Hey Man What’s Happening – The Cult of Hipster

Re-Make! Re–Model! Re-Wind! Back to the future! Tomorrow happens yesterday!

In order to read the codes signs & signals of what fashion will be (or wants to be!) you need to know where it’s coming from! What really creates and drives it! This is not (or very rarely today) the ‘designers’! Once it was, but today they are simply ‘interpreters’! Nor is it the marketing and branding companies, they are simply a high gloss sales force! And it is most certainly not the ‘trend companies’! They are an increasingly more absurd and irrelevant branch of the sales process!

The real movers & shakers, hipsters, tricksters and true subculture stylists! Are the ones who create what the second wave of designers, branding and trend forecasting companies later turn into ‘fashion’! And it is certainly not the 21st century celebs, rock/pop community! Conspicuous as they are by their terminally artless lack of style and taste!

The real movers & shakers of style, inhabit an ultra cool hipster subculture! Where anyone perceived to be connected with the artless world of fashion and trends, would be seen to be seriously unhip! And terminally uncool!
Because for these ultra hipsters, one something becomes ‘fashionable’ or ‘fashion’! It is totally over, and will be dropped like a hot brick!

In fact, the very worst thing that could happen to a true hipster, the greatest insult, would be to be called ‘fashionable’! This would be seen as a gross insult and an affront to their aesthetic sensibility! And, one has to say that to a large degree they are quite correct in their what one might call ‘aesthetic hipster fundamentalism’! For once something becomes ‘fashionable’ or even worse ‘a trend’! It has then become mainstream, overground, and no longer in any sense hip or cool!

This though was always the case, as any half decent student of fashion history! Or more importantly the history of ‘style’, will know! (and it is important here to remember that ‘fashion’ is for people who know nothing! And style for those who know ‘everything’!). Certainly since the tsunami of fashion/style bloggers/trend forecasters and stylists without style, have infested the clothing industry! The real hipsters and stylists, have jealously guarded their cool school hipsters credentials!

When Beau Brummell, the great ultra stylist and dandy of the British Regency era, was copied by everyone (including the King!) and it became fashionable! He instantly dropped the ‘look’ and declared it passé and over! This has always been so! (and indeed still is!) In sixties ‘London, the original Mods & Stylists’ dropped like a hot brick, anything that was copied or imitated! Carnaby Street for example, by the time it became internationally famous in around 1966/67! Was certainly no longer seen as cool by the young (and beautiful!) Modernist hipsters who had started it all! They have moved on to Chelsea and Kensington!

The Kings Road Chelsea lasted a little longer, and managed to hold on to its hipster credentials until the early 1980s! But this was mainly due to Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood’s shop (Variously called Seditionaries/Too Fast To Live Too Young To Die/Sex) in the Wolds End area of the Kings Road! And of course the explosion of UK Punk/Post Punk which was in fact originally a UK Art School hipster style movement! (or ‘Revolt Into Style’ to quote George Melly’s brilliant phrase!) For a definitive reading and history of this time, all genuine students of fashion, style & pop-culture! Should read Jon Savages excellent ‘England’s Dreaming’! In fact if they think they know anything, they should already have done so!

London’s Kensington High Street lasted much longer, due to the legacy of Biba, Mr Freedom, Bus Stop! And, more than anything else the Kensington Market and Hyper Hyper! The Ken Market (as it was known) kept going for years, with its eclectic mix of egalitarian street style, which mixed ‘glam/goth/punk/post punk/hippy chic/boho/rockabilly/mod etc etc’ into a mad collage, of style clash! Tourists from all over the world would make a bee line for the Ken Market, and its cooler more stylist cousin, Hyper Hyper, on the opposite side of the road! Both survived, and eventually staggered on, well into the 90s , as a kind of global village of street style!
Many great designers came out of the Ken Market and Hyper Hyper! Certainly Lloyd Johnson, whose ‘Johnsons’ brand became the unchallenged No.1 mover and shaker of global coolness during that time!

So! You are no doubt wondering! Who and where, are the current 21st Century movers and shakers of serious hipsterdom? Well, they are certainly not what the trend forecasting companies, style bloggers, brand & marketing people are trying to tell you! Nor are they the fashion students (well maybe around four of them at Central St Martins!)
There are though key areas to look at/in, if you really want to know where the key elements that will be pushing the envelope of style are coming from! But remember, as this look ha now morphed into ‘fashion’! For the serious hipster, it is now over!
They are:

  • The Number 1: Hackney East London London
  • Followed by 2: Williamsburg New York

There are of course other outpost’s of terminal hipsterdom! But these are the serious sub-culture movers and shakers of the genre!

So lets break this ‘hipster thing’ down to a few key elements:
OK! First thing is most male hipsters have beards! And often glasses! But these are not just ‘beards and glasses’! We are talking a kind of Thomas Hardy/DH Lawrence novel character! Earthy/Industrial Revolution Socialist Chic! Mixed in with a classic Victorian eccentric explorer! So the look could be categorized as ‘post modern industrial revolution chic’! Or if one wanted to be a touch over the line politically correct-wise that is ‘Gay Moslem Brotherhood’ (it’s those beards maaaaan!)

So the whole look is very ‘beardy’! And they all take themselves pretty seriously! They are very big on bikes! And making sure you have the right type of bike, is a very big deal in ‘Hipster Elitism’ (and they are definitely elitist in their hipster manifesto of cool or not cool! – And again, this was always the case in subculture coolness!).
They are also very big on the ‘provenance’ of their coffee! And very big on all things organic!
Hipster girls forego the beards (happily!) And the loom is just a carefully chosen anti-fashion downbeat as the boys! But, it’s not messy! It’s (as with the boys!) Carefully chosen, well thought through, and well put together! So unlike the ‘fashion heads’! They most definitely have taste and style (which is of course why they are hipsters!)
The classic definition of the ‘hipster’ is this: ‘A subculture of men & women, usually in their 20s and 30s who value independent thinking and counter culture politics’!
The ‘proto-hipsters’ who followed on from this, were those who rejected convention (marketing and branding) deviated from ‘the norm’ and had their own ‘aesthetic values’ (connoisseurs if you like!). The type of people that you can still find living in and around London’s Notting Hill-Portobello Road Area!

The 21st century Hackney/Williamsburg brand though, is a very different animal! For although fiercely ‘anti-fashion/anti-trend’! They are in a sense, a complete fashion/trend/brand/marketing package! For they are beneath the artifice and cool hipster veneer, hooked on ‘surface’, the appearance of being perceived in a certain way, with a certain set of rules and values! But this is essentially a ‘pose’! And a very good one! Which is why it is so easy for the early movers and shakers of fashion and trends (the blogerista’s!) to appropriate the whole look and implied ‘attitude’ for the fashion industry!

This having now happened! The whole ‘hipster’ look is now dead, and terminally passé, for the hard core hipster evangelists of style who created it! So where do they go from here? Who knows! But it will definitely be less ‘beardy’! Because once David Beckham has a beard, you know that whatever else it is, it’s no longer cool! Because for any serious cool school hipster, the Beckhams are definitely not on the bus when it comes to the coolness factor!

Soooooo!! Slowly but surely we see the fashion/trend boys getting more ‘beardy’! And the whole ‘hipster’ look (now dead as a genuine ‘hipster look’!) having transferred itself to the new key fashion elements!!

Here are a few codes signs and signals for you:

  1. ‘Glam, over-styling , and the whole ‘I’m a celeb look’, is totally passes and definitely out with a capital ‘O’! (like those tacky sooo over high heels!)
  2. The look is more downbeat and cool! Detail and perceived ‘attitude’ is everything!
  3. Labels:
  • Old Town: an excellent , brilliantly designed and terminally cool , well below the radar, label (both Menswear and Womenswear) designed by Will Brown, one of England’s legendary designers!)
  • Ian Batten: The British Yohji Yamamoto and the grand master of cool school tailored casuals! Ian’s new men’s and women’s collection, are simply to die for! And positively ooooze, designer hipster coolness and style!
  • Pure Mind: Not quite purist hipster chic! But definitely up there with the ultra cool school style heads! For serious stylists and ‘Zen hipsters’!
  • COS (Yes Cos): Although a multiple, COS is a Swedish multiple, which means they have taste and style! And they are absolutely brilliant and being the first movers in recognizing and assimilating what will be happening! And therefore this puts them way ahead of the over-decorated retro mess of most major brands!
  • The Kooples: I am must also (against my better judgement because I really don’t like them) mention ‘The Kooples’! This is a French based company with a spreading network of branches, and they are featured prominently in Bloomingdales is the USA, and Holt Renfrew in Toronto! ‘TK’ have created a kind of ‘shiny’ somewhat cheesy high street version of ‘hipster cool’! It’s not even bad, just ‘shiny’! What I don’t like is that it probably sells to the same kind of people who think Yohji Yamamoto’s Y3 s cool, rather than the one thing he should never have done! But this is of course just me being very ‘style/coolness factor fundamentalist’ about it all!

So there’s a little guide to what is currently moving and shaking! So if you want to stay ahead of the game! Then this is where you start!

May this month of August find you blessed with uplifting karma joy and love!

Chris Garland London August 2014.

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