Keep Austin Weird

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Keep Austin Weird is the slogan adopted by the Austin Independent Business Alliance to promote small businesses in Austin, Texas. It is intended to promote local businesses and is inspired by comments made by Red Wassenich in 2000 while giving a pledge to an Austin radio station.[1] He later began printing bumper stickers, and now operates the website and published Keep Austin Weird: A Guide to the Odd Side of Town.[2]

Despite a challenge from Wassenich, the slogan was later trademarked by Outhouse Designs and used to market T-shirts, hats, and mugs.[3][4][5] Other cities adopted similar slogans later, such as Portland, Oregon in 2003.[6]

A recently released book on the topic, Weird City: Sense of Place and Creative Resistance in Austin, Texas,[7] discusses the cultural evolution of the "Keep Austin Weird" movement as well as its commercialization and socio-political significance.[8][9]

The Austin Independent Business Alliance is among at least 75 local groups affiliated with the American Independent Business Alliance, a national non-profit that supports and connects pro-local community-based organizations.


The "Keep Austin Weird" slogan now reaches far beyond a marketing campaign.[citation needed] Austin is the self-proclaimed "live music capital of the world" and the people of Austin reflect a friendly, accepting culture of artistic and individual expression that maintains the city as a vibrant and eclectic creative center and haven for an LGBT community, intellectual community, community of naturalists and environmentalists, and for subcultures and people(s) who are not mainstream. In a mostly conservative Texas, Austin is "Weird" because of that and because it continues to be liberal and progressive politically, socially, in culture, in the arts and in music, among other things. "Keep Austin Weird" moves beyond a mere slogan, to reflect the dynamics that encompass Austin.

In January 2009 alone, over 1700 live music venues were supported.[10] In addition, multiple festivals such as SXSW, Austin City Limits, Armadillo Bazaar[11] and the Batfest, among many others are highly attended with enthusiastic and often large audiences.

Austin's culture is further enriched by a multitude of celebrities such as country music icon Willie Nelson, actress Sandra Bullock, athlete Lance Armstrong, writer Bruce Sterling, film directors Richard Linklater and Robert Rodriguez, actor Matthew McConaughey, talk radio host Alex Jones, and fashion designer Tom Ford.

There are many other notable figures who make Austin their home exactly because the culture is "Weird" and highly supportive of non-mainstream individuals and subcultures, intellectuals, and artistic and creative personalities.

Another "weirdness" to the city is the 1.5 million bats that live under the Ann W. Richards Congress Avenue Bridge, the largest urban bat colony in the world. When the bats first moved into the bridge following a rehabilitation of the structure in the 1980s, they were initially reviled, but have come to be celebrated as a tourism boon for the city, bringing in an estimated 7.9 million dollars from tourism and related business. A prominent piece of public art is in the shape of a swooping bat, and the annual Bat Fest, held in the summertime, further promotes them.


"Keep Austin Weird" seemingly promotes an independent, anti-corporate Austin, yet Outhouse Designs trademarked the slogan in 2003 and has used it ever since. Andrew Allemann, host of a satirical "Make Austin Normal" website, asks: "How can you have a commercial slogan that screams anti-corporation?"

Despite this criticism, the Keep Austin Weird campaign has proven successful. In April 2003, Borders bookstore withdrew plans to build a store near local bookstore BookPeople and local music shop Waterloo Records. In an article published by the Daily Texan, Abhinav Kumar writes:

A case study by Civic Economics, a strategic planning consulting firm, found that "local merchants generate substantially greater economic impact than chain retailers." The study revealed that if someone was to spend $100 at a chain like Borders, only $13 would be funneled back into the Austin economy. However, if you spent $100 at a local business such as Waterloo Records, about $45 would go back to fuel the Austin economy.[12]

Additionally, in an Austin Chronicle article Civic Economics also revealed that over a 5-year period, $11 million would have been siphoned off BookPeople and Waterloo Records.[13]

Other cities in Texas often retort, with Georgetown, Texas noting its conservative suburban nature with the slogan "Keep Georgetown Normal." The mildly progressive college towns of Denton, Texas and Nacogdoches, Texas have slogans that say "Keep Denton Awesome" and "Keep Nac Funky" respectively.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Yonan, Joe (March 27, 2011). "Can Austin stay weird?". Washington Post. 
  2. ^ Wassenich, Red. Keep Austin Weird: A Guide to the Odd Side of Town. Schiffer Books. ISBN 0764326392.  The slogan was used
  3. ^ Yardley, Jim (December 8, 2002). "Austin Journal; A Slogan Battle Keeps Austin Weird". The New York Times. 
  4. ^ Kanter, Alexis (September 9, 2004). "Keep Austin Weird?". The Daily Texan. Retrieved 2006-03-16. 
  5. ^ Ross, Warren R. (August 15, 2005). "Structures of justice". Uuworld XIX (3): 1. Retrieved 2007-09-11. 
  6. ^ Smith, Marty. "Dr. Who: Whence the Weird?". 
  7. ^ Long, Joshua (2010). Weird City: Sense of Place and Creative Resistance in Austin, Texas. University of Texas Press. 
  8. ^ Kelso, John (May 6, 2010). "It's Weird Social Science: Thesis on Austin now a book". Austin American Statesman. 
  9. ^ Dunbar, Wells (June 4, 2010). "Viva la Resistance". Austin Chronicle. 
  10. ^ "Austin Metro Area Entertainment Guide, Your guide to Austin Music, Events and Activities". Retrieved 2011-06-24. 
  11. ^ "The 36th Season - Armadillo Christmas Bazaar". Retrieved 2011-06-24. 
  12. ^ [1][dead link]
  13. ^ "Austin News, Events, Restaurants, Music". The Austin Chronicle. 2013-11-22. Retrieved 2013-11-26. 

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