Vibe Shift

“The old world is dying, and the new world struggles to be born: now is the time of monsters.”

Maybe some of you have seen the above meme—maybe some of you have not. Personally, it’s been clogging my feed for the past few days. Most people who encounter it are confused, annoyed, angry, or some mixture of all three.

This post won’t be an explanation of the meme. If you want to know what it means Google the words, look up the accounts, consume the associated content. Instead, I want to point out that the general anxiety the meme has engendered is evidence of a vibe shift.

In my life, I’ve lived through four vibe shifts.

  1. Hipster/Indie Music (ca. 2003—2009)

  2. Post-Internet/Techno Revival (ca. 2010—2016)

  3. Hypebeast/Woke (ca. 2016—2020)

  4. [ABOVE MEME] (ca. 2021—????)

Treat the years as suggestions, not hard and fast delineations. What I remember from each of the preceding vibe shifts was the speed of change. It’s like going to a smoking cessation hypnotherapist. You walk into the office craving a cigarette. Zone out. Then someone snaps their fingers. Voilà! Cigarettes are fucking gross. Smoking one makes me want to puke.

That’s a vibe shift on a personal scale. Jump up to level of a scene and the whip fast shift is still taking place. But oftentimes only to some.

When we started K-HOLE, it was at the beginning of the hipster to post-internet vibe shift. One day everyone was wearing Red Wing boots and partying in warehouses in Williamsburg decorated with twinkling fairy lights. VIBE SHIFT! Everyone started wearing Nike Frees and sweating it out in the club. Now some did not make it through the vibe shift… “Why are you all wearing the same sneakers!” they would plead. “Don’t you care about authenticity? What’s with all this sudden interest in branding!”

Those people didn’t make it through the vibe shift. They bunkered down in Greenpoint and got married. Sometimes in McCarren Park you would see them. Beards waxed, sleeves tatted, pushing some artisanal pram around the track. I’m sure they’re very happy. They’ve probably moved to Hudson by now. But they did not make it through the vibe shift.

When Post-Internet got clobbered by streetwear and hypebeasts and wokeness—well, everyone remembers that vibe shift. It was 2016. Brexit, Trump, etc. I’ll spare you the details on that one since enough ink was spilled over perhaps the most traumatic vibe shift in living memory. If anyone needs a refresher, I refer you to the bargain bin at any brick and mortar book store. It’s been covered.

The current vibe shift has been coming for quite some time. Working in Los Angeles me and my friend [REDACTED] would make jokes about the older creatives really trying to seem young and with it. We called them hype dads and speculated they may have been spending down Junior’s college fund to afford their conspicuous sneaker collections. They drove Audis or Beamers or maybe a Jeep Wrangler if they were the kind of hype dad who lived in Manhattan Beach and surfed. And they always—I stress always—paid the subscription fee for the yellow on black California license plates so their tags inevitable matched their cars.

One Easter, a friend was visiting from San Francisco. We had planned to go to a brunch in Malibu but realized his plane left too early. Instead, we went to The Grove and had a liquid lunch of Aperol spritzes. The people watching at The Grove is always good and this Easter Sunday we had a front row seat to our current vibe shift. At the table next to ours was a family having a long leisurely meal. The father was wearing head-to-toe Balenciaga, including the then cutting edge “dad shoe.” His son meanwhile was curled in a ball, Airpods in, scrolling through whatever was on his phone. He would look up periodically and accost his father with a glare of pure revulsion. There foretold was the vibe shift.

I’m hesitant to name our current vibe shift. It’s clearly a return to scene culture, contains elements of Naughty Aughties nostalgia. The players are personalities more interested in the literary than the artistic, more interested in the who follows than the how many followers. Musically—well, I’ve already made my prediction: it’ll be a return of rock.

For those worried the current vibe shift may leave them behind… It may well. But there are worse things than being a hype dad in $1000 sneakers pushing your twins around in an aerodynamic carbon fiber pram. Sometimes there’s happiness in irrelevance. For others, worried they’re too old for another vibe shift… Remember: no one cares if you’re old. They care if you’re boring 🥰