A few years ago, I had a conversation with former FADER editor-in-chief Peter Macia trying to figure out our GEN F lineup for an issue of the magazine. We were talking about the California punk band Grass Widow. Both of us liked them, but my colleague couldn’t figure out if they fit. “Do young people like this?” he asked me. Then he seemed to suddenly realize he had no idea what kids were listening to anymore. He was 35 then. I’m 31 now. I like to think I still have some idea of what young people are into, but something I learned from that interaction is that sometimes it’s best to just let them call it themselves. That’s what we’ve tried to do with this, our 90th issue, celebrating artists born in the ’90s. The FADER’s ethos has always been to use intimate photo portraiture and in-depth storytelling to let our subjects speak for themselves, but we actually handed over a large part of this issue to ’90s babies. You’ll see that in our Newsprint and Style sections, which Rookie took over as guest editors, as well as our How To feature, where a number of young gurus give expert tips for succeeding in their respective fields. While I am excited about all our contributors, it’s the style advice from young streetwear master Mike Hope, aka Mike the Ruler, that I really love. I’ve never worn Hood by Air, one of Hope’s favorite brands, but my clothes have always been key to my identifying with the counterculture, and in exploring what that might mean.
There’s a photo of me taken in the mid-’90s, a few years before Mike the Ruler was even born. I was 12 or 13, wearing an oversized Black Flag shirt, kinda flipping off the camera. I remember buying those first few Black Flag albums on cassette and really having Damaged break open my mind. But now, I can’t look at that photo and see anything but a baby. It seems just completely impossible that at such a young age I would be able to appreciate and comprehend the fairly aggressive and depressive ideas that band was putting into the world. But that photo is hard evidence. It’s a reminder that the minds of (very) young people are much more complex than we give them credit for. If Mike the Ruler’s inclination to wear an extreme amount of logos seems, from an adult perspective, a little childlike at first, it’s not. Whatever is going through his head is undoubtedly a lot more nuanced and grown up than you’d expect from a 13-year-old. So maybe a good answer to Pete’s earlier question is that the best way for an old person to figure out if a young person would like something is to figure out if it’s good. In that sense, this is a very special issue of the FADER, or maybe it’s just a very regular one.