You see a lot of them in London. Shoreditch and Hoxton are where they’re most prevalent, but Hackney, Soho, Camden, Islington and Fitzrovia can all boast plenty. Even dear old Wandsworth has been invaded. Find anywhere with an art school and you’ll find a few of them hanging around. If you haven’t guessed, I’m talking about hipsters.
Now, hipsters get a lot of stick these days. As subcultures go, they’re more reviled than goths, geeks and hippies combined. But what exactly is a hipster? This is where people seem to run into trouble.
A hipster, it seems, is someone who takes pride in being different from the crowd. Nothing wrong with that, surely? I mean, who wouldn’t want to be seen as an individual? Ah, hold on, looks like I missed the point. The point is that the hipster is someone who takes pride in the difference itself – difference is what they cultivate. The problem arises from the fact that the difference manifests itself in the same clothing , hair and affectations as every other hipster, resulting in a kind of uniform. And the pride manifests itself in smugness.
The ire towards hipsters is not derived from the fact that they are eclectic and different, so much as that they think they are eclectic and different. Ironically, if someone genuinely was eclectic and different, they probably wouldn’t be classed as a hipster.
The look is fairly easy to identify – NHS glasses, lumberjack shirt, skinny jeans, keffiyeh, maybe some sort of woolly hat. And stupid hair. Basically, if you see a haircut and think, “That looks stupid,” you’ve probably found yourself a hipster. There may be a scraggly beard attached, if scraggly is even a word (I don’t think it is). If you trawl Topman, you can probably catch several.
Interestingly, the reputation of the hipster as less “trend setter/social rebel” and more “rich, middle-class, self-important, unoriginal snob in uniform” means that now, about the most insulting thing you can say to a hipster is that they are, in fact, a hipster. By labelling them a hipster, you effectively call them exactly the opposite of what a hipster desires to be. Some commentators have even gone so far as to suggest that by their very existence, hipsters have destroyed the meaning of cool.
I wouldn’t go so far as to say that, but I do think the hipsters may be an interesting (although it goes against the hipster way to admit to being interested in anything) by-product of globalisation. With minor variations, hipsters may be found all over the world (as the Independent article above notes). As so many of the major clothing stores are multinational if not worldwide, there’s no need to hipsters to mix and match to achieve a look – they can buy the whole thing down their local high street. Head into Top Shop or Uni Qlo or – if you’re poor – Primark or H&M.
Basically, Westfield should see you alright. Interesting fact: Uni Qlo is a Japanese term derived from the English “eunuch clothes.” [NOTE FROM LAWYERS: No it is not]
Being a dickhead’s cool, apparently. Thanks to Sazzi for alerting me to this.