What is Indie?

By Kaylee Sugimoto

Indie: independent; a pop group, record label, or film company not belonging to or affiliated with a major record or film company. 

Over the course of several years, my perspective on what this word means has changed drastically. From 2013 Tumblr to seeing girls on campus now, I can’t help but wonder what value the word means in today’s generation. 

I was never seen as different until I moved here. I have lived on the west coast my entire life. Born in California and raised in a suburb of Portland, Oregon I developed my own sense of style, my own taste in music, and hobbies that definitely took in some influence from the environment around me. 

We skipped school to march against big businesses playing a significant role in climate change. We shut down everything when COVID-19 first happened. We marched for over 100 days during the BLM protests, some of us not even knowing what we were marching for. Nobody can tolerate dairy or gluten because we somehow think going vegan will single-handedly save the environment. It’s wrong, maybe it’s right, it’s different, whatever you want to call it. That’s just how I’ve been brought up. 

Was I in for a culture shock when I moved out here to central Illinois for college. 

Firstly, I experienced immediate judgment from all types of girls, even the ones that seemed to dress a bit edgier than I did. 

But somehow simultaneously, I was constantly getting compliments on the way that I dressed. I was asked where I got my inspiration from, and would always get confused when people asked what my Pinterest was. What an unusual question. And no, I don’t even have one!

I was later called “indie” by a couple of friends on campus. I have never heard this term as a label for an actual person, but only for music and movies. And even then, my general understanding was that it meant music without record labels or independently created movies on a low budget. 

But how was I “indie?” Was it my clothes, or just the way I am? Do I dare ask, what does the word even mean around here? What does it mean in general? 

The longer I attended school here, the more I realized that I accidentally fell into a certain stereotype. And then I thought, “how many people are adjusting themselves and suppressing their real interests to fit this certain stereotype, this certain look?”

I soon realized that “indie” isn’t only a mindset, the music you listen to, or the clothes that you wear (which is already much more than I originally thought the definition was). Indie is a whole culture. 

I have noticed groups on campus that hang out with similar groups, all dressing similarly with similar music tastes. But, the strange thing is that when I hang out with some of these groups, they aren’t much different than when I hang out with the type of “normal” people they despise.

Some talk behind each other’s back, some wonder what they’re going to have for lunch. These are all conversations that normal people have, except these “indie” people have some kind of ego about it. What’s so good about looking different from the mainstream? Is there honestly anything better about it, or is it simply just different? Do these people even like hanging out with each other, or is it purely performative for their outward aesthetic towards other friend groups and the general population of campus? 

My conclusion on what “indie” means is exactly where it started. Being “indie” is just living the genuine, most true person of yourself, even if it doesn’t fit the mainstream. It is often confused with being a fake version of yourself in order to fit outside the mainstream, because in this way it somehow makes you look “cool.” That’s exactly the opposite of what it means to be an independent “indie” person in the first place, by subduing your true inner passions while being someone you’re not…only to not fit in. 

Kaylee Sugimoto | Co-founder / Editor (she/they)

Hi! I’m Kaylee. Born in California, but raised in the gorgeous Pacific Northwest where I quickly learned how to drive 60 on the freeway and become an effective lactose intolerant. I’m a former Division 1 gymnast at Illinois State University, where I’m now focusing on journalism and mass media. I love to skateboard, play my electric bass and listen to the Beatles on my record player. | @kayleesugimoto

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