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The Best and the Worst of 2016

Every year, I bookend December with my Best and Worst List. The idea arose from all these year-end clickbait lists, where blogs drop the past 12 months into a centrifuge and scrape the remains into two categories: Best and Worst. It’s a much easier way to digest the universe – when you can label everything as merely good or bad – but, it’s also subjective and not always real, and as we’ve seen this election cycle, polarizing and disastrous. The truth is that one man’s red state is another woman’s blue. Plus, life is complicated and not evenly-torn – like a paper towel’s jagged fringe, or a country’s 50 states, let’s say. We want so badly to divide people and ideas into sides, so that we can plant our flag, but those grey hues are the only constant. The murky in-betweens, those negotiable points, are what make us unique and human and interesting. There really is no one Best and Worst, there’s just us, trying to make sense of it all.

These are the Best and Worst of 2016.

Donald Trump was 2016 in a nutshell (emphasis on “nut!”). He embodied the senselessness, the tumult, and the paradigm shift of a nation and culture in flux. Elon Musk championed this idea of a simulated reality, and Trump’s election confirmed it (as did Reddit debates over the existence of an imaginary Sinbad genie movie), but the Donald’s parallel-universe Biff Tannen rise-to-power wasn’t the only thing Back to the Future II got one year late. The Chicago Cubs finally won the World Series and power-lacing Nike Air Mags released as well.

2016 was the year of upsets and rude awakenings. Everything we held to be true, we got wrong – for example, the death sentence of a 3-1 deficit (before the Cubs broke it, there were the Cavs), CNN polls handing the W to Hillary, and Facebook fake news. Virtual reality bent the truth as did face swapping apps and augmented reality games like Pokemon Go. America has done such a thorough job of sweeping racism under the rug, that the coasts were shocked a KKK-endorsed candidate would take the White House – but, not Dave Chappelle. Police shootings of innocent black men devolved into police bloodshed. Sure, all lives will matter, but not until Black lives matter!

Streetwear, action sports, and fashion were up-ended this year. Calendars reworked, runways re-thunk. Veterans toppled as wholesale retailers shook; stores shuttered as buying patterns swarmed around e-commerce and mobile shopping. Direct-to-consumer is the new wholesale! Wait, omni-channel is the new DTC? ComplexCon isn’t the new tradeshow, it’s the first ComplexCon. The coolest and loudest brands discarded collections and capitalized on hit singles – dad caps, motorcycle pants, pink hoodies. For any trendy brand, the Kanye Kardashian co-sign was the must-have accessory. Anti Social Social Club, Off White, Fear of God. adidas.

If anyone had a banner year, it was the 3 stripes. Boosts, Yeezys, those Bape NMDs (!) Oh, and Netflix (San Junipero, anyone? Terrace House, no one?). And, self-driving cars. 2016 also saw a lot of hope and good news. Unemployment hits a pre-recession low, world hunger is the lowest in 25 years, pandas and humpback whales are off the endangered species list, tigers’ numbers climbed for the first time in a century, and the ISIS caliphate is crumbling. A new generation of streetwear digs in deep and lays its roots: Carrots, Pleasures, FTP, Babylon, and that’s just in L.A…

2016 was the year that celebrities died. Rest in peace, Prince, David Bowie, Muhammad Ali, Dylan Rieder, Carrie Fisher, Steve Yeun’s character on The Walking Dead, Gene Wilder, and everyone else that made our world just a little bit cooler for being in it (Oh, and farewell, Obama and Kobe!).

2016 was the year that celebrity died, when we gave up on famous people, when we tired of the charade. Kanye West entertained, mystified, shocked, and disappointed, around in circles that not only made him a little crazy, but us fans as well. Kim retreated from the spotlight. The Damn Daniels won the Snapchat awards. Instagram Stories. Twitter 360. Facebook Live. Instagram LIVE! Look mom, we’re all on TV. So is savage Ryan Lochte in a Brazilian gas station. Entertainers are here to entertain (Kate McKinnon, Young Thug, and The Rock did it best in 2016). But, they aren’t here to change the world (Lena Dunham, Johnny Depp, and Tilda Swinton did it worst).

Vine died. Earbuds died. Harambe died.

But, there were bigger losses to reconcile. Aleppo. The Flint water crisis. The Pulse nightclub massacre. Brexit. And of course, American democracy!

The people won Standing Rock. The people punched kangaroos. The people vs. O.J. Simpson.

Rest in peace, Lauren, rest in peace, Chris Garcia. Your departures were my personal worst of the year. My personal best? The Hundreds Wildfire, TikiFish, Bobby Hundreds for Fall Out Boy. The Hundreds Red Letter, Washing Machine, Jennifer, my heart grew big this year. But I’m ready for 2017 – the good, the ugly, and all the grey in between.

Will the last person leaving 2016 please turn the lights off?