My 14-Year-Old Cousin Taught Me How to Be a Cool Teen
My cousin is infinitely cooler than I am. Who better to teach me how to be a wavey teen?
Me, as a cool teen. All photos by Regina Lemaire-Costa
I feel old. I'm looking down the barrel of 30 and I am now closer in age to Jason Sudeikis than I am to Jaden Smith. Part of me still thinks I should feel young—at least because I'm definitely not grown-up in the pension-and-stock-portfolio sense of the word. But I feel the cold skeletal hand of irrelevance on my aging shoulder all the time now. There are things I just don't understand now, like Lil Peep, and I just have to chalk it up to my ongoing decrepitude.
That doesn't mean I'm ready to go gently into that good night, though. So for Teen Week, I've enlisted the help of my 14-year-old cousin David to teach me how to be a Cool Teen.
David isn't just your average cool teen with over a thousand followers on Instagram. He goes to school with the daughter of a famous supermodel. Justin Bieber once played soccer on his school field. In contrast, the last time I was deemed cool by a cultural arbiter was back in 2009, when I was scouted as a model by the store manager of an American Apparel in Williamsburg (RIP). Once, David instagrammed a picture of himself holding a Supreme beach ball. Did you even know Supreme did beach balls? I didn't.
"First question," I DM him on Instagram. "Do you think I should go to work today?"
"Hmmmm yea I think that's a good idea," he replies. "I mean if you don't then you will get fired from your job?"
I foolishly assumed that I could spend the duration of this assignment bunking off work and smoking a ketamine and Spice-infused jazz zoot behind the skate ramp or whatever teenagers do these days, but David isn't about to let me off lightly. However, he is going to help me revamp my style.
Skatewear is huge, obviously, but it also boils down to three brands: "In my opinion, it's definitely [about] Supreme, Palace, and Adidas," he says. "There are also other vintage brands which are wavey such as Champion, Polo Sport, Ralph Lauren."
But how does a cool teen afford Supreme, especially considering that a shirt averages about £99? According to David, People get the money from their parents and then start generating cash by reselling the most in-demand pieces. It's like an infinite money loop, fueled by 14-year-olds who can won't get fired if they stand in line at 9AM on a work day for the latest Supreme drop.
"I resell stuff, like the odd tee or hoodie, and I can sell it for double the price," David says. "Once you've got that money, you can buy other stuff and sell some old stuff too. I usually sell it through Depop. There's a Supreme classic logo hoodie that retails for £138, and I sold it for £200."
David explains that he doesn't do it a lot, but other students in his school have turned it into a small-time business. "People joke around, like, 'Look at the reseller,'" he says. "They buy mass quantities of whatever hyped clothing is, and they sell it on for more, which people don't really like. There's one person in Year 11—he's made over 3K just selling clothes. He's about 15."
I'm astounded. I've tried to flog old Topshop crap on eBay and Depop, the shopping app, but I've never sold anything for more than £70. Unfortunately, I don't have any Supreme or Palace to sell on, because my access to a parental credit card expired sometime in 2010. However, I find an old Fila tennis skirt that I optimistically bought five years ago to play tennis in—I say optimistically because it was an optimist's mistake to assume that this minuscule skirt covered more than one-fifth of my ass, and an optimist's mistake to assume I would actually play any tennis in it. I upload it to Depop with some #wavey #lit hashtags.
Taking into account David's advice about "wavey brands," I also attempt to dress up like a Cool Teen. Unfortunately, most of the sportswear I own is plain old, non-Cool-Teen Nike. I do, however, have some old Adidas shorts, a sweatshirt, and an old skateboard. And while I don't have any Adidas Yeezy Boosts, I do have some Adidas Gazelles. Lamestream fashion magazines have said that these are out now, but I'm hoping David will see them as "vintage." I mean, he was in grade school when these things were last cool.
I send him a pic. There is a long, agonizing six minute wait. "Haha I love it," he says, adding the A-OK emoji.
Drunk on my success, I make plans with some friends after work. But I want David to tell me what a teenager in his position would do on a Tuesday night. "Question: I'm meeting people for drinks," I text. "How many drinks should I have?"
"As many as you can but not so ur completely smashed," he replies. "Depends if ur a lightweight of a heavyweight lol."
"Is it cool to be absolutely smashed?" I ask.
"It's not cool," he says affirmatively. "Like it's not nice and you would just make a fool of yourself. You kinda just lose your dignity." David patiently explains that people his age are wary of getting recorded on smartphones, "probably because they don't want other people to have a record of them being drunk—they'll always have that evidence."
When I was a teenager, getting shitfaced and documenting the whole night in a Facebook album of over 200 photos was considered par for the course. Two drinks in, I'm already a little tipsy but know that my teenage life coach would disapprove of another one. David's generation are more sober than I realized, and even if the threat of getting documented online never materialized, it's one that's always in the back of their heads—which sounds pretty terrifying.
So if you don't gain popularity by downing five Jagerbombs in a row at an underage club, how do you raise your social standing?
"Meme accounts are big," David suggests. "That's pretty trendy—doing things that are funny and random and sending it to accounts to get onto that."
Meme pages! Finally, something I do understand. I look at feminist memes all the time. However, these are not the memes David is talking about. All of his favorite accounts have hundreds of thousands of followers, but I've never seen them before: @imjustbait, @hackneysfinest and @londonbaithead. The latter promises "Original Street Banter" with the skull emoji on its description.
I don't have anything remotely resembling "original street banter" to submit to this page. However, I do have an old Facebook meme I made sometime in 2007, when Boris Johnson was running for Mayor of London. Will @londonbaithead rise to old school icanhascheezburger.com nostalgia?
The answer is no.
I have to admit, I'm slightly discouraged. I check my Depop page to see if my Fila skirt has sold, hoping that it signifies the start of my career as a Teen Reseller. Nobody has expressed any interest—it hasn't even gotten a single like.
A week in, my experiment in being a Cool Teen has ended in failure. Maybe that's because I actually was never a cool teenager—the things I liked when I was 14 have either become universally derided (see: emo) or extinct (see: nu rave). I assumed that being a teen in 2017 would be a nostalgia trip for the things that I did when I was younger, but the cultural landscape has changed completely, and I'm somewhere up shit creek, trying to row my way out of obsolescence.
Nobody wanted to be a teenager when I was young. Nobody actually liked going to underage clubs, or smoking bad weed, or setting bins on fire because we were so bored that it passed for entertainment. We viewed them as sort-of-acceptable compromises for adulthood, when we would graduate into real life and be able to do what we actually wanted to do.
Now everyone wants to be young. Everyone wants to have the latest Supreme, or skateboard, or have thousands of Instagram followers, or go viral. It isn't that teenagers have grown up faster—it's because the interests of grown-ups have suddenly aligned with those of teenagers.
Anyway, aren't all the drugs we shovel up our noses and the drinks we pour down our throats a desperate attempt to feel a little younger? To escape the boredom of work and adulthood and slip into a moment that feels a little freer, a little more transcendent? A time when the potential for human connection seemed endless, when a shared enjoyment of a band could spark lifelong friendship? When you could stay up until 4 AM talking to each other—without the aid of recreational drugs—and do it night after night?
Of course, I already know David's answer: Only a grown-up would think that. Nostalgia, I've learned, is an adult-only adventure, and the price of admission is youth.
All photos by Regina Lemaire-Costa.