Today I saw this shirt at Forever 21 while spending obscene amounts of money. I took a picture to send to my friend, who I thought would like it… if that pesky comma wasn’t there. Seriously, who designed this? Are they illiterate? But the terrible grammar isn’t the reason for this post. That kind of nonsense can be exposed in 140 characters or less.

While browsing the mall (the Mall of America, for anyone wondering) I thought more about the shirt. For the record, yes, I was there alone. When I shop, I am on a mission and cannot be distracted. Most of us could probably agree that Forever 21 is a nice store, unless you’re pretty upset about sweatshop stuff. The clothes are dirt cheap, which I am probably evil for taking advantage of. Apparently they’ve faced copyright lawsuits for stealing from designers, and have moved much of their labor to Asia after a suit against unfair labor practices. It’s hard to believe a lot of good stuff is going on over there when you can buy jeans for $5. But be honest, women of America, you’ve shopped there.

So, let’s say a girl buys this shirt. What would be the motivation behind the purchase? I would assume she wanted to buy it to look cool.

(Disclaimer: most of the thoughts I have about this concept are built on ideas from the fantastic book Not Cool, by Greg Gutfeld. Go read it.)

I think the shirt looks alright. The word “literally” isn’t a favorite of mine, even though dictionaries have recently added the informal definition of adding emphasis.794

But the message may be what a buyer thinks is most cool about the shirt. She wants to tell the world she doesn’t care! Don’t like her? She doesn’t care! Important test at school? She just doesn’t care! Everyone will see this shirt and think she is so awesome because it isn’t cool to care about test scores, or grades, or respect for authority. Maybe the shirt means “I don’t care what you think of me because I am going to do well in school, have hobbies that I enjoy regardless of your opinion, and succeed in life.” If it meant that to every wearer, I wouldn’t have anything to write about. But I don’t think it does. And this doesn’t only apply to the buyer– it applies to anyone who takes pride in indifference.

It’s no new thought that not caring is cool. However, my bet is that many of the girls who bought this care about equality for marriage. They are likely vocally concerned about misogyny, the environment, pollution, dolphin cancer, and rights of underrepresented transgender cats. Maybe not, but given how society is developing and how our generation thinks, one can safely assume they are worried about these hot topics. Is it accurate to say that indifference is still cool, when concern for popular issues is almost necessary?

I’m watching 21 Jump Street as I write this. They just got to school, and hot cop (I haven’t been paying enough attention to get names down) was instructing nerd cop on how to be cool. When he was in school, it was cool to not care about anything. So that is what he did– and ended up being accused of not caring about the environment, then punched a guy that got him in trouble for being “homophobic”. There’s no doubt that cool has changed, but what makes something cool to care about? Obviously the Forever 21 buyer doesn’t care that a kid in a sweatshop probably made their shirt. Maybe that’s the point of wearing it. What a statement! But how could you care about saving the whales and not ending abusive labor? Is it because you’d then have to pay an extra 10 bucks for a piece of fabric that says you don’t give a shit about doing homework or going to college?

To quote Gutfeld, “Real charity has no fanfare. Social consciousness, however, is often nothing but that.” This isn’t about charity, but regardless there is no fanfare to getting good grades. Maybe you can boast about it once you get accepted to a good college, but kids often have trouble thinking in the long term. Also, it takes real effort to get straight A’s and involve yourself in volunteer work and extra curricular activities for your application. Not a lot of work goes into showing up at the local marijuana march and passing around a potato packed with spice. Things that are truly worthwhile take effort. Studying is good for you. Walking down the street sucking god knows what out of a vegetable is probably not good for you. (Though all that walking really gets the blood flowing!)

When is it good to not care? I dig the punk mindset of not caring what people think of you. But by choosing what to care about because of what is trendy… that’s caring in itself. If you aren’t caring about it because it is trendy, are you not caring about something else because of what someone might think of you? If there is another reason aside from cool to slack off in school, I’d like to hear it. Laziness is real, but laziness is also funny. Which makes you pretty cool.

So to the people wearing this shirt or those eternally shrugging across the country: do you really not care? Literally? Or do you seek to send a message of selective indifference dictated by an unseen panel of hipster judges?

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