Nostalgia for the Mid-2010s Froyo Shop in the Midst of the Indie Sleaze RevivalPhoto by Dan Gold/Unsplash Food Features restaurants
Talk of an indie sleaze revival has been circulating the internet. For all those who touch grass more than I do, “indie sleaze” basically refers to what we Millennials thought of as the “hipster” culture of the mid-2000s to early 2010s. Far from the slicked-back bun, green-smoothie vibe of the Instagram era, indie sleaze was notable for its celebration of wild nightlife, oversized plaid shirts and tights under shorts and overexposed portrait photography.
I, for one, desperately wanted to be like the girls in the American Apparel ads I saw on Tumblr, but there was a problem: I didn’t live in New York, LA or anywhere else this scene was proliferating. I was still in high school in suburban Georgia, and try as I might to perfect my winged liner and pick out the ideal pair of high-waisted shorts at the local Goodwill, the effect kind of fell flat when there was nowhere to hang out except a Chick-Fil-A and a Kroger parking lot.
There was one other place, though: a small frozen yogurt shop about a mile away from my high school. After classes ended, my friends and I would meet and order massive swirls of frozen yogurt and then top them with a combination of an absolutely astonishing number of options: candy, cookies, fruit, sauces—it was always overdone, and the desserts probably would’ve been better if we’d showed any restraint. But in the midst of the financial crisis, the froyo shop seemed like one of the few places where restraint wasn’t required.
It turns out that I’m not the only who feels a sense of nostalgia for these days. Just like the internet has grasped onto the indie sleaze revival, it seems like people on Twitter are also hungering for a separate if simultaneous froyo movement that became prevalent at the same time hipsters took center stage and Creepers came into fashion. On April 24, Maya Kosoff took to Twitter and wrote, “i am ready and waiting for the eventual renaissance of the early 2010s frozen yogurt shop.” A few days later, Maris Kreizman tweeted, “The world is ready for a frozen yogurt revival.” Countless others have mentioned that they, too, miss the simpler days of the froyo craze.
To me, the frozen yogurt zeitgeist, like the indie sleaze scene, feels like a reaction to the early years of Obama’s presidency: The economy may have crashed, but there was still a sense of sparkling optimism in the air. The froyo shop reflected this period perfectly. Taking a trip to get froyo was a relatively affordable luxury that felt decadent and abundant. The shops were uniformly colorful, bright, cheerful. The teenagers working behind the counter were young and fresh-faced. There were moms with young children and high schoolers on first dates happily sharing paper cups full of the frozen dessert. This was the early 2010s I experienced in suburban Georgia.
The froyo trend also seemed loosely tied to the evangelical Christian ethos that had not yet begun to break down to the extent it has today. The “frog” in sweetFrog, a super-popular froyo chain at the time, stands for “Fully Rely on God.” In fact, the now-infamous Liberty University founder Jerry Falwell’s grandson opened a franchise in Danville, Virginia, in 2011. It makes sense; frozen yogurt shops have a wholesome vibe and provide a place for people to congregate without the lure of alcohol. And they seemed lightyears away from the discontent that was beginning to stir amongst the country’s more-progressive young people.
Occupy Wall Street sprung up in the midst of this era as older Millennials, many of whom had moved away from home and fled to large cities, hit the job market for the first time and found, to their dismay, that well-paying jobs were few and far between. The housing market made it near impossible to buy property. They struggled to make ends meet. The general unkempt appearance of the hipster era may have been by necessity as much as it was a genuine style choice.
It seems like the froyo aesthetic, housed in suburban America, had not quite caught onto the harsh realities that the 2010s would come to hold. Or maybe it wasn’t exactly behind the times but rather functioned as a respite from the times. Whatever the case may be, froyo seemed to have fallen out of favor by the Trump years, replaced instead by the ubiquity of the boba shop, though they tended to pop up in urban areas before they trickled their way into the American suburbs.
Though it may not have been long ago, it makes sense why the early 2010s are coming back into fashion. Indie sleaze is a timeless vision of grungy, edgy youth embracing their good looks and functional livers to dress in their dad’s old band t-shirts and binge drink vodka from plastic bottles in glitter-filled dives, but the messy aesthetics and rampant substance abuse also point to difficult times for young people—perhaps more difficult now than we could have conceived in 2011. The froyo shop was an equal but opposite reaction to the same forces that resulted in the Occupy movement, but it seemed to be imbued with an optimism, a naivety that seems harder to access now.
There’s a part of me that dreams of walking into a froyo shop, swirling two incongruous flavors in my paper cup and covering the dessert with every gummy candy, chocolate chip and sprinkle in the place. But in reality, if I were to frequent a frozen yogurt shop today, I’d probably just choose a single flavor and top it with some fruit instead. Whether that’s a testament to how boring I’ve gotten in the past decade or it points to a shift in the country’s dessert ethos is yet to be seen.
Samantha Maxwell is a food and wine writer and editor based in Boston. Follow her on Twitter at @samseating.