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Beyond The Bird On It: 'Twee Is About Shopping'

Twee is an almost paradoxical combination of the hypermaterialistic and artisanal and crafted, says Marc Spitz, author of <em>Twee: The Gentle Revolution in Music, Books, Television, Fashion and Film.</em>
Twee is an almost paradoxical combination of the hypermaterialistic and artisanal and crafted, says Marc Spitz, author of <em>Twee: The Gentle Revolution in Music, Books, Television, Fashion and Film.</em>

Don't be mistaken: There's a powerful economic force behind the proliferation of cutesy, homespun goods that combine an old-fashioned and highly modern aesthetic.

Twee's hallmarks are handcrafted, anachronistic or vintage items — like albums on vinyl, sweaters from the thrift store and, as distilled in a sketch on the show Portlandia, pretty much anything with a bird on it. It's as much an aesthetic as it is a lifestyle, like punk or hip-hop.

"Twee is an almost paradoxical combination of the hypermaterialistic and artisanal and crafted. You literally go into the woods and forage for granola and then you sell it for $13 a pound," says Marc Spitz, author of Twee: The Gentle Revolution in Music, Books, Television, Fashion and Film.

Spitz says the point of twee handicrafts is that somebody else made them. And that can make twee pretty expensive — custom cross-stitched designs sold on the handmade-crafts website Etsy start around $50. Reproduction midcentury furniture, box sets and reissues of classic albums — it's all going to cost you.

"This isn't about gluing macaroni to a piece of colored cardboard. Twee is about shopping," Spitz says. "It fires those chemical synapses in your brain."

Now this might sound cynical — buying your way into a lifestyle and a look. But Spitz says there's also something universal about being twee: Everyone is looking for something bigger than himself to buy into — and to believe in.

" 'Purity,' I guess, is the answer in a word — and true belief is pure. You know, what's more pure than a newborn kitten? What's more pure than something that you whittled? What's more pure than like a muffin you baked with like ingredients that you gathered?"

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