The time has come to accept an inescapable fact – I am a hipster. For too long I have resisted the urge to come out of the closet, for fear of being associated with those shoals of vain, self-regarding nitwits, pie-eyed on flat whites and wonderbread.
I picture myself now in a fictional support group, Hipsters Anonymous, telling my tragic story to other hapless hipsters.
I don’t really know how it happened. I first spotted the symptoms six years ago when I discovered a penchant for knitwear, and that skinny jeans suited my gawky frame.
I was recently given a prescription for reading glasses. I did my homework, shopping for frames that suited my face shape. The girl in the opticians helpfully explained ‘You have a small face, but a big head’ which informed my buying decision. You see, with a face like mine, the only thing for it was to buy comically oversized glasses. Ok, so the tortoise shell rims were a personal touch but it seemed so inevitable at the time.
After a recent stomach upset, my GP recommended I try an exclusion diet. Avoiding dairy and foods containing gluten was on the menu, so I now have a trendy food intolerance. I’m not making this up. Try pouring soy milk into a hot cup of Americano and watch it diffuse like pickled brain matter.
As a Christmas present from me to me, I bought myself a Super 8 camera. I’d read about the analogue renaissance in filmmaking, and I loved the old school aesthetic of the hardware and nostalgic feel of 8mm film. The best part is you can point-n’-shoot with a gun grip. It only occurred to me in retrospect that there is nothing, literally nothing, as quintessentially hipster.
I even experimented last year with the obligatory ‘faded undercut’ hairstyle. Help. A cursory look at my wardrobe reveals woollens, brown brogues and spray on jeans. I’m a tech-savvy twenty-something who works for a creative agency, and I used to commute to work on a vintage bike.
I’ve skirted the event horizon for so long that I barely noticed myself being pulled in. I’ve adopted all the quirks of Hipsterhood and I’m not even trying. Am I hipster by osmosis? Have I been suffused with internet fads and pop culture that I’ve been unconsciously converted?
I have a lofty disdain for memes of ‘things cats do’, snootily swiping down, but that fits the description too. Am I guilty of intellectual snobbery? Yes! The case rests: ‘If the cap fits, wear it.’
But here’s the rub. From what I’ve learned, no self-respecting hipster would ever declare himself one. The term has come to be derogatory, describing foppish, pretentious scenesters, posting filtered photos of themselves astride penny-farthings.
So there it is, done, I’ve anathematized myself from the ‘it crowd’. Now speaking as an outsider, I can offer my perspective.
Let’s peel back the pretentious veneer propagated by social media and find a socio-cultural phenomenon. We’re experiencing a backlash against the mass-consumerism of the 90’s and noughties and young people are embracing a revival of the craft movement.
There is a real reverence and respect right now for how things are made. From baking bread to brewing beer, young people are teaching themselves forgotten techniques and are switched on about where their food and materials come from. There is a grassroots movement, led by the internet, to crowdfund projects not because they are profitable, but because they are worthy.
Young people are socialist, disruptive and politically engaged. There is a creative ecosystem of artists, tech entrepreneurs and craftspeople in the UK and beyond, joined up by the internet and inspired by the best of traditions.
There’s nothing pretentious about restoring faith in our supply chain or frivolous about nostalgia for individual craftsmanship. In fact, there’s a compelling simplicity and humility to the way that traditional methods are sought after and respected. And markets have responded to our demand so we now have improved access to better quality at better value. Horse lasagne, anyone?
I recently spent a day in the hipster stronghold of Brick Lane market, which is a moveable feast of artisans, designers and world foods. I strolled into what I thought was an average off-license, and wound up being led on a journey through the story of beer by a shop-assistant. I stayed for an hour, sampling raw barley and hops, spellbound by his lecture on the production techniques of his microbrewery.
In the end, I only spent about £10 (I only came in for a 4-pack!) He didn’t care, he’s been encouraged to speak passionately and knowledgeably about his craft, not to up-sell shooters at the till.
This isn’t hollow idealism. Young people, hipsters, are putting their ideas into practice with innovative start-ups and pioneering new forms of expression. Their buying habits and lifestyle choices are changing the business, tech and cultural landscape. These hipsters started the fire and it’s spreading fast.
So whilst there’s nothing new about being bohemian, or freethinking, or creative, the hipster movement celebrates all of these things.
I’m proud to be a man of my time, tapped into a zeitgeist that reflects my philosophy as much as it does my fashion sense. As Hunter S. Thompson once put it, ‘We’re riding the crest of a beautiful wave’.
So that’s why I’ve decided to stand up
There are some things I will never do. A top-knot is a bridge too far, you look like a disgraced Samurai, and you’ll never catch me with an Edwardian beard.
But when the time comes to bury the hipster tradition, I’ll be a pallbearer, eulogising to anyone who’ll listen that being a dickhead was, actually, quite cool.