It was announced with all the verve and pomp of a cinder block.
Tucked away in the daily permits report from Metro Codes was this (capitalization — or lack thereof — preserved for history’s sake): “to rehab a portion of opry mills mall for h & m retail space.”
Nashville had two reactions. Those in the know reacted with unbridled enthusiasm, as if they’d just heard the line “I hear the train a-comin’” for the first time, rather than the cold prose of a building permit application.
And the rest of the city whispered that they weren’t quite sure what H&M is, causing the realization in the first group that explaining H&M is a bit like describing a rainbow to one of those cave shrimp.
H&M is, to hammer a trope, the IKEA of clothes. It is Swedish. It is trendy. It is relatively inexpensive. For baristas who want to be rock stars and 9-to-5ers who want to be baristas who want to be rock stars, it is a mecca.
But like IKEA, H&M is seen as a retailer marking a town as an “It City,” to borrow a phrase that is already tired.
And so with that simple, uncapitalized line in a mundane piece of paperwork heretofore only perused by contractors, bureaucrats and reporters, Nashville continued its climb from Hicktown to Hip Town.
An H&M puts Nashville — in at least one respect — at the same cool-kids table as Atlanta, London, New York … and Huntsville?
Indeed, the Opry Mills location will be the first foray into Tennessee for the store, but it comes a year after they laid down roots in Northern Alabama, in the cultural and industrial juggernaut that is the Rocket City.
Let’s move on.
Nashville also gets its H&M after such cool locales as Spokane, Winston-Salem and Springfield, Ill.
H&M just opened a new location in Serbia — the war is finally over in the Balkans, folks — and perhaps they would have been there earlier, except they were too busy opening two locations in New Brunswick.
“Cool” is as hard to define as H&M is to explain, but certainly part of the definition is self-assurance. Humphrey Bogart was cool, not because he told people how cool he was, but because he didn’t. Keith Richards is cooler than Mick Jagger, because Mick tried (and still tries) too hard.
Sitting at the cool table doesn’t make one cool; being at the table people want to sit at makes you cool.
Nashville isn’t going to make itself cool by incessantly pointing out which stores are coming or which Great Gray Lady newspapers wrote about us or which TV stars or rock musicians chose to live here.
If Nashville is indeed cool, it’s cool on its own and doesn’t need the validation of a Swedish discount store — any Swedish discount store — to make it true.
By all means, let’s enjoy the benefits of the city’s new status as a Nowtown, but don’t strut about the latest indicator of how hip we are.
It’s not cool.