The Trendiest Guy in New York City
I slept with 30 pillows, wore my hair in a “man bun,” and waxed my pubic hair, all thanks to New York Times trend stories.
Illustration by Charlie Powell.
Though I live in Brooklyn, work in media, and live an irresponsible bohemian lifestyle, I am not a particularly trendy person. I own a 10-year-old cell phone. I wear Birkenstocks. I shop at Sears. Other people in my neighborhood collect vinyl records. I collect CDs, and I alphabetize them for fun.
My lameness is never more evident than when I read the New York Times Style section. Every Thursday and Sunday a new edition appears, featuring the latest doings of the city's most fashionable souls. I am not among them. I don't vacation in the Hamptons, or wear Band-Aids as fashion accessories, or give expensive gifts to other people's children. According to the NYT, New Yorkers “stress-bingeing in darkened apartments” have been packing on the “Sandy Five.” Meanwhile, I’ve gained at least 15 pounds in Sandy’s aftermath. In the eyes of the Times, I might as well not even exist.
Some people like to mock Thursday and Sunday Styles, doubting the legitimacy of their trend reports. I, for one, would never call these stories specious, questionably sourced linkbait. This is the New York Times we're talking about. If they report that the city's smart set is drinking Postum and collecting doorknobs, then, by God, it's true! Lamewads like me shouldn't mock these stories. We should learn from them.
But am I too far gone for Styles to help? Would it be possible, through careful study and dedication, for me to get hip? In the interest of science, I looked at every New York Times trend story published since January and identified the ones that could best be used as instruction guides for fabulous living. My mission: become the trendiest guy in New York City.
Some trends were easier to follow than others. I wasn't able to convince anyone to let me feed raw food to her dogs. (I called it “hip,” they called it “animal abuse.”) Defying the ravages of middle age by skateboarding with friends in New Jersey was also difficult, as I am neither a skateboard owner, a New Jersey resident, or a middle-aged man. And Slate advised me that it wouldn’t be wise legally to fake a celebrity's death, which made me upset, as I’d already gone to the trouble of incapacitating Jim Nabors.
In the end, I was able to embody seven separate trends. Three of them involve hair, some of which (fair warning) is of the pubic variety. Now, on to the trendiness.
“Oh, to Be Just Another Bearded Face”: A beard is a must for any aspiring trendsetter, so I discarded my razor and got to growing. Unfortunately, I can't really grow hair on my cheeks, and the ensuing scruff made me look like a mangy Amish man. So imagine my relief when the Times informed me that, when it came to beards, smugness, not bushiness, was the thing. Some men without beards, the NYT’s Steven Kurutz reports, "are ‘extremely distressed’ by their lack of beard-growing capability. They experience ‘pain and suffering’ and ‘face ridicule’ from their bearded friends. They can even be ‘intimidated by the sight of someone with a great beard.’ ”
As a longtime Internet commenter, I have plenty of experience viciously criticizing people who are different from me. So I stored up some insults and went to Williamsburg's Brooklyn Flea—a weekly food festival and junk market for people fond of plaid shirts and artisanal mayonnaise—to razz the clean-shaven. I spotted the beardless proprietor of a stall selling chalkboards, pot holders, and Sharpie drawings of water towers—the most quintessentially Brooklyn kiosk imaginable. "So, why don't you have a beard?" I asked. "Ha ha, what?" he replied. I ran away.
Mocking strangers to their baby faces was harder than I thought. But if trendiness was easy, then we'd all be silk-screening our own postcards. I decided to give it another go, walking over to a fuzzless man selling eyeglasses. After some small talk, I pounced.
Me: Do the other vendors ever make fun of you for not having a beard?
Vendor: What? What are you talking about?
Me (panicking): You know, 'cause they all seem to have beards and mustaches.
Vendor: Oh, I thought you said beer.
Me: No, I said beard.
Vendor: Yeah, sometimes they do.
Me: Should I make fun of you for not having a beard?
Vendor: Go right ahead!
Me: Your hairless face is disgusting to me.
As he laughed to keep from crying, I walked away victorious, having taught him a lesson he wouldn't soon forget.
“Americans Are Barmy Over Britishisms”: "What's up?" "You the man." "Take it easy." I use these slang phrases all the time, which is one of the top five reasons I've never been invited back to the Yale Club. According to the Times, British slang is the only slang that a trendy American ought to use: “Snippets of British vernacular—‘cheers’ as a thank you, ‘brilliant’ as an affirmative, ‘loo’ as a bathroom—that were until recently as rare as steak and kidney pie on these shores are cropping up in the daily speech of Americans (particularly, New Yorkers) of the taste-making set who often have no more direct tie to Britain than an affinity for Downton Abbey,” the NYT’s Alex Williams writes.
I was in England earlier this year, and though I spent most of my time being jetlagged and avoiding their hideous breakfasts, I did pick up some slang—words like lorry, as in "I would rather be hit by a lorry than eat another English breakfast." So I figured this would be easy. I boned up on my Britishisms by rereading Brideshead Revisited and consulting the Wikipedia entry on British slang. When Hurricane Sandy knocked out the electricity, I couldn’t hold it in any longer. "Well, this is all to cock!" I cried.
"Your cock?" my wife said.
Justin Peters is Slate’s crime correspondent.