Dr. Girlfriend wanted a Batman shirt to wear to The Dark Knight Rises premier, and as I’m in charge of all things comic book related in the relationship, I took charge of the situation. I consulted the kids at my office concerning where I could accomplish such a feat in a jiffy, and they directed me to Hot Topic. This worked out well for me as I’d be able to pick up our advanced purchased tickets and get the shirt in one fell swoop. Off to the mall…
The kids were right; Hot Topic had an entire table of Batman related products: belt buckles, lunch boxes, wallets, and of course, t-shirts. A gentleman who appeared to be about my age explained (or rather shouted over the pulse pounding beats) that all Batman gear was 20% off and purchases over $25 came with your choice of The Dark Knight Rises poster. Of course, as the items were priced just under $25, you’d need to purchase two items to qualify for the poster you didn’t want our need. I was able to locate a reasonably designed shirt (bypassing the option that seemed to be an homage to Madonna’s costume in the “Like a Virgin” video) in Dr. Girlfriend’s size with minimal difficulty.
I made it up to the register and again met the gentleman who’d explained the Batman discount/poster deal to me earlier and upon checkout, he asked, “Are you a member?” My first instinct was to respond, “I’m thirty-one,” as I assumed he was asking me if I was a member of some sort of Hot Topic shopping club, but instead, I simply responded, “No.”
In my teens, a friend and I went to the mall for some Christmas shopping and were given instructions to meet his mom at a specified time and place. When she didn’t show, we fell to speculating about her tardiness. “Maybe she wandered into Hot Topic and we’ll never see get again,” he joked, but it wasn’t far off from how we felt about the place. In the 90s, the goth kids that shopped there always wore this, “I’ll fucking kill you – or myself – whatever generates the most blood” expression on their face, and that was enough to keep me out of the store by choice. (As a teen, it’s easy to get talked into things: drinking, cutting class, Jurassic Park 2… anyway, I’d been in the store before.) That was the image of the store when it first opened – at least that’s how me and my friends felt. I thought that under the sign that blazed,”Hot Topic,” slickly designed to almost appear as though it was written in blood, a tag line should issue the warning: “Stay out of here, you fucking baseball watching conformist – this is the mall.“ Sure, a contradictory message, but that’s how it seemed.
Some fifteenish years later, they’re selling almost the same products – except more franchised licensed gear (lots of fake vintage tees), and less concert tees – although they’re still selling that Nirvana t-shirt with the weird cartoon face on it. I didn’t notice any make up for guys, though. I guess what I’m driving at is at this point, in my early 30s, Hot Topic should have left me far behind – hell, that’s how I felt when I was a kid – I wasn’t hip enough for that store. Now, it’s more like they’re catering to me. I do not get that at all… or maybe it’s just good business. After all, 30+ year old nerds have more money to spend than 16 year old rebels.