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The White Belt Has Itself Wrapped Around Our Hip

By Dan Mayfield
Journal Staff Writer
    Why aren't hipsters good at karate? They can't get past the White Belt. The White Belt has become the ultimate hipster accessory. What complements old-school Pumas, chunky plastic glasses, a Vespa and a pack of Parliaments better?
    "It's almost like the fashion industry is telling us ugly is the new pretty," says Heather Cronin— who won't admit to being a hipster, but who works at Sparky's Trading Co., which sells all the requisite hipster accessories, like vintage belt buckles, Paul Frank bicycles and cabby hats.
    "Everybody has one," she says.
    A White Belt, that is.
    No other accessory identifies a hipster like the White Belt. Not the '70s ski vest, not the ironic mustache, not the star tattoo.
    (But now that the Albuquerque Journal has discovered the belt, will all the hipsters stuff them away in their closets with their 1992 flannel shirts, purses with skulls on them and ska records?)
    "There is all that mod '60s resurgence of that look, the White Belt," said Das Anastasiou, owner of Sparky's.
    Just one look at a 1960s Avengers TV show will show Emma Peel rockin' her White Belt over a pair of tight black trousers. Didn't Pussy Galore wear one in "Goldfinger"?
    Jinx, too, wore one in "Die Another Day."
    Jack White wears one. A lot.
    "We sell just as much of other belts as White Belts, some with metal studs, some vinyl, some with phrases on them. We sell pink, red, black, brown, yellow, green," Anastasiou says.
    But last week, he was sold out of white.
    All gone.
    Blame the hipster fashion on whatever you want— music, fashion cycles, sun spots, but, says Francoise Cactus, the singer for the remarkably hip French pop duo Stereo Total, they're just cool.
    "I wore mine yesterday," Cactus said before Stereo Total started its show at the Launchpad last week.
    She also wore one on the cover of the band's album "Music Automatique," as did her partner, Brezel Göring.
    "I would say, it depends on what you wear around them," she says. "It has a gambler taste to it. White Belts are Louis desguise. Pimps. It has got this thing like cheap elegance."
    Cactus' belt is white, leather of course, with a glitter-blue buckle.
    Though Cactus' band is all about synth-pop dance beats, perky colors and funky guitar, usually people who like bands with "The" in their names dig the White Belt.
    They're for people with old Volvos, back tattoos and bloggers who don't leave home without their digital cameras.
    Nonhipsters joke that they give navel gazers something else to look at.
    OK, we're stereotyping here, but the White Belt has become so ubiquitous, it's a joke. Numerous Web sites have posted hate essays on "white-belt hipsters." There's a budding rallying cry against the White Belt, which makes many want to wear one that much more.
    "It's almost like it was considered tacky to wear white. It's that tacky-is-cool mentality," Cronin says.
    Not tacky like wearing white Easy Spirit pumps in January, but tacky like drinking a Miller High Life at a wine tasting.
    But, it's fun to be tacky, says Chaché Alarid, who works at Buffalo Exchange— one of the best spots for used White Belts.
    "I do wear White Belts," he says. "I just kind of love the irony of it."
    He must— "It matches the shoes. I have white shoes.
    "I don't even know how to say it, but the thinner ones sell better," he said.
    Of course they do. They're the only kind that will fit through the loops of Dickies work pants.