona. That makes absolutely no sense, why buy something if you don’t truely want/like it in the first place? Most stereotypes are far beyond a simple outfit or decoration, they are a state of mind and a set of personal beliefs, so I find it very hard indeed to believe you can buy yourself into a persona.

No Kate, you did not comment specifically on this article, but I’ve read comments on other articles and you and your husband have this constant Holier-than-thou attitude which I find extremely irritating, even when I agree with the article. You are one of the few published blog writters I have seen that reply to comments. Honestly I think it makes you look somewhat insecure. Writers who are secure with their publications tend to not feel the need to stick up for themselves or put down those with differing beliefs.

77 Kate August 20, 2008 at 5:52 pm


We obviously aren’t going to agree here, so the only other thing I’d like to address is the fact that, while I’m not sure which blogs you read, all the authors of all the blogs I read respond to their comments, some actually respond to every single comment posted. That is the whole idea of a blog-the readers get to interact with the author and each other. In comparison with other blogs we actually respond fairly infrequently, and only when something really irks us or catches our eye.

I have to add that the nasty tone of your comments while simultaneously condemning our nastiness continues to be rather hypocritical.

78 Patty August 20, 2008 at 6:59 pm

@ Lani

Amen sister! I hate the small minded people who come along and make such generalizations about groups of people. I’m not even what you would classify as “indie” and this article irks me to no other! I also find it fairly laughable that a couple such as Brett and Kate who write articles that constantly reek of conservatism dare write a piece about supposed “hip” and/or “independent” culture. Have you read their pieces on how men are supposed to treat women? You’d think we still lived in the victorian era (I reccomend you read the recent one on “rescuing women from bad body issues” apparently being an openly sexual being makes you bad in relationships HA!)
I didn’t think you sound nasty as all, you are simply defending a topic with which you are familiar with, whereas it is apparent to me that Kate and Brett are not “in the know” when it comes to the indie scene, so they turn to baseless assumptions and seem to get angry when people dissagree. If you are going to write a blog, you sure as hell should have tough enough skin to take people’s criticism.

@ Kate

Its not called hypocrisy when you have a valid arguement, she has a right to get worked up, especially since your article does not have any real merit. Using definitions from wikipedia does not a fact make. You do realize that wikipedia is not the factual bible and one cannot simply look up a definition, paste it on a blog and say to somebody “see that, you are that because wikipedia says it to be.” If you wanted a true definition of what “Indie” is perhaps you should have taken the time to actually ASK somebody who considers themselves such, but then again if you had done that you wouldn’t have wrote this article in the first place.

Oh I bought some black nailpolish the other day cause I liked it, that must make me goth or emo huh?

79 JW August 20, 2008 at 7:24 pm

I have to say that I’m a little tired of female commenters who for some reason are regular readers of a blog called the Art of MANLINESS and who keep getting on this blog and shrilly railing against the posts. I mean, Patty, are you really surprised with this vintage theme that the authors of the blog might be into Victorian era stuff? Note to you ladies: this blog is not for you! Bug off!

On the topic of this post, it seems to me that the very defensive responses from the indie kids actually proves the point of the post. I found this article through a link on my friend’s Christian-themed blog. He really liked the article, and as a Christian man, I also really liked it. And it seems to me that this is because I have a core identity, so I’m not threatened by it. I like indie stuff, and people would probably think I was a “hipster,” but I know that’s just my outward appearance, and my real identity springs from real convictions. But for a lot of indie kids, being indie is all they have and when you attack them they get really defensive, because you’re exposing just how superficial their identity and life is.

80 Lani August 20, 2008 at 7:32 pm

Kate, ok I’ll concede the point that it was hypicritical of me to throw insults in return, I’ll chalk it up to this article bringing out the worst in me.

I won’t fight you on the issue any longer, I will simply say that the next time you wish to write an article criticising poplular culture, perhaps you shouldn’t single out a particular group, I just feel this article would have been more accepted and intelligently written had it been more generalized. Perhaps it would have been seen more as a observation and not an attack on a particular group How would you feel if somebody singled out married blog writters and accused them of being a certain way when in fact EVERY blog writer was in fact “that way” Every stereotype in some sense has purchased an item to better establish themselves as part of a group, to single one particular group out seems like you’re just trying to pick a fight.

81 Kate August 20, 2008 at 7:38 pm


Fair enough. I understand your point. The idea of the post was to use the specific topic of being indie as an example of the bigger point about not basing your identity on what you can buy. We chose the indie culture to make this point since it is so prominent currently. Nevertheless, I can see how singling out only one group for criticism could be seen as offensive. As a whole, I have taken your comments to heart and will try to make my comments less snarky in the future.

Brett and I welcome female readers to the site. Manliness does not exist in a vacuum and women have a valuable viewpoint on what makes men, men.

82 Patty August 21, 2008 at 6:57 am

@ JW

I’m a man btw…Part of what makes you a man is your ability to form relationships, which does include the female gender. I find the female perspective on this sight refreshing, if not for them we’d been drowning in testosterone fueled comments. As a male, I’m always curious about the female point-of-view.

I don’t see anything wrong with somebody sticking up for themselves when they feel like they are being wrongfully attacked and/or singled out. I mean if none of these indie kids came on here to defend themselves you’d be accusing them of admiting to their faults because they didn’t say anything against your accusations. Its a lose-lose situation. I don’t consider myself indie in any way yet I commend these people for defending themselves. Stereotypes are just such because somebody felt the need for labeling a certain group. Usually those doing the labeling are not members of those stereotype, and those who are usually disagree with the label they’ve been given. For example, we assume that all video game players or sci fi watchers are nerds when this is simply not the case. Just because I happen to enjoy some Wii or watch a sci fi movie does not make me a nerd. Superficial is almost an obsolete word to me these days because it applies to everybody. People purchase acceptance everyday, whether they admit it or not. If you are going to single out a specific group for being a certain way you should pick a topic that doesn’t apply to the entire US population, because as Lani said, it makes it look more like an attack rather than an intelligent observation.

I find the overall concept of this article to be well-thought out, but I find the flaw to be singling out a specific group. You shouldn’t isolate a few when the in fact the masses are at fault as well.

83 caw August 24, 2008 at 7:28 pm

the crows seem to be calling my name

84 Benn August 25, 2008 at 9:49 pm

Great article – disastrous illustration.

85 Skeffington August 26, 2008 at 9:56 am


“I find the flaw to be singling out a specific group. You shouldn’t isolate a few when the in fact the masses are at fault as well”

Very true.

86 Stephanie August 27, 2008 at 7:07 am

This was interesting, thanks.

87 Max Novi August 27, 2008 at 7:40 am

Can’t say I agree with this bit of advice: “don’t be ironic and sarcastic” (it also contrasts with your recent advocacy of oratory).

If you meant “don’t be a smart-ass”, then I agree. It’s all a matter of dosage, as it often happens.

88 Chris August 28, 2008 at 12:48 pm

Sure, if “indie” is merely what you characterize it as, it is a “bunch of bunk.” But I’m not sure that that’s all that there is too it enough of the time to make such a generalization. In fact, it seems likely that an observer only distinguishes this group by their consumption, and in a bout of self-importance decides that this is where the line is actually drawn. (This may be true of many other groups, as well.)

What is also a bunch of bunk is needlessly looking for a group of people to typecast and denigrate. But hey, I’m sure the controversy will get you some nice blog traffic for a little while.

When I subscribed to your RSS feed some months, I found the article premises, at least, to be intriguing, and was often impressed by the quality of the article itself, as well. Since then, though, it has largely been uninteresting but inoffensive, and so I check the feed less often. With this article, however, you’re simply uninteresting — and I’m not even an indie kid. Bravo.

89 Nan August 28, 2008 at 6:34 pm

“I generally steer clear of people who make rash generalizations of people, be it the color of their skin or the label on their cardigan.”

If that isn’t a contradiction I don’t know what is!! LOL

90 JConda September 9, 2008 at 10:15 am

The term ‘indie’ is a marketing term. People who consider themselves ‘indie’ are victims of said marketing. No one with a truly independent spirit considers themselves or anything they do in life ‘indie’.

So, in my opinion, this post attacks, not those who stay true to themselves and follow their own hearts and individual intellects in the matters of style, art and occupation. Rather it targets those who want to wallow in the facade of being ‘indie’ without truly dedicating themselves to what that really means, and allowing researchers in corporate boardrooms to dictate what’s cool and what’s not.

As far as consumption goes, the United States is based on commerce. The dollar has power. So, instead of the supermarket I may spend my dollars at the local farmers market or community owned organic grocery (please note: Whole Foods is an excellent example of a large company with an effective marketing scheme as described above…as is Mac, Volkswagen, Chipotle..etc.)

Where I choose to spend my dollars without being affected by someones persuasive marketing has a lot to do with my independence.

91 alex October 4, 2008 at 4:18 pm

when i was in highschool i wore all black, and certain kinds of pants from hot topic but always black, i still wear black at all times, other then at work, because im comfortable in it, but im straying from my point in highschool i was consistantly labeled as goth, and i am by no means goth i was a victim of consumer stereotyping, i was followed in the mall by the security guards because i was that kid in all black with few or no people around, i live in the bible belt so there is an abundance of ignorance towards people who arent the same as you. to finally make my point i have never labeled myself in any one particular group nor do i want to be labeled simply because i then have to conform to that group

92 Brian October 4, 2008 at 6:26 pm

It looks as though some comments made about this indie article are looking too far into the subject. The article seems to be about keeping personal independence no matter what others may have followed into. The indie culture would just be the first target unfortunately because of the idea that indie represents free and independent thought.

93 laddiebuck November 1, 2008 at 11:06 pm

Clothes will never distinguish you. 5 words of conversation instantly can, though. If in person, the way you carry yourself and your face will be enough. Over the phone, the tone, volume, intonation, tempo, style and emotion of your voice will be enough. By almost all people, this is not consciously focussed on, and in totality reveal much about your personality — all before the content of what you say (which is really what distinguishes you or doesn’t) even enters the picture. Someone adept at making snap judgements (this comes with experience, hastened by conscious training) will make very accurate ones in an incredibly brief time.

But when you’ve actually done something, it’s enough to let your actions speak for themselves or other people speak for you.

94 Stephen January 11, 2009 at 11:32 pm

You know, I used to really like this blog till it started ratting on anything they deemed not manly.
I don’t see how you can just diss on something like this, and then back it up from sources like wikipedia. If you think that being indie is about being different and whatnot from everyone else then you’re wrong. You can’t just define something like that and then toot your own horn, it’s hypocritical.
I thought this website was about being your own man, but apparently not if you’re indie. You lost a reader with this article. I really think that this is a rude blog, and if you really care about your readers then I would expect more respect to each individual.

95 dave January 12, 2009 at 3:52 pm

“Getting married (when the time is right of course) is an essential and vital part of manhood.”

ha! lets just alienate everyone not interested in marriage, people who may never meet a suitable partner, homosexuals…

or Not….u could just help everyone “man up” without the narrow dogma

and…u could have said more about the concept that shopping independently, organically, locally, etc can help make the world better by supporting businesses that act responsibly, sustainably, chemical-free, fair trade, and on and on, rather than perpetuating corporate globalization/homogenization

96 Stephen January 12, 2009 at 10:48 pm

I’d go so far as to say I’m indie, and a man.

97 Indie Guy February 27, 2009 at 1:34 am

These days, Indie describes the music more than the culture.

98 cody fulling November 25, 2009 at 7:53 am

I know exactly what you mean… only we call them hipsters here. Goths have the same problem they try so hard to be different that they end up being everything they hate,,, only they don;t have a clue that they are doing it. Only difference is goths listen to shitty music and there is alot of cool indie music.

99 JR November 30, 2009 at 7:35 am

Wow! You two hit the nail on the head with this post..! I live in a town where the Indie movement is alive and well, and I’m wondering if we live in the same city because your description is just what I’ve experienced.
For the record, my perspective is that of an outsider. I’m kind of a ham-n-egger, or an Iron Eagle American if you will. I’d rather eat at Sizzler than susi, shop at Walmart rather than Whole Foods, and the Olive Garden makes better italian food than 99%of the “Mom and Pop” italian places.
We are all consumers and we all conform, the irony is that the Indie crowd defines itself by its nonconformity, but any objective person, who’s not part of that crowd, will observe a rigid set of unwritten rules regarding appearance, acquaintances, and general behavior.
I think you touched a nerve with so many people because you pointed out a very amusing truth rooted in hypocrisy and insecurity. Nothing against all you “indies” and “hipsters” and props to you if your skinny jeans, keffiyehs, and Jack’s Mannequin bootlegs get you laid. It’s just kind of funny that your whole crowd, which is supposed to be all different, looks and acts the same.
We’re all hypocrites and we all have insecurities. I laugh at black jokes, but I love Tyler Perry movies and blacks in general. I laugh at gay guys, but I’m eternally grateful when they’re working at the department store and have the patience to help me buy suits. I think Taylor Swift has some good songs, but I turn the volume down when I pull up next to a carload of girlies.
Anyways, I think your post was right on the money, and maybe some folks need to shrug it off and learn to laugh at themselves.

100 Andrew December 10, 2009 at 2:33 am

i think quite a few people aren’t understanding some things. (im 22 for reference) there are posers (in the 14-28 age group mostly.) these, for the most part, are what the writer and sympathizers are talking about. they hop about from fashion to fashion – whatever is “in” at the time. i wasn’t knowledgable about young adult culture until the emo movement was in full swing. from emo, it went to indie. then from indie to hipster. there’s been a small native american movement lately, but it’s still pretty much considered hipster.

the previously mentioned posers have basically been all of these things. when one becomes popular, they move on to the next. there are sincere people who were part of these “groups” before posers and consumerism made it popular, and there are sincere people that stick with it after it has moved on. while a lot of what i’m about to say sounds like complete generalizations, anyone who is a genuine part of these groups will most likely be able to agree.

with poser emo kids, like these other groups, a set fashion was readily and wordlessly agreed on. type in emo hair on google images. imagine that – they all look basically the same. type in emo makeup. same thing. whiny little girls that hated their lives. depressed little boys that tried to be as skinny as possible – writing sad poetry – sometimes cutting themselves”to make themselves feel ok because “they’re proving i can still feel something in my callused life”

poser indie kids. neutral milk hotel. vintage clothes. urban outfitters phonographs. grungy. self aware. 70s comeback.

poser hipsters. bright clothing. pushing their fixed gear bikes with bright deep v’s. 80s comeback. listening to bubblegum electric pop. as i stated earlier, native american fashion has had a bit of a resurgence. keffiyehs around necks.

it’s easiest to tell the posers when talking about their fashion dominates their conversations. genuine indie kids couldn’t care less about staying in trend, and just do what they’ve always done. genuine bike messengers aren’t worried about so many posers riding around with their ourys.

the blogger makes some great points that i agree with about consumerism, but obviously has very little idea about the particular group they chose to pick on. research could have been entertaining and informative. but this just seems like yet another case of being out of touch with a younger generation. we fear what we don’t understand. the general adult public and big markets pick up on the increasing amount of posers copping a style, market/talk about it, and it attracts more posers. exponential growth til the next big thing. for every gilded thing to complain about, there’s most likely a more genuine beginning.

@indieguy – i’d say it’s the other way around. indie used to define music, but nowadays it seems to me to be more of a culture thing.

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