*The views and opinions expressed in this piece are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of 7|X as a whole
Since its inaugural event in 2016, I have always been intrigued by the idea of ComplexCon. While I do not consider myself particularly trendy, I do love seeing culture on display through the lens of art, music and street fashion. Plus I can never turn down a golden opportunity for people watching.
So this year, I decided to roll down to Long Beach to see what the hype was all about. What follows are the observations (and confessions) an old soul navigating the era of consumerism at ComplexCon.
What started as a day to see fashion retailers and artists at a “high-end swap meet” (as my homie called it) quickly turned into more of a field trip to an unfamiliar world. The Long Beach Convention Center was built out like Disney World for hypebeasts. The lines, the selfies, the people clamoring for the attention of workers at booths… it all felt like a charade. Don’t get me wrong, I love shoes, clothes, and cool art, but the vanity and self-absorbed nature of the crowd just felt forced.
The coolest part of the experience was having access to so many streetwear brands all in one place. If you’re into trendy drip, ComplexCon is the place to be. Diamond Supply showed out with their Nike SB collab, Bait had some cool tees, Pink Dolphin (shouts to Seattle) had a few pieces, and even Russell Athletic tried to get in the mix.
But listen, this is the same Russell Athletic my aunt used to bundle up with the new socks and undies for my little Christmas pack during the holidays. Target and Big 5 had their gear for the low. And now because they show up at ComplexCon I’m supposed to believe they are a premium lifestyle brand worthy of selling $50+ sweatshirts?
Between the ridiculously long lines and the unfavorable price tags, my desire to spend cash was tested early. As my itch to spend faded, I shifted my attention toward art, and there were some solid pieces throughout the event. Much respect to Murakami, Avenue Des Arts Gallery, and Louis De Guzman, but I’m not fancy enough to fork over $500-$600 cash for one of their pieces. I haven’t graduated to that level of swag, yet. And while I thought I might have been alone, I witnessed plenty of others at these booths looking “fake interested” too.
This all led me to reflect on the culture of consumerism that our generation has become defined by. ComplexCon was designed to curate, celebrate and shape culture; this in and of itself is an admirable mission. However, the culture of consumerism has tainted this mission and turned the event into a rat race of people trying to outdo the next man’s fresh by buying the “coolest” and “most exclusive” gear. The irony of it all is that everybody is standing in line to spend money on the exact same product as everyone else in line.
Since when has everyone become in such a hurry to all look the same? If I had a dollar for every pair of Off-Whites or exclusive-but-not-so-exclusive Jordans in the room, I wouldn’t need to play the lotto. I expected to see more individuality and creativity from the people at an event like this, but I guess I underestimated hype and its impact on our generation.
The more I saw crowds of 50+ in line for a t-shirt, fanny pack, or hat, the more I reinforced my desire to remain true to myself. I never want to stand in line just to look the same as everyone in it. So many people were poised and hyped to give their money away to the brands that didn’t even offer anything that dope. They let other people (and brands) tell them what to buy, and they mindlessly stood in line to buy it.
Now I could just be the old washed up guy that is grumpy about new trends, but I feel like there is something understated about the value of uniqueness and individuality when it comes to defining style. I respect the influence these brands have on the culture, but I also respect my own brand. There is a balance.
The event left me with one powerful question: what kind of consumer am I? Am I an aimless consumer trying to buy what “they” tell me is “hot”? Or am I a conscious consumer trying to buy what I feel best defines me?
At ComplexCon, the lines were definitely blurred.