We may hear a lot about hipsters and the hipster lifestyle. The very word casts an endless array of nauseous irritating images of beardy weirdies eschewing mainstream trends for a much vaunted chic alternative to everything. They want to walk down the street imagining every passer-by admiring their cool original dress sense whilst puffing on their ostentatious Nepalese goat dung flavoured indigo vapour tubes.
I believe the term originates from the 1940s referring to young American jazz fans. The word jazz says it all for me. In the past I may well have been a hipster. I had unattended hair, old grey jackets, collarless shirts and those grand daddy type sleeveless sweaters. I drank in slightly off city-centre pubs, fogged by the constant smoking of rollies and battered old pipes rescued from the old drawer of a long forgotten relative. There was talk of workers’ rights and left-wing politics mixed with the free-flowing real ale of local or Burton based breweries. Yes it was the emergence of proper beer from the plastic gassy keg concoctions of my youth. It was the time of Marston’s Pedigree and the revival of Draft Bass.
I had a job that occupied the evenings, drifting around houses teaching the piano. I had holes in my jeans and designer stubble long before the gorgeous George Michael rocked it with his immaculately constructed eighties Buffon.
Parents would stifle yawns and feign interest in my esoteric ramblings about musical genres and obscure composers.
I had a group of musical hipster friends. We would gather in bars and flats to celebrate our love and knowledge of music and freedom. After all, none of us had a nine to five job. Financially I was always on the edge. Cars went untaxed and debts were either stalled or cleverly dodged. If we were to be pedantic we could argue that I was more of a Bohemian. Whatever; I was young.
Now, before I really start to eulogise about my past, thus spraying my spectacles various shades of pink, I have to remind myself that I was only ever a part-time hipster. All my life has been a double life. There was the musical life and the terraced working class football dedicated life. I was and stil am a huge Evertonian. How very un-hispter to follow the mainstream tribal rituals of the common football fan. I had friends who drank lager and talked of their day jobs. We got pissed on beer and terrorised lamp posts. We were loud and yobbish. Great times. To have experienced such contrasting lives gave me a unique learning curve. It was a real help when I eventually went mainstream.
What of the modern hipster? It’s something we all like to do; classify people types so we can rustle up some justified reason to sneer at them. In my view, compartmentalisation (I’ve waited years to get this word into one of my blogs) is fun. And that’s it! Dont take it seriously and don’t take me seriously. I believe the latter has always been an integral part of my image. Now this is where I use the following observations as an excuse for gentle fun. It’s not meant to be at anyone’s expense. People can be people.
The modern hipster is a social being. They may be social animals because they’re naturally friendly and convivial or they may just be after a cooing audience for their cutting edge alternative identity. Hence the Old Testament beard, the checked shirts, the old hats and the gourmet cookbook tucked under their arms. The women gather to discuss independent traders and the poor, unenlightened common housewife who can see no further than corporate retail. There are constant references to organic and “going vegan”. Himalayan knitted scarves and Patagonian bracelets are flicked and rattled as the conversation begins to deepen. There are big doses of sarcasm and any opportunity for irony will be hunted down like a dog.
Across the road to me is an electrical retailer (see recent blog Whitehill Waltz). But you won’t find hipsters in there. They sell modern convenient household goods, not coal-fired cooking ranges in ready blackened cast iron, tubs, washboards, dollies or those steam powered televisions. Besides, most of the staff nip outside in their breaks to have a quick fag.
“What?” shrieks the hipster in a flurry of quinoa and goji berry scented outraged breath. “Why are they not vaping?”
How does a hipster groom him or herself? Well blokes spend hours trimming beards to look elegantly shabby. There is frantic combing and back-combing from both genders. Neck chains, bangles, wooly hats and other things are placed just so for that crawled out of bed and went backwards through a hedge look. And this is before venturing out to face the head winds and cross winds on their electrified bicycles. Some may even have an old postman’s bike they found in their great uncle’s garage.
This is where I proclaim that we all know hipsters. Yes, they walk amongst us but we just accept their eccentricities, feigned or otherwise, as just the way they are. These are genuine good eggs, going about their lives undaunted by the pressures of modern trends fuelled by modern in your face media. But be wary of the plastic ones good people. Be sure they are not turning you to their twisted over-priced ways. Ask youself:
“Does a vine tomato grown in the sterile environs of Thanet Earth have equal taste, or more importantly, status as that wrinkled weeping over ripe fruit purchased at a monstrous price from the funny little woman in the farmers’ market?”
And this brings me to the hipster kitchen. It’s a pot pouris of the old and the retro; sprialisers, stove top kettles, bone handled carving knives and hotch-potch of cutlery, all set off in the vintage tones of a kitchen they once imagined.
Do you really want to sample any of their foraged goods?
Do you trust their claims of “knowing fungi”?
That unglazed bowl next to the bottles of dandelion seed oil and chilli vinegar looks like a cross section of granny’s compost heap. So when they announce the creation of a wayside and foreshore salad, are you really keen to try it?
“No, don’t wash it Gloriana,” says Abs (short for Abraham; he was actually christened Andrew but that didn’t seem coolio to him) “it’ll take the flavour away. Use this soft mushroom brush to spend the next four hours gently brushing the rabbit droppings and crab poo from every leaf.”
Am I going too far? Perhaps. Are my judgements too ridiculous? Possibly. But hang on, I haven’t finished.
Where do hipsters go on holiday? What sort of hallowed places act as the backdrop to their ever-so casual looking selfies. According to The Guardian, hipsters can be spotted in the world’s coolest cities. Havanna, Adelaide, Jo’burg, Reykjavik Manilla, Mumbai (don’t ever call it Bombay) or Buenos Aries. They seek out centres of rustic culture. Local markets are scoured for colourful yet tasteless artisan products honed from local yak milk cheese or the fur of the urine soaked sewer rat. There will always be a visit to a street corner bench where they can devour the genuine street food created by scrawny greasy aproned men standing over yellow pan of fiery muddy oil with a curved cylinder of precarious ash protruding from the endless cigarette planted in pale wrinkled lips. No outrage about vaping here. It just wouldn’t be authentic.
On return, suitcases would be crammed with all that is useless, to be paraded at their home-coming brunch celebration before being confined to the museum room; usually a box room overflowing with the spoils of previous adventures. The one exception is the new hat. Once chosen it remains glued like a cheap wig to the scruffy pate until the next holiday.
What if the hipster runs out of cool cities? Will it be two weeks in Cumbernauld, Milton Keynes, Motherwell or Boston (Lincolnshire; statistically the obese centre of England). Will deep fried mars bars be the new cauliflower cous cous? The mind boggles. Hopefully I’ve only offended those who deserve it. To whom I say “get a grip and look around you”.
Thank you for reading.