In the mid ’90s, Nickelodeon‘s programming had Jordan-like skills (Disney, with “The Mickey Mouse Club,” was more like Patrick Ewing). Today’s trendsetters and tastemakers grew up during this golden age of children’s television, so now those people are maniacally driving the nostalgia steamroller over pop culture to try to re-create those halcyon days.
But one show being scooped up by this cyclone of memories has transcended the mere need to sate our appetite for the good old days. That show is “The Adventures of Pete & Pete.”
You see, “Pete & Pete” isn’t just whirring about the pop-culture hive mind–it helped create it. Fifteen years after the Brothers Wrigley said farewell, the show has more significance now, and here’s why: “Pete & Pete” invented the modern-day hipster. No, seriously. Hear us out.
The show was a quirky (but not obnoxiously so) examination of suburbia and youth. The undeniably youthful hipster movement began as a quirky little ode to obscure music and suburban yard sale chic. While hipsterdom evolved into a tedious caricature, “Pete & Pete” was off the air before it could wear out its welcome.
It’s now more noticeable when a member of the indie set doesn’t have any so-called “body art” (this is the only category for which a hipster’s circle in the Venn Diagram overlaps with an NBA player’s circle, by the way). So there’s no doubt many of the inked masses fondly remember Little Pete’s “Petunia” tattoo wriggling on his forearm in the opening credits. (Not to mention Little Pete later gets a ship tattooed on his back).
3. Riding the seesaw of dry irony and melancholic twee
Big Pete’s narration struck the delicate balance between sarcasm and idealism, which ended up influencing countless disaffected yet wistful hipsters-in-training.
4. Music credibility
Music credibility is central to the hipster movement, and it was central to “Pete & Pete.” (That theme song!) The show boasted cameos by Iggy Pop, Michael Stipe, Debbie Harry, Luscious Jackson (OK, we’re using “boasted” loosely there, perhaps), among others. Plus, the legendary episode “A Hard Day’s Pete” deftly examined the overwhelming, sometimes isolating joy a song can bring to a listener.
5. Lumberjack hats
The hokeyness of the trucker hat with the added bonus of plaid, years before Ashton Kutcher would sling the fad into the national spotlight.
6. Mom’s flowery dresses and bob haircut? Totally in style now.
Yes, the roots of neo-Brooklyn fashion can be traced back to Mom and her plate in the fictional town of Wellsville circa 1995.
7. Artie, the DIY superhero
Behind PBR, DIY is the go-to initialism of hipster culture. Hipster dudes embody the contradiction of a superhero with no superpowers, aiming to be manly without being macho, complex while seeming nonchalant, contemplative without being wishy-washy. Well, those odes to the delicate man of action–“Kick-Ass” and “Super“–wouldn’t exist without Artie. Bonus hipster points: We’re pretty sure we saw a girl on the Lower East Side wearing Artie’s outfit.
8. A popular food truck
The children of Wellsville obsessed over the Mr. Tastee Truck, run by the mystery man with the soft-serve head, long before the age of the food truck craze and top secret lobster roll Twitter feeds.
9. Extending childhood
The idea of prolonging childhood was a common theme of “Pete & Pete.” The series featured episodes about extending summer, staying up all night, choosing between growing up or going trick-or-treating one last time with your little brother. Hipsters are stuck in this purgatory: They want to be sophisticated adults, yet obsessively flaunt the landmarks of their youth (see: chillwave). That aspect of the hipster life is just an extension of the show’s themes.
“Pete & Pete” was inherently contrarian, and isn’t that what hipsterism is all about? Going against the mainstream, boutiques over chains, vinyls over MP3s, beards over Gillette Fusions. This hipster obstinacy was apparent in “Pete” plots about thwarting the International Adult Conspiracy, or the philosophical “X=Why?” episode in which Ellen led a mutiny by asking teachers why students had to learn the crap they were learning. Hell, the show’s two protagonists were gingers, which was a giant middle finger to a society used to throwing redheads to the wayside. Take that, establishment!