Beyond The Bird On It: 'Twee Is About Shopping' Cutesy, homespun goods that combine old-fashioned and modern aesthetics are proliferating. But don't be mistaken: There's a powerful economic force behind it all, says author Marc Spitz.
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Beyond The Bird On It: 'Twee Is About Shopping'

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

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

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

All right, well, speaking of bottom dollars, let's wrap up our holiday buying guides. Elsewhere in today's program, we heard about some high-tech gift ideas. Well, now we bring you something like the opposite.

MARC SPITZ: Vintage Pez dispensers, vintage spark-shooting monster toys, some taxidermy - I've got a crow. I've got a rooster in the kitchen, a plug-in, big light Santa Claus.

GREENE: This is writer Marc Spitz. And no, we are not offering a shopping guide for junk, even though...

SPITZ: I was told by my ex-girlfriend's that my apartment looks like someone who's done something bad on "Law And Order."

GREENE: No, this shopping guide is for twee. That's T-W-E-E. And as Spitz tells us, it's as much an aesthetic as it is a lifestyle, like punk or hip-hop. The hallmarks are handcrafted, anachronistic or vintage items, like sweaters from the thrift store or buying albums on vinyl. Spitz explains his in his book, "Twee: The Gentle Revolution In Music, Books, Television, Fashion And Film." He says it is all about adults embracing childhood, perfect for this most nostalgic time of year. But don't be mistaken. Behind the cutesy, homespun goods there is a powerful economic force.

SPITZ: Twee is an almost paradoxical combination of the hyper-materialistic and artisanal and crafted. You literally go into the woods, and you forge for granola. And then you sell it for, like, $13 a pound.

GREENE: Spitz tells us that the point of twee handicrafts is that somebody else made them. And that can make twee pretty expensive. Custom cross-stitched designs sold by the online handmade crafts retailer Etsy start around $50. Reproduction midcentury furniture, box sets and reissues of classic albums, it's all going to cost you.

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

GREENE: 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's looking for something bigger than themselves to buy into and to believe in.

SPITZ: 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 that you baked with, like, ingredients that you gathered?

GREENE: Yeah, what is more pure than that? This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm David Greene.

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