The Sound Of Walking Through Hot Topic In 2002

There was a lot to love about Hot Topic in 2002. The cobweb tights, leather cuffs, neon mesh sleeves, so many shades of black nail polish that you never knew existed ’til you saw a cute goth girl wearing five different kinds on each hand. The mall goths and weekend punks, like me, who expressed their rebellious hearts through Rage Against The Machine flags and black band tees. Who knew being different was important but weren’t quite ready to go it alone. Then there were the broody, slightly intimidating sales staff, whose total indifference to their jobs and customers somehow made them the most attractive and desirable people in the world.

I’m not too familiar with Hot Topic in 2015. I’ve sold out. I buy my black clothes from Esprit. The brand, its fashion and distorted chugga-chugga guitar riffs will live on forever in my heart, though. Here’s a playlist to take us all back.

Goth af

goth af

Walking Through Hot Topic In 2002


Disposable Teens – Marilyn Manson
Last Resort – Papa Roach
The Rock Show – Blink-182
Losing Grip – Avril Lavigne
Toxicity – System of a Down
The Taste of Ink – The Used
Gossip Folks (ft Ludacris) – Missy Elliot
Sweetness – Jimmy Eat World
T.O.A.B. – Sevendust
This Is Love – PJ Harvey
Transylvanian Concubine – Rasputina
Change (In The House Of Flies) – Deftones
Forgot About Dre (ft Eminem) – Dr. Dre
Prayer – Disturbed
City of Angels – The Distillers
Swamped – Lacuna Coil
I’d Do Anything – Simple Plan
Sacrilege – Otep
What I Always Wanted – Kittie

Want to suggest a playlist theme? Hit Stef up and someone on the team might make it for you.

Before you go! Autostraddle runs on the reader support of our AF+ Members. If this article meant something to you today — if it informed you or made you smile or feel seen, will you consider joining AF and supporting the people who make this queer media site possible?

Join AF+!


Founding member. Former writer. Still loves Autostraddle with her whole heart.

Crystal has written 320 articles for us.


  1. Great article, thank you for posting it!!
    I had just started high school in 2002, so it definitely brings back memories. Not that I remember much of those years, but the music and style are memorable.

    Never had Hot Topic here, but Spencer’s instead. I’ve only been to that a couple of times and it’s a similar store.

    I’m surprised to see Kittie on the list, always surprised to see them talked about anywhere as I didn’t think they were that popular. They are a local band and I only knew one or two of their songs.

    • I was unsure about Kittie, at first. Because I definitely listened to their music in the early 00s but I wasn’t sure if it was as early as 2002. So I asked our music editor Stef, who used to work with them, and she said it was v possible they would have been playing in store then.

  2. Crystal, your play list is giving me all the nostalgic feels. I actually *worked* at a Hot Topic when I was a freshman in college (circa 2000). It was during the their first big expansion and the store was new and in the upscale mall in Ann Arbor and people didn’t even know what the fuck to think of the total weirdos suddenly wandering around.

    I feel a little lost and old when I wander in there nowadays.

    • Mari, if I knew you back in 2000 when you were a Hot Topic employee then I would have thought you were SO COOL (still do though) and probably begged you to get me a job.

  3. As a ska/pop-punk kid turned emo nerd, Hot Topic was a favorite spot of mine back then. RIP, me being “edgy.”

  4. I convinced my mom to buy my eleventh grade wardrobe from Hot Topic on the condition that I’d get good grades that year. (The highlight of that trip was my mom trying to pull the bondage straps of my pants over my shoulders- she was convinced they were supposed to be suspenders.) I think straight C’s held up my end of the bargain.

    But yeah, Hot Topic doesn’t feel nearly as edgy now as it did in 2003. Last time I wandered in, all I saw was Twilight junk and my little emo heart wailed, “Where’s all my Invader Zim and Edward Gorey merchandise?!” These are dark times now (pun wholeheartedly intended.)

    • Yeah! I discovered Hot Topic around 2002 when I was in high school. I was a little late to the game, because the chain didn’t expand into Canada until about 2012. Whenever I’d go to the states, I’d go there to stock up on my emo band junk.

      I think Hot Topic’s more “accessible” makeover has to do with a few things:

      A) emo and punk stuff was trendier in the early 2000s than it is now, with everything now more focused on pop music.

      B) Horror and sci-fi stuff, once relegated to nerdy outcasts, has become mainstream and socially acceptable, what with the success of teen vampire flicks/shows, big budget superhero movies out every year, and events like Comic-Con being huge deals, now.

      C) The realization that being a chain store that appeals to marginalized outcasts and people who are “rebellious” (i.e. anti-corporate) PROBABLY isn’t the best if you want to survive as a business. Ya gotta go with the flow of the mainstream!

      This is total b.s. conjecture.

    • I’ve had multiple reasons (read: Halloween costumes) to buy stuff that 2002 Hot Topic would be all over (red plaid kneesocks, an ankh necklace, leather wristbands with studs…) but 2015 Hot Topic has failed me every single time. At this point in my life, I just go there to feel simultaneously smug, disappointed, and old.

  5. Otep*cringes* I saw them at a festival once and I personally thought they were awful. On the other hand Lacuna Coil is good, once you get past the guys signing and ignore most everything made after Comalies(which I have on my cd shelf). Cristina is amazing live & even better looking in person.

    Big Deftones fan so it’s nice to see Changes in the House of Flies on there; but, I am pretty sure Back to School was specifically made for Hot Topic crowd. There one of the few from the early 90’s alt metal era that still make great albums(you have to remember Korn was discovered at one of their shows). Them and Blink 182.

    • I saw Lacuna Coil at a festival a few years ago and they sounded great but my favourite part was some very entertaining synchronised headbanging. A++, would recommend.

  6. I remember a moment in junior high where I was with a bunch of people from school were at a mall and suddenly the group split in two–half went to Hot Topic, half went to Abercrombie&Fitch. I made the split decision to follow the Hot Topic girls since I’d never actually been inside the store and just remember walking into the store and feeling grossly inadequate and way out of place and COMPLETELy–what’s the opposite of edgy?–edgeless. Completely edgeless. I ran for A&F but quickly realized that I was equally inadequate and out of place there hA. Goddamn junior high.

    Cut to: two years later when I had a thriving Hot Topic online account (I still felt out of place in the store, but liked their pants. OH, their pants!) I managed to combine enough birthday coupons and discounts to get ~BLACK AND RED LIGHTNING BOLT SKINNY JEANS~ for a grand total of $6. RIP, lightning pants. I loved you well.

    • I love the online store! A little HT fact: If you live outside the USA you need to call customer service to verify credit card details before they’ll ship your order (or at least that was the case 2 years ago) and their hold music is so on point. Paramore features heavily. It’s so good that I never even care about the extra $20 it costs to make the international phone call.

  7. And here I remember walking into a Hot Topic in like 1997 and wondering why people would pay so much money to buy the shit we were just making at home / finding at shows / thrifting, because PUNK = DIY, YO. I was really excited about access to Manic Panic and queer stickers, though.

    Also I think I got asked by store clerks to apply for a job there every time I walked in, probably just because I had my hair dyed at the time?

  8. Be still my little goth high-schooler heart. <3 I graduated in 2002, and I don't think we actually had a Hot Topic store nearby until after that, but I spent sooo much time drooling over things on their site.

  9. I miss this version of Hot Topic but never got to experience it. I was 9 years old in 2002. I wanted to be a corset wearing goth teen SO BAD but I was just too little. *Cry* I did sneak in there to buy Amy Brown dark faery postcards, though.

    On the other hand–Yay! You included the Distillers!

  10. The first time I tripped on mushrooms I thought it was a good idea to go to Hot Topic. I was wrong.

Comments are closed.