REBEL WITH A 401(K) May 19, 2005 --
MEET the new yuppie: the urban striver who listens to "O.C."-approved indie rock, checks the right blogs to find out about "secret" rock shows, considers white iPod earbuds the ultimate fashion accessory - and is a lawyer with a mortgage and a baby on the way. Whereas once a yuppie was defined as being part of the establishment - think the '80s corporate drone who wore power suits, watched "thirtysomething" and loved the soundtrack to "The Big Chill" - today's yuppie strenuously identifies with all things counterculture. The strain was first identified a few weeks ago by Vice Records label manager Adam Shore, who derided what he called the newly created "indie-yuppie establishment" in an interview with the Columbia Spectator. He tagged offenders as anyone who identifies themselves through their love of what he considers the ultimate in polite, passive alternative rock: bands like the Shins, the Arcade Fire and the Postal Service that he derides as "comfy music." Shore's original comments were picked up by Scott Lapatine, who runs the heavily trafficked music blog stereogum.com. Stereogum's subsequent contest 'You Might Be an Indie-Yuppie If You . . ." received the most responses Lapatine has ever gotten to a single post. "If you can afford New York City rents and can go to these rock shows, you are definitely an indie-yuppie," says Lapatine, who fully admits to being one himself. "I just bought a ticket for the Death Cab for Cutie show at Central Park, and it cost $35 - at what point is that indie?" In other words, you must be an active, contributing member of society who considers your iTunes library an extension of yourself and who turns up for work at 10 a.m. - though you may be hung over from last night's secret Gang of Four show at the Tribeca Grand Hotel. "I was like, 'Oh, my God! That's me!'" says entrant Tanya Manchini, a 31-year-old editor from Hoboken (who admits she was relieved the Nine Inch Nails show she saw on Monday night ended early). "I crossed the line when I stopped dressing in thrift store clothing and started appreciating shoes by Michael Kors," she adds. Still, she says, "it's hard to reconcile yourself to it when you came up through the college radio punk scene, and then you grow up to become a person with disposable income. It really hit home." Manchini says that the indie-yuppie has replaced the conventional idea of yuppiedom - as does fellow entrant Georgiana Cohen, a 25-year-old Web content producer. "I'm marginally guilty," admits Cohen, who points to her CD collection ("I've got a few Bright Eyes CDs from 2000, before he was everyone's Jesus Christ") and her love of the movie "Garden State" as proof. "That movie is like the 'Citizen Kane' of indie culture," she says. "You have Natalie Portman's character saying that the Shins will change your life. And it dealt with that kind of ennui - [like] that Gen X malaise ten years ago. It's a badge thing - to say you saw 'Garden State' three times! In a theater!" Many newly minted indie-yuppies say the statement they most related to was "You might be an indie-yuppie if you put on a CD and secretly pray that you'll like it." It's a comment speaks to the effort involved in being an indie-yuppie, and the deluded self-esteem that can only come from knowing that you should like the Arcade Fire, or that Bright Eyes backlash is setting in. Self-described indie-yuppie Ben Garvey, 26 ("I have a mortgage and just went to see Built to Spill"), blames the Internet. "Any dork can sit at home and find out about new bands - it's just easier to stay on top of things," he says. "There would definitely be fewer indie-yuppies if not for the Web." But Vice's Shore says that he thinks the phenomenon goes beyond the conspicuous consumption of the right CD while wearing $200 jeans and sipping an iced chai latte. He's disturbed, he says, by the sheer level of politeness and sensitivity that has overtaken indie rock - which, in the '80s and '90s, was defined by coarse, reactionary bands like Nirvana, Soundgarden and even Pavement. "Why is it that when we're at war, and we have an administration that's so against youth, that music isn't harder and more abrasive?" Shore asks. "Now everyone wants to be the Shins. I just don't get it." The 33-year-old label exec - who, for the record, says he's not an indie-yuppie ("I don't require that kind of comfort in my music") - says he was surprised by the reaction he elicited on Stereogum. "I obviously touched a nerve," he says, adding that he never meant to spark hipster-on-hipster Web violence. "I was just trying to say that indie music has gone soft - I mean, it can't get any softer." But it may be too late: many indie-yuppies are now re-examining just what their CD collections, viewing habits and fashion choices say about them. "If you wear Shins pins on your messenger bag or your lapels, it's like saying, 'Look who I like! Here are my loyalties!'" says entrant Cohen, who cops to such accessories. But, she says, she draws the line at owning an iPod. "I have a different brand of MP3 player, because white earbuds are a theft target - but also because I don't want to be 'that person,'" she says. "I don't want anyone to think I'm some kind of hipster elitist."
Take the dumb quiz here
Edit: for the record, I scored 2.