There's nothing more tired and predictable than a rant about how the Internet changed the culture, especially when its purpose is to chastise so-called millennials for their digitally-savvy, fast-typing, presumptuous lifestyle. But summer is here, so it's time we had a serious talk about posers.
It's been a while since I called someone a poser and meant it. That's because, before taste was democratized into a bland salad of C-grade street style and endless meme imitation lemon parties, the word poser meant something. If you didn't skate, but you wore an Alien Workshop T-shirt, you were a poser. Skate shoes without ollie holes? Poser. Mall grab your board? Same. It was an important word because not only did it make your adversaries feel small and pathetic, but it identified frauds and protected your tribe. The smell test is different these days, but the reek is all the same.
Before the skaters who kicked your ass in middle school adopted the term, punks used it to label those who wore the fashions, but weren't down for the cause. In other words, a safety pin in your ear and a bunch of Offspring lyrics written in Wite-Out on your JanSport did not you a punk make. Sorry. You were a poser. Wake up slumped against a telephone pole on St. Marks with track marks and a pitbull asleep on your lap, then we can talk. Point is: There will always be someone to whom you are a poser. The term has made the rounds through various subcultures, not just punk and skate. Hardcore kids, goths, even surfers or, as I like to call them, sea posers, have used it to defend their turf.
In it's prime, poseur, or poser as most of you posers probably spell it, was amongst the lowest insults one could deploy. It questioned everything you stood for—your authenticity, your integrity, your commitment. If you were a poser, you were a fraud, a phony, a faker and you probably couldn't even kickflip. Off my wave, kook! But as we all know, no one stands for anything anymore, so has poser become obsolete?
No. It hasn't. And it's more critical now than ever.
The second you start to think about yourself and your style as authentic or not is the second it slips away.
Subcultures need protecting because easy access to information has made them vulnerable. Whatever it is, hip-hop, hardcore, riding waves and robbing banks, there will be vultures. Skateboarding is cool. Like punk and cosplay, it comes with a lifestyle that is alluring to norms. Surfing is not cool, but for some reason those guys are intensely protective over their culture. I think it has something to do with saving the oceans.
Call someone a poser today and they'll counter with an extensive history along with quotes and thoughtful analysis picked up from Wikipedia, online forums and RapGenius.com—now conveniently named Genius.com—every poser's favorite URL. You used to spot a poser because he pretended to be down, but didn't actually know shit. Today, it's the opposite. The biggest poser is often the most well-informed person in the room. Information is garbage, especially of the trivial sort, found on the Internet and stored in your brain so that you can feel like less of a poser when someone calls you out for wearing Supreme.
Point is, what you wear does have some cultural significance and you should be aware of it. Unless it's low-slung boardshorts and Reef sandals, then you are trash and you should just give up entirely.
Authenticity is key to not being a poser, but it's fleeting and hard to pin down. The second you start to think about yourself and your style as authentic or not is the second it slips away. If you wear a Palace tee because you skate and you connect with the brand on the level that the brand intended, then you are a poser no better than the kid who simply apes what he sees because he is a leech without the balls or taste to find his own purpose. Both are bogus. Authenticity is an intrinsic quality that dissipates as soon as you start to consider it.
Noah Johnson is neither a Cool Dad™ nor Cool Teen™. Listen to his mixtape on Twitter here.