Fifteen minutes before its planned 11AM opening time, there were 16 people in line for the Chainsmokers’ NYC pop-up shop. The four-day buying experience, running from June 8 to June 11, promises hoodies, t-shirts, an appearance — at some point — from Alex Pall and Drew Taggart, and 100 one-of-a-kind denim jackets, designed by Lauren Kessler, Design Director for the Chainsmokers (sure), and scribbled on by the Chainsmokers themselves. The store’s theme is the duo’s debut, Memories: Do Not Open.
Megafans of any band — unless the band is Skrewdriver or, you know, Dave Matthews — are typically dorky sweeties eager to tell how they’ve actually liked the band, that you thought was somewhat new, for several hundred years. I forgot to anticipate this in preparation of the pop-up. I expected a line of frat guys and frat gals, or Earth-traversing EDM beersex demons, or whoever it is who likes the Chainsmokers, rude and ready to party. Instead I got a Christine, a nice woman who’d gotten there at 2AM to be first in line. She told me she’s liked the Chainsmokers for a while, but that the release of their new album had intensified her fandom. “I just feel like they’re really fun, cool guys. They seem really chill.”
The woman behind her, Ashley, got there at 5:45AM, and the woman behind her, Amy, got there around 9AM. “I’m just on my way to work…” Amy said, defensively. (It’s OK, Amy. We’re all Chainsmokers megafans here.) Each of them told me they’d seen the Chainsmokers at least seven times and had been fans for around four years. It was surprising to me that these kind young women connected so intensely to the widely reviled frat bro duo, for whom “even before success, pussy was number one.” I asked how they felt about the Chainsmokers’, um, personalities, considering they had a sort of an “asshole“-like reputation.
“Really?!” Amy said, so taken aback by the question that I thought for a second I’d mistaken the EDM duo for for some other EDM duo that everybody hated. “I think the opposite. I’ve met them a couple times already and they’ve been nothing but nice.” I offered that it was, maybe, more an idea gleaned from their public personas — how they come off in interviews, etc. “Well, if I was getting asked the same questions a thousand times I’d probably be a little annoyed, too. But, no, they’re so awesome.”
Ashley, Amy, and Christine all planned to buy jean jackets.
When I took my place at the end of the short line, I couldn’t help but notice that the person in front of me was a child. His name was Morris, and he, with a smattering of freckles, bedhead, and braces, was 12. Like Christine, he became a big fan of the Chainsmokers when Memories: Do Not Open came out, but he’s liked them since “Roses.” My research tells me this is one of their songs. “Everyone says they’re not the best guys,” he said, unprompted, “but they seem OK. I heard some interviews of theirs. They don’t seem like total jerks.”
A few minutes after we talked, the 12-year-old turned to me again. “Since you’re a reporter,” he began pointedly, “does that mean … you know when the Chainsmokers are going to show up?” I admired his sharpness, and his nerve. It broke my heart to tell him that I did not know when the Chainsmokers would show up, and I could tell that he was disappointed in my level of access and what that said about me and how I’ve progressed so far in my career.
I realize at this point it is time to stop describing the people I saw in line, but they were all so surprising that I’m going to ask you to indulge me for just one more. A grown man in a suit (!) showed up at around 11:10. He immediately started chatting with the young man in line ahead of him, which the young man visibly did not enjoy.
“Do you know who this is?” he asked the young man he’d been bothering, at one point, showing him a photo on his phone. The young man did not. “How about you, do you know who this is?” he asked the next young man in line. That young man didn’t know, either. The suit man was simultaneously proud (because he knew they wouldn’t know) and appalled (because how could they not know?) that neither of the young men knew who “this” was. I craned my neck to look at his phone. Who could it be, I wondered? One of the Chainsmokers? Some, ah, EDM, uh, producer? A famous, ah … frat … legend? Bob Moog? He noticed my interest and showed it to me, repeating his question: “Do you know who this is?” I squinted my eyes, focusing on the iPhone screen through the sun’s glare. Ah, yes. Of course. It was New York mayor Bill de Blasio.
“Yes,” I beamed. “I know who it is.”
The line began moving, finally, at 11:30AM. Eager Chainsmokers fans were given entry seemingly one at a time and were allotted what felt like 400 hours inside of the store before the line was allowed to tick forward. According to the clock on my phone, however, it was only about 15 minutes before I’d made it to the front. Hm. It’s interesting how time expands and contracts relative to the amount of Chainsmokers pop-up store lines in which one is standing at any given moment. (The approximate number of people allowed inside at a time was 10.)
The 12-year-old was anxiously awaiting the arrival of one of his friends, and he asked if I might cut him in line to give her more time to arrive. Of course I obliged. I asked where this friend was coming from, trying to discern for how much longer he’d have to wait and politely request that adults cut him in line. Without hesitation, he told me. “Piano lessons.”
Inside the store, pictures of the Chainsmokers adorned the walls and sounds of the Chainsmokers adorned the air. “Let’s show them we are better, let’s show them we are better, let’s show them we are better,” a song whined while I flipped through a rack of hoodies. “Let’s show them we are better” the text on the hoodies read. Ah! Spooky. A helpful Chainsmokers pop-up shop employee told me there were a few items exclusive to the pop-up store — some long-sleeved t-shirts, a hoodie, etc. — but that the big ticket item was the denim jacket. “The guys made them,” she explained. “How did they make them?” I asked. “Well, they drew on them.” Fair enough.
The jackets were hideous. Truly, truly hideous, and I think it is very rude of the Chainsmokers to make their sweet megafans embellish themselves so hideously, with these hideous denim jackets. They were torn and studded and bleached, scribbled with words like MEMORIES and THE CHAINSMOKERS. Old Chainsmokers t-shirts were cut up and pasted onto their backs and shoulders, the faces of the Chainsmokers ever-present. The washes, though various, were uniformly unflattering. Some of the jackets featured embroidered rose patches, in case you wanted to look like the Twitter bio of the man you met at the party who wouldn’t stop talking about how Bernie would have won. Overall they were not the denim jackets for me, personally. They cost an astounding $400 each and there are only 100 of them in existence.
“That’s a weird way for the Chainsmokers to ultimately have $40,000,” a friend said later. True.
Still, fans were buying them. The first-in-line woman bought one, I saw. A young man was on the phone with a friend trying to decide which of designs would look best on him, even though the answer was none of the designs would look good on him at all. A woman tried on different styles in a mirror. Another woman tried one on in a mirror, too, and that woman was me, and that was fun. The jackets were a hit.
But the pop-up left me with a number of questions. Would it be funny if I bought Chainsmokers sunglasses ($15)? Would it be funny if I bought Chainsmokers sunglasses for someone else, as a gift? If I bought a jean jacket and sold it online would I make a profit? If I bought a jean jacket and sold it online and made a profit would that be journalistically ethical? If I bought a jean jacket and sold it online and made a profit and it wasn’t journalistically ethical, is that something I would care about particularly? What place does journalistic ethics have in my life? None? — None place?
I left with neither sunglasses nor jacket, just as the helpful pop-up shop employee was telling the 12-year-old and his friend how much the denim jackets cost.
“WHAT??!” his friend said, correctly.