Thursday, October 23, 2008

Keep Charlotte 'Starched'

Long time, no Naked City. Too many candidates for editorial board members to research, too little time. More and better items to come tomorrow, I vow. I've been tucking tidbits aside. But here's a quick one now.

Architect/planner Tom Low was talking with Citistates Report writer Curtis Johnson last summer, thinking about Charlotte's bank-town soul. As it happened, he was wearing a "Keep Austin Weird" hat. That city has built a national reputation as a place where eccentrics and local color are both tolerated and celebrated -- not exactly the reputation Charlotte has. We're more of a starched-shirt kind of city. What would Charlotte's version of "Keep Austin Weird" be, Low wondered. Johnson quipped, "Keep Charlotte Starched." And thus, a movement was born. Or to be more accurate, a movement may be born or not, depending.

Low has launched -- well, he's trying to launch -- a "Keep Charlotte Starched" movement. There's a Keep Charlotte Starched Web site, as well as some stickers, if you're really keen on the idea.

But without one of our two banks, will Charlotte remain so starched? "How can we keep Charlotte starched?" Low asks. I'll ask, do we want to? Best three comments win a KCS sticker.


KCS said...

OK great, here is sample draft questionnaire.

You can also send your comments to

When was the first time your were starched by Charlotte?
(hint 1)When a local starchie* first asked me where I live and what church I go to?
(hint 2) When I first noticed that the children playing the banking plaza fountain were actually bronzed.
(hint 3) I was expecting champagne and caviar and got Blenheim ginger ale and pimento cheese (from Reids)
(hint 4) During a conversation someone started a sentence with “Here in Charlotte...”
(hint 5)

How many times of being starched does it take before you can become a Starchie yourself?
(hint 1) Some folks will never get it, other will struggle for years with this identity crisis and concern for loosing their soul, but others are naturals and have the starch gene. But there is hope for everyone as we can now define what we want Starched Charlotte to be. Let’s expand the canon!

Can someone arrive in Charlotte pre-starched?
(hint 1) In certain ways they may come with a pedigree from other places i.e. Atlanta or an old south small town. But Charlotte has it own special form of Starch (see statue at Queens and Providence Road)
(hint 2)

So what IS Charlotte’s form of starchiness.
(hint 1) b – a – n – k – I – n – g... or was... this is where it is getting interesting. Along with a those associated cultural institutions that fit neatly into this domain. The list includes certain institutional denominations but can include very independent radical sects as well. We can really expand this with KCS.

Does Starched Charlotte cross class and race lines?
(hint 1) By all means (again, this is where is gets interesting) but because the wealthy tend to have more spending power to show off or to demonstrate an understated smugness to their starchiness so they tend to be the most prevalent and easy to spot – i.e. The types of house, car, wardrobe, fashion accessories in each one of these areas.
(hint 2) part of defining starchiness is digging much deeper into race and class interpretations.

Is Starched Charlotte specific to our center city?
(hint 1)Absolutely not! It crosses a full rural to urban spectrum of our 15 county region including farmers, rural homesteads, rural hamlets, small towns, new beltway suburban sprawl, older mid 20th-century suburbs, early 20th century intown neighborhoods, the center city four wards along with local universities, institutions (hospital, churches, arenas, stadiums, museums, galleries, third places (cafes, bars, and other neighborhood hang-outs) office parks, shopping centers, big boxes (churches and schools included),into obscure lineages including river rats, bourgeoisie bohemians, and livermush eater. Part of the fun is describing how each Charlotte locale is specifically starched.
(hint 2) What makes your part of the region’s particular form of Charlotte starch unique contributes to the whole starched culture.

How many folks in Charlotte are starched compared to the unstarched?
(hint 1) this would be only a guess and this is where we can help shape what it means to be a starchy and it becomes fun and where it become more inclusive or more elite. It can be a simple as accessorizing yourself with a lapel pin (no buttons allowed) that says KCS or it may mean you have to have given substantial amount of your income to United Way (you really got starched on that one – of course only an unstarched person would dare stay such a thing!).

Q - How many Starchies does it take to screw in a light bulb?
(you knew this one was coming)
A - (hint 1) It really doesn’t matters unless folks know you are doing it to:
show you are doing your part for the environment
support the underground copper wire trade by demanding CDOT illuminate our highways
save money – starchies are really cheap deep down but in other ways very giving (what are some of these?)

Why is Keeping Charlotte Starched important
(hint 1) it’s not ....except folks know deep down that we really do have a starched soul – it’s time to celebrate (and expand) the label – we need something happy to do.

How many people to do have to ask to a Starched Charlotte social/cultural event to get just 50 people to dance?
(hint 1) in certain starched circles the number is in the thousands, but this is where we can expand the canon of starchiness with other venues that are starched with dancing maniacs.

What's the difference between a starched architect and and non-starched architect?
(hint 1) the first is wealthy catering to Starchies and second isn’t starving but making money other ways outside of our starched core (i.e. new urbanism)
(hint 2) A starched architect looks just like a banker.

OK, let just say I am starting to think this has a morsel of merit, how is it different from other labels we have placed on Charlotte over the years i.e.. Being preppy, small town/big city, NASCAR, Queen Charlotte etc.?
(hint 1)The easy label is it kind of is preppy, but,
(hint 2) Have you seen pictures of Queen Charlottes wardrobe?
(hint 3) Have you seen those starched racing outfits NASCAR drivers and pit crews wear?
(hint 3) How about those starched bikers on the Booty Loop? – now we’re gettin’ somewhere.

What if I am say, a Goth but want to be part of Starched Charlotte?
(hint 1) this is what it’s all about – lots of Goths are starched in black.

What other bumper stickers can we come up with?
(hint 1) How about the above “Goth Charlotte – Pierced, Tattooed, and Starched in Black”
(hint 2) “Resistance is Futile, You will be Starched by Charlotte”
(hint 3) “Charlotte – Creative, Innovative, and Starched”
(hint 4) “Charlotte – a Great Place to Starch Your Family”
(hint 5)

Are there any “no starch zones” in Charlotte?
(hint 1) NODA comes to mind, but they may be keeping their starch hidden in a plain brown (pleated) brown bag.
(hint 2)

The logo is a starched shirt but should it be a bowl of grits, the locally preferred origin of (C6H10O5) starch.
(hint 1) Keep Charlotte C6H10O5 (the chemical formula) can add to a mystique for the curious.
(hint 2) A Starchie may say starch also mean drive, energy, vigor or vitality, which describes Charlotte even better than shirts or grits.

*( Starchie can mean someone in Charlotte that has achieved the status/ability to starch you. )


Anonymous said...

There was a campaign by someone called, "Make Charlotte Weird", but I haven't heard much from it lately. Hey, at least I can wear an off-white shirt in this town without getting a dirty look. Slowly but surely....

Anonymous said...

Now that is a neat idea: a campaign to retain the identity of a town full of bankers! Never mind that no one could possibly believe that the two Charlotte banks would always be the acquirer and never be acquired.

Now that THAT ought to be obviosu even to the most blinded, what might the object of KCS be? Perhpas the object is to let really uptight people with an exaggerate sense of their own importance know that they can feel right at home here. Maybe it's to give a sense of belonging to those people across the country who really do wear their jacket and tie at the dinner table at home. Who knows.

If this thing takes off, there will be a future opportunity for the City to partner (that means pay for) with Johnson and Murphy to build a Wingtip Shoe Museum!

Anonymous said...

I hate starch and don't understand why anyone would want it. The discomfort isn't necessary.

Anonymous said...

I prefer "Keep Charlotte Southern." After all, it used to be a Southern city before everybody and their mother moved here......I'm a native and I want to keep it Southern!!

barkomomma said...

Yeah, it won't be long before we start seeing a bunch of those starched shirts standing at interstate ramps with cardboard signs reading "Hummer needs repair - pls. hlp - God bless!"

Anonymous said...

Gross. The whole problem is that this town is TOO STUCK UP and Polo Shirt Mafia Conformist. Don't reinforce it!

Anonymous said...

"I'm a native and I want to keep it Southern!!"

They are part of the 'Keep Charlotte Starched' campaign. Have you not noticed how much starch the southerners like in their food??? lol

Anonymous said...

Well, I'm a native Charlottean, too, and I'm all for removing the starch from the shirts (and the attitudes) of many of our denizens -- native of no. Where's that "Make Charlotte Weird" campaign again?

Tajblues said...

I have nothing good to say except thanks for making NoDa an exeption to this absurd tagline. Not to be a downer, but this is tagline is great for the “b-a-n-k-e-r-s” and the residents over on “Providence and Queens” and no one else. How does it represent the service industry? As a peon to the starchie Uptown brokers. Let’s get a tagline that is representative of the population and not one focusing the uninformed views of one. “Make Charlotte Funky”, “Keep Charlotte Mine”, or anything else would be better than a starchy little line all of the representing the bourgeoisie wannabe’s around here.

Anonymous said...