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Hot Topic Prepares to Turn 30

by Piper St. James

Can you believe it, Hot Topic is almost 30.  If Hot Topic was a Goth child it can now legally drive, vote, drink (even though we know it didn’t wait until 21 for that!), and officially rent a car.  Now it’s about to kiss the big 3-0 on the ass and enter those painful third life crisis years.

How will Hot Topic handle its early thirties?  Well if its last few years are any indicator it’s going to continue to transition into the geek world and keep pulling further and further away from the Goth roots us 90’s mall kids remember so fondly.  Sadly those days have been long gone for years.

Gone are the days of velvet dresses rimmed in lace and long black trench coats.  No more black chunky platform knee high boots with buckles running up the side.  No more bondage pants that would wrap around your school chair and keep you from standing up to leave.  You can’t even find a horror t-shirt unless it’s from American Horror Story or The Walking Dead.  What happened to the Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween, and Evil Dead shirts I filled my drawers with?  And is anyone else sick of those Pop figures taking up space?  In addition, I’m a huge Disney fan, but it’s place is not in Hot Topic.  Long gone are the days of Hot Topic past, and boy do we miss them.

No more spiked collars or ball chained necklaces that were so common in the hallways of high schools across America.  Even those rubber bands you’d wear around your wrist and trade with friends are difficult to find on their accessories wall.

Sure, you can still find a tube of black lipstick and matching black nail polish, but so can you at your local drug store.  Even a few colors of punk hair dye remain, a brand that used to be Manic Panic which many of us once used to switch our hair colors from week to week.  How fortunate we are to still have hair after those shenanigans!  But now Hot Topic has taken another route, a path filled with geek fandoms and bright neon colors.

Hot Topic is entering its thirties, and that means adulthood.  For real this time, not the “I’ll get to it eventually” when you’re in your mid twenties and still eating pizza for dinner four times a week.  Products that are sure to sell and pay the bills stock the shelves, even if that means leaving behind some of the things that made it cool and different in its adolescent years.

Namely nostalgia television and geek fandom products have replaced the items of its youth.  Nostalgic cartoons such as; Invader Zim, Care Bears, and old school Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles line the walls.  Don’t get me wrong, I love the cartoons from my childhood, but it has a time and a place, and it should have a much smaller display space in the store.  Geekdom such as; Doctor Who, Pokémon, and anything pertaining to successful DC and Marvel movies hang on their racks.  If it brought in millions in the box office and had a PG-13 rating, you can be sure to find at least a t-shirt pertaining to it at your local Hot Topic.

The ‘powers that be’ behind the store seem to have forgotten about the crowd that helped make them who they were when they started out as seedlings.  We grew up as well, but that doesn’t mean our tastes and interests have changed.  We still go out on the weekend in our best black dresses and high heel horror themed shoes, even if they are a bit more sensible than the stilettos we wore in our early twenties.  We’re always on the look out for a new black handbag that expresses our darker interest in life.  We are still here, and we are still willing to purchase your items if they grew up with us.  Where are us thirty-something going to wear a Rugrats t-shirt?  We get it, you want to focus on those with a disposable income, namely teenagers, but don’t shun the audience that helped cater to your initial success.

I miss the days when the store would blare its music so loud it would shake the wall to the neighboring Pac-Sun.  I miss the sideways glares it would receive from adults and old people as they passed carrying their Macy’s bags.  And I really miss freaking out my deeply Christian step mother with the possessed Reagan poster from The Exorcist sandwiched between their black light absorbent and band posters.

Perhaps what I miss the most is having a place I felt like I belonged and wouldn’t be judged for my black hair, fishnets, and white face powder.  Hot Topic used to be a place a lonely teenager like myself needed in their misunderstood life.  It taught me about the comic books Johnny the Homicidal Maniac by Jhonen Vasquez, as well as Gloom Cookie and Nightmares and Fairytales which were both penned by the talented Serena Valentino.  It was a safe haven to be myself and inspire inner creativity and uniqueness, even if we (the Goth crowd) did ironically blend in with ourselves with our reoccurring clothing styles, hair colors, and make up techniques.  Above all, it was a safe place to hang out with friends and make new ones.

It’s ok Hot Topic, being 30 years old is scary, but you don’t have to follow the same path as your friends.  You don’t need to be married and have babies, nor do you need to take out a mortgage and buy your first house.  Apartment living is totally acceptable!  You didn’t really want to mow your lawn every week and adjust the chemicals in your pool anyway, did you?  So what if you’re starting to get a couple of grey hairs, or if spanx are replacing your sexy satin and lace lingerie?  It’s ok that you haven’t been carded at the bar in years.  We love you for who you were Hot Topic, you didn’t need to change for anyone.

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