Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Defining Hipsters

Identical twins Gary and Alan Keery from Belfast opened Cereal Killer Cafe
One more interesting documentary I watched on the plane to keep myself awake was Peter York's Hipster Handbook by the BBC.

York is a social commentator and dressed very dapper in contrast to hipsters -- who we should point out don't like to be called that -- who wear beards, flannel shirts, no mass fashion labels, have retro looks. tattoos and scruffy hair.

The dapper host Peter York contrasts with how hipsters look
During the one-hour documentary, he tries to figure out if hipsters are a fad or trend, and how it has influenced consumerism. When it comes to their look, it is decided that hipsters may be anti-fashion label, though they do appreciate authenticity, such as old school work overalls from the 1950s, say, or leather bomber jackets that are made today but look exactly like ones from over 60 years ago.

Many men may be identified as hipsters from their beards and man-buns, but York finds out that facial hair is in fact carefully groomed and there are specialist barbers that carefully shape beards and add products to them to keep their shape or condition the facial hair.

Hipsters are also usually in the creative field, and can be found in cafes with their Mac laptops and iPhones, and they have this fascination, obsession or passion for artisan-made products, from coffee to clothing. They like knowing where what they are eating or drinking comes from, preferably locally sourced, which creates a sense of belonging to community.

A man gets his beard groomed in a specialist barber shop
York observes the word "authenticity" creeps up again and again, how hipsters don't want something manipulated, but real and true to some degree, which is why they like decor to show things like exposed brick, old school style light bulbs.

A fun shop called the Cereal Killer Cafe is filled with lots of boxes of breakfast cereals from our childhoods all lined up on the shelves and people can choose which one they want with milk they pour into a bowl themselves.

The ironic thing is that the concept of "authenticity" and "artisan" have appealed to mass market brands and they have replicated the exposed brick look and co-opted the aforementioned key words in their marketing to appeal to hipsters or hipster-wannabes.

The Mast Brothers were exposed for not so authentic chocolate
In addition there are some allegedly faux hipsters, such as the Mast Brothers, known for their beautifully packaged chocolate. They claim it is from "bean to bar", but in reality some chocolate experts claim some of their chocolate included Valrhona mixed in.

The Mast Brothers differentiated themselves not only with the nice packaging to justify pricing at US$10 a bar, but also their distinctive look with bushy beards, and how they apparently travel the world sourcing cocoa beans.

Nevertheless, York still finds it a fascinating discussion with experts about the hipster history in the United States, where African Americans claimed hipsters were cool with black music, while in England, Shoreditch is an example of a neighbourhood that was previously not cool, but became so thanks to hipsters transforming the area.

In the end York concludes that hipsters are not creators of new products per se, but "curate" them, and look for things they are willing to spend on, like quality pints of craft beer or "authentic" fashion pieces as a way to live better.

The documentary was a fascinating discussion, and now I see hipsters in a new light -- and am more aware of big business co-opting the concept of "authentic" and "artisan" with varying degrees of success.

What's the next lifestyle trend going to be?

Peter York's Hipster Handbook

No comments:

Post a Comment