There is something that happens now when I scroll through websites; a word, a term, a title perhaps, that keeps appearing, floating up in a comment here or there. ‘The youth’. Not a particularly bizarre couplet I’ll admit, nor one that is in any way new. But for some reason, ‘the youth’ keeps sitting in the back of my mind, tapping at me, begging to be addressed.
Many readers will have come across this title themselves, most likely on the internet as I did but perhaps in a different scenario. As I mentioned before, the term itself is nothing new. I’m not just speaking generally here, I had come across the term ‘the youth’ numerous times beforehand and thought nothing of it, yet there was one specific occasion in which it sparked an intrigue. As part of my daily wake-up routine I was scrolling down my Instagram feed, numbly staring out at my phone from beneath my duvet and occasionally double-tapping to show my approval. It just so happened that on this morning (or rather, the night before due to the time difference) Kanye West had debuted his single ‘All Day’ at the BRITS, accompanied by two men with flamethrowers and a hooded entourage assembled behind him. As I continued to scroll, more videos of the performance materialised on my screen, all of them carrying comments referring to ‘the youth’.
“Kanye showed the world the youth matter with this performance!” exclaimed one commenter, possibly followed by some flame emojis.
“Kanye is doing this for the youth!” wrote another, definitely followed by some ‘100’ emojis.
The youth, the youth, everyone kept talking about the fucking youth! Now, I knew what a youth was, but ‘the youth’? I had absolutely no idea, so I turned to Kanye’s performance to provide me with some clarity.
Where I was expecting a spirited performance and typical Kanye tirade, I instead witnessed a poorly written trap song and 30 men awkwardly bobbing around on stage for three and a half minutes. In that tired performance I could not find Kanye championing the youth, or even indicating that they mattered — all I saw was an awards show performance, and not a tremendously exciting one at that. So then, what was all this talk of the youth? With this avenue exhausted, I next sought answers from the two brightest beacons of youth culture that I could find on my Instagram: Ian Connor and Luka Sabbat. Although Luka’s Instagram bio describes him as ‘New “it” boy’, and Ian is widely considered to be Wiz Khalifa’s stylist, the best career description I could find for the two was ‘youth influencer’.
What this means exactly is unclear, but from my perusals of social media I discerned that it basically meant they wore cool clothes, were alternative (but not in a weird way) and tended to do some outlandish shit. If you ask the forums on Kanye To The, Ian is an ugly-ass model “who give’s [sic] shallow advice to ‘outcast’ kids on twitter and they think he’s deep or some ****.” To expand on this point, Ian’s job could also be something along the lines of ‘a projection of the fantasies of imbecilic, inner-city kids’ — but maybe that will ruffle a few too many feathers to say.
Derisive comments aside, there was another word that caught my eye during my hours of social research and that word is visionary. According to their Instagram followers, both Ian and Luka (as well as their posse, the likes of asspizza) are visionaries, although once again it is not immediately evident as to how. Regardless, it still raised the question as to why people consider them visionaries and whether the concept of ‘the youth’ was in some part responsible. Moreover from his role as a youth ‘influencer’ Ian Connor has been dubbed ‘The King of the Youth’, a title he seems to embody with tweets such as the one below:
Angsty tweets like this one encapsulate the appeal of Ian Connor — he is relatable, but in a way that is the antithesis of most teen role models. For the youth, Ian Connor is the modern embodiment of middle-class rebellion; gone are the days of mohawks, safety pins and punk-rock. Instead, they’ve been replaced with $400 hoodies, vintage Raf Simons pieces and shoulder-rubbing with the likes of Kanye West and Wiz Khalifa. Ian Connor has redefined cool in a way that is typically uncool, thus endearing him to thousands of kids who in their heart know they’re cool, it’s just the rest of society that doesn’t get it.
This brings us back to the title of visionary. What makes Ian Connor and his cohorts ‘visionary’? Asides from their sometimes bizarre dress-sense, the answer would seem to be nothing. As one Instagram commenter put it, Ian has become famous for “making it cool to wear box logos and flower pants.” Although perhaps that in itself is visionary, as it is a rather impressive feat to become famous for doing nothing. To give Ian his credit, his fame is in large part a byproduct of his attention grabbing, I-don’t-give-a-fuck behaviour on social media. Unfortunately, equal credit can be given to a fortuitous construct of millennial culture whereby people are stupid enough to believe that wearing a lot of Supreme and posting neo-grunge bullshit on Twitter and Instagram makes one a visionary.
Perhaps I’m being unfair in my analysis but to me it seems that the fame and prestige held by the likes of Ian and Luka is the product of impressionable teens who mistake being different for being visionary, and in these men see themselves, or rather the person they want to be. The title of visionary should be applied to those who deserve it, those who push the boundaries and challenge our ideas of what the future holds. While their fame and influence is impressive, Luka, Ian and their cohorts are not deserving of the title of visionary, for that is something that has been assigned to them instead of being earned. So to all you angst-ridden, ‘Preme draped teens who believe Ian Connor is your spiritual guide through this banal existence, please stop labelling Ian et. al as visionary, they are personalities, and should be referred to as such.