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Becoming a Detroit Snob or how I learned to stop whining

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This story is about a T-shirt slogan that got a little full of itself. That’s soooooooo Detroit Snob.

Don’t you love how those two words sound together? Detroit Snob. It feels so wrong it’s right. And it’s a slogan that fits in every sense of the word.

What began as an ironic statement has become iconic. It has evolved into a full-fledged philosophy for Desiree Cooper and Pat Williams Taitt Euseary. They are unofficial presidents of the Detroit Snob Club. It’s one of those hoity-toity, obnoxious, highfalutin types of Club – the only difference here is that pretty much anyone with attitude is welcome to join.

Those are the key words to the Detroit Snob: With Attitude. ‘Cause you cannot roll with such a bombastic bunch unless you’re willing to put yourself out there, take no guff, be fully present. In Detroit. For Detroit. Around Detroit.

In other words, the next time you’re in a Detroit funk, try talking to a Detroit Snob. They’ll set you straight.

“Any way you cut it, (Detroit Snob) gets dialog going in this town,” Cooper said. “Right now, this is a message that needs to be said.”

Cooper, the longtime writer and venerable columnist for The Detroit Free Press, started the Detroit Snob movement shortly after she and the paper split ways about three years ago. The idea had long floated in her head – a mixture of the youth culture she observed in the city and the concept that Detroit no longer needs to apologize for itself. Crime? Check. Scandal? Check. Endless abandonment? Check. That’s just the way it is – and it is so much more.

“I know these things are here. I don’t need to be reminded of it,” said Cooper this week during our interview. “We’re tired of apologizing for Detroit and we’re tired of explaining Detroit. And if you don’t get it, you’re just not in the Club.”

Who is the Club? Any like-minded person who follows the Detroit Snob credo. (And it doesn’t hurt if they own and wear a Detroit Snob shirt. More on those later.)

What is a Detroit Snob? A Detroit Snob is high-minded, but always down-to-earth. A Detroit Snob offers action, not excuses. A Detroit Snob is a serial optimist. A Detroit Snob finds art where others find scraps. A Detroit Snob plants green where others see gray. A Detroit Snob never offers apologies, only possibilities.

That’s the philosophy behind this city Snobbery. “It sets me afire. And that fire is contagious,” Cooper said.

The Cooper family started the t-shirt company. That was the idea at least. Then, the grown children who needed a job actually found jobs. That left Cooper, Taitt Euseary and their tribe of helpful and supportive retailers to sell the shirts. And, sometimes, it’s been a bit of a hard sell.

Ask Rachel Lutz. The owner of The Peacock Room at 15 E. Kirby has about a dozen of the shirts in stock. And she fields the standard quizzical look that people have when they first see the slogan. “I like the shirt, and I like Detroit,” Lutz says, doing her best imitation, “But I don’t want to be known as a snob. That’s not very nice.”

Au contraire, mon frère. A Detroit Snob is nice indeed. Besides the befuddled, there are two other typical reactions, Cooper said. One goes like this: “Ah, no, thanks.” The other sounds a little like this: “Exactly. Yes. What sizes do you have?”

Speaking of fire, that’s one reason Detroit Snob has grown beyond the t-shirts, although they’re mighty pretty and be-dazzled (love the one that has the Spirit of Detroit sparkle!). In December, the grandmother of one of Cooper’s friends and fellow journos lost her house in a fire. Within days, the Snob community via Facebook and the Snob blog rallied, gathered bag upon bag of clothing and supplies for the family. Seeing people step up – especially during a time and season when most things feel so financially tight – convinced Cooper that this Snob thing was turning out to be far more than she anticipated.

Now, it’s not going to become an Snob-occupy Detroit thing by any stretch. It’s just that this little phrase has some standing power – something to rally behind, perhaps.

“I do feel it is bigger than a label. It’s about dignifying a life that Detroiters have cut out for themselves,” Cooper said. “We’re not going to back away from the city; we’re going to embrace it. We might be high-minded, but we’re also caring. We’re a roll-up-your-sleeves kind of metro area.”

Speaking of sleeves, the shirts also are available at Flo Boutique, Spectacles, The Lido Gallery and Savvy Chic in Eastern Market and Franklin. Not that you have to buy one. A Snob is a Snob even without the cool uniform. But it would be a nice one to round out a Detroit t-shirt collection. Just sayin’.

Oh, and you don’t have to live in the city limits. Nope, Cooper isn’t going to stand for that nonsense. She herself after living in Detroit for two decades has embraced regionalism and moved to the suburbs. So just focus on being an ambassador, would ya? Don’t worry about borders, about leaving, about staying, about arriving. Just care. A regional mindset is about letting all boats rise, allrighty?

“My feeling is if you’re willing to put that t-shirt on you’ve earned that authority. You don’t give up that commitment because you don’t live within the city,” Cooper said. “We’re all part of this dysfunctional relationship – we love it no matter how much we’re abused.”

She knows. Cooper has told “the Detroit story” for decades as well. She always was impressed with Detroit from the moment her worldly feet touched ground here. Here’s what Detroit has that other cities don’t have because of its failures, she notes. We have a sense of what it’s like to be on the other side: to be rich, to be poor, to be hungry, to be full. Being a part of the community is expected. To help the fellow or lady across the road is necessary. We are connected through assumption – the assumption that you have to help everyone if you have any means at all.

“Detroit is great at reinventing reinvention,” she added. And when you’re tired of serving in the trenches, that youth comes powering in to give it their try. That new energy – those new Snobs – come in and give you reason to hope again.

“It’s contagious,” Cooper said.

Note: I’ve just got to add that Cooper’s Snobbery got me thinking. And then acting. So I dropped my wah-wah-wahing about the kids’ stuff to do in Detroit. Instead of moaning about what there isn’t to do, the kid and I ate lunch at the Russell Street Deli, got some ice cream at the Moo-town ice-cream shop and checked out The Peacock Room. It was a slow start to seeing new things. But it’s nice to have new energy and a reason to stretch beyond the norm. Hopefully, my need to rant will take a much-needed break for a while. Thanks, No. 1 Snob!

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8 comments on “Becoming a Detroit Snob or how I learned to stop whining

  1. Pingback: I’m a Detroit Snob! | Life is Good

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