Ann About Town: Hipsters in East Lansing?

Wednesday, February 10, 2016, 8:32 am
By: 
Ann Nichols

Note: this article originally ran in November of 2014, but Ann About Town is coming back to ELi and we thought we'd lead up to that by running some reader favorites from the archives.

My companion and I recently headed out on a windy Sunday to hang out in downtown East Lansing for an afternoon with this motto: “always let a hipster be your guide.” This happened for several reasons, one of which is that despite my advanced age, I find myself having a number of interests in common with the contemporary “hipster” demographic. I wondered how East Lansing would look in hipster-vision, and also whether the young folks at potentially hip venues would be welcoming to people elderly enough to be their parents.

In order to avoid confusion, I chose the most basic, non-specific definition of hipster: “a person who follows the latest trends and fashions, especially those regarded as being outside the cultural mainstream.” Although too young to have been “hep cats” and too old to be wearing skinny jeans and ironic T-shirts while riding fixed-gear bikes to collect kale from a rooftop garden, we could easily function outside the cultural mainstream. (We would not, in fact, know the cultural mainstream if it bit us).

Our first stop was Hollow Mountain, a comic book store on Grand River Avenue (since comic books and graphic novels are both “trendy” and “outside the cultural mainstream”). It was a little intimidating going into a place that might have been filled with 20-somethings ready to sneer at our old selves. Instead, we found only young men playing a tabletop game in a back room who seemed to be neither shocked by, nor even aware of our presence.

“Can you make a recommendation?” I asked the young man reading a comic behind the register. (He is, as it turns out, one of the store’s owners.)

“What kind of recommendation?” he asked.

“Well, what would you recommend for someone who likes Dr. Who, Neil Gaiman, vampire stuff – oh, and there should be at least one strong female character?”

“That’s you!” my companion interjected, totally ruining my cool. To his credit, Comic Book Man barely rolled his eyes as he went to the shelves and pointed out several possible choices. We talked as I checked out, and he said they’d been open just under a year, and that business was thriving.

From there, we headed to Splash of Color Tattoo and Piercing Studio so that I could have my nose piercing changed. (“Trendy,” check. “Outside cultural mainstream” yes, if you’re over 50 and you aren’t in a band). It was also just plain time for a change, because my original stud selection looked a lot like a matte silver pimple.

The Splash of Color décor is an eclectic mixture of Buddhas, skulls, framed tattoo art, and shelves covered with interesting and odd objects. Again, as we entered, no one jumped up to say “Get out, old people!” We felt welcome, comfortable, and maybe even a tiny bit…hip.

On the way home, we stopped at The Record Lounge, on Division Street. Harvey Danger (hip, trust me) played in the background as we admired the rare and mint-y things at waist level as well as the trove of familiar albums in the dollar bins on the floor. It was a bit humbling that many of the albums for sale were, at one time, strewn all over our respective bedrooms in the 1970s and 80s.

When it was time to check out and walk home, I asked the young man behind the counter if it was boring working there on a Sunday when it wasn’t very busy. “Not at all!” he answered immediately. “I’m being paid to listen to great music and read. That’s a great way to spend a Sunday.”

So we walked back across town to do just that. East Lansing had looked pretty deck in hipster-vision, and we had barely scratched the surface.