Sunday, October 25, 2015

The Hipster Eclipse

The hipster fashion, neigh, movement was a very long time in icubation and now is likely to be at its asthmus, ready to implode after this total self eclipse.
If you avoid the whole facial hair thing and make it a cross gender consideration, then the modern naughties and tens (2000s and 2010s) are part of a very long, slow rebirth of the 1950s hipster, beatnik and protohippie style. It began in the 1980s when students and young folk were looking to react against both the whole terylene and sequin 1970s pop kitch and the spandex and heavy eyeliner, main stream eighties. You just have to look at some of the bands of the time who were alternative aka indie, to see how the oxfam (charity) shop dress code and short back and side haircuts or wilder, anti eighties coiffures. Just pick up any NME or history of underground pop in the 80s and you will see the whole underground, post punk anti style epitomised by The Smiths and Dexy's Midnight Runners.
The greatest thing about the 80s for us who were teenagers and young adults then, was the underground culture. In fact Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground were amongst the must own vinyl albums of the decade, they seemed to be both perfectly ancient and completely timeless at the same time. Unlike maybe the beatnik period of the 1950s with their polonecks and Monk records in smoky basements, the 80s underground was way more diverse, feeding off many musical and style genres. Parodying some, as in the pyscho-billy movement. Hanging onto others like the punkier gothic style who all listened to the damned as well as Bauhaus and The Cure. The "pixettes" with their lovely vintage mini dresses bought from Starry Starry Night and other retro second hand boutiques. The ubiquitous  1950s rocker style bike jacket, which accompanied all from goth, through the smiths and into main stream with Bros. Doctor Martins affordable, street wise shoes and boots, hijacked from the needs of the ageing working class for comfrotable work shoes.  The the huge plethora of indie scene followers, like myself, wearing cheap but really high quality clothes from charity shops, once the fine coutoire of the well to do, and re-dyed army surplus combat trousers or jackets. 
Beards were out in the 1980s, it was seen as just old hat, hippy shit, when we had access to the first really good Gillette double blade with glide strip and wet-dry electric shaves. A clean shaved chin was a good thing for pulling one of those sexy wee pixetes, who didnt want stubble rash to belie her last nights indescressions and casual petting. One thing that was in, courtesay of Morrissey, was side burns, which were a kind of tip of the cap to the 1950s and at the same time bohemia and the English tradition of the lamb chop. Long before Mr. Darcy on TV, the brace of peripheral squirrels was popular in many different walks, trimmed or bushy, and I adorned a variety of them, although never a full sized Lemmy Chops set it has to be said.
The other great thing though about the whole scene and fashions,  was that apart from some of the day's indie stars signing for the likes of EMI, the whole stramash or visual and oral cacophany was never commercialised beyond being underground. In fact apart from music and bars and shoe shops suddenly having three shelves of the doc martin range, none of it became either main stream or artisan commercial. It was a kind of anti business style consumption as much as it was anti top-of-the-pops and anti Thatcher or Reagan. To marketers in fashion it was really a kind of unwanted mould. The fashion industry was for the 'plastics' and the 'designer nightmares'. This spilled over of course into grunge, but by then designers were more prepared to cash in on what a few years before , they saw as style detritus.
One are which did all get very twee was the whole retro thing, with vintage cloth shops becoming just about as expensive as designer boutiques into the 1990s, and some iconic nineteen fiftees consumer items like cameras, shoes, belts, leather jackets becoming highly sought after and basically highly over priced items of desire by the self appointed post grunge cognicenti.
Retro in the 1990s was still at the fringe, but it had become high margin low volume post indie 80s Carnaby Street tosh for the same type of mentality who were the credit card 'designer nightmares' of the young plastic public of the 80s. This mentality meant spending a lot on clothes, buying something of obvious 'build quality' and hoping you could string it together as style, often amongst the gay community in New York,  London, Brighton and the Scottish Central belt, and many other metropolitan areas. Designer hot shops like " Red or Dead" rode the back of this, churning out vastly overpriced kitsch which you could easily take out of a dusty wardrobe in Islington and don on a Detroit super hipster today. Cheque shirts, retro jeans, a kind of manual worker look for the fashion editor or stylist of the 90s.
Facial hair made a big come back, after the demise of the much loved 1980s 'designer stubble' which george michael sported in it must be said a very manly and iconic fashion, which appealed to me with my youthful apple cheeked complexion at the time as a 18 year old. The goatee and the porno donut, although both were just known as goatees made a huge comeback maybe unconsciously or maybe by some style leaders quoting beatniks and fifties hipsters via the brush strokes of Gillette.
From all this you get the sense don't you that the modern day hipster was gestating away from the womb of the underground 1980s, which was a mix of all different kinds of shit mainly bought at Oxfam and small, dusty record ships run by ageing rock fans with thinning long hair like uber shredded wheat over their domes.  Many a twee wee fuck back then would have some retro possessions - an old turntable and 1960s amp, An aquired Beatles collection of \original vinyl (found in dad's shed) , a communist block 35mm compact camera or maybe an old Leica if you had been to a 'soggy biscuit' school and had a trust fund. The cheqeured 'lumberjack' shirt and the scruffy, flung together look wandered as I said from indie over to the ubiquitous grunge look, ripped jeans from Bros. following too. There were plenty of references and then there was the whole rejecting the main stream.
Indie teeners an me felt that grunge stole our thunder to some extent, and was too narrow a genre to actually be taken seriously, and it all became too mainstream, too marketed at too exponential a rate, leading to the untimely and grusomme demise of its dark prince and anti hero, Kurt Cobain.  I remember then some really twee fuckers into the early 1990s when indie was being in some parts commercialised while in others killed off, who turned to the whole retro designer thing, seeking out style ques from the 1950s and before. They were anti marketing yet consumerist and although they were now proto yuppies, they smirked at me now wearing a suit and being a nine to five square in my first jobs in business.
Well the mainstream of the mid to late ninetees and into the  naughties deterioted into just a great mish mash of styleless fashion orgasms in all direction and then quickly became very conservative. The off the peg Oasis manufactured indierock or reborn mod look seemed to take up where grunge left off. There after there were just various styles competing to be fashion amongst youth, and the only one which stood out for its rediculousness was the black rapper on white youth look.
Where were the middle class youth in the aftermath of sagging and squint base ball caps and 'yo bitch' chat?
They were ready to get Hip, and I would say that it most likely started with some older 30 something gays with  burned out careers looking for something original, something which oused difference yet was a style and protrayed quality and personalisation. Queu ink too, which also was a real 90s youth thing. Gone those all too hideable surfer inspired maori wavey rings on the upper arms, in were arm long and neck line crossing works of art, as well as bad copies of your kids over your back.
Hipster became very identifiable, and very male dominated. A bit like punk, women are notably second fiddle to the lead of the vertical hanging garden of gingery face-fungus. In fact the hipster look is just as instantly identifiable as the moheikan of 1977, if just of course a little more male. Females can kind of wear goofy sun glasses and androgenous work clothes, or just fling on charity shop ensembles and hang out with male hipsters it seems to be on board. How is oral sex with all that fuzz FFS? WTF?  Maybe women want a new male icon, tough but caring, independent but approachable, after the years of rap culture portraying them as Hoe's with Booty. Perhaps hipster is actually far more inclusive than all the ' pop fashions' since grunge, I dont really know.  Maybe beard extremism is like bra burning was in the 1970s, a phoenix for the inner man which brings him closer to his woman.
What I do know though is that where as in the 1980s we revelled in our secret underground culture, and had a shoe string of a budget for clothes and haircuts, the modern hipster is very, very conspicious consumption. In fact it is about to disappear up its own ass, a total self eclipse as the central 'first two' standard deviations decide that Hipster is the new black and throw out their multibladed, overpriced razors. Hipster is a highly commercial movement, it spawns businesses selling basically overpriced stuff at high margins- yeasty beers which give you the runs, single source arabica coffee which taste very like nespresso, lumberjack shirts, turtle neck jumpers and other Millet store 1982 back shelf stuff, hand sewn at a hundred quid a shot and you still look like a kind of dustman who used to chop wood for a living before the chainsaw was invented. Style never goes out of fashion, it just gets mass marketed for a while and a whole load of non cognicenti start cladding themselves out like them, and hence the cognicenti GTFO.
If it were not for the late Steve Jobs penchant for black polonecks, I would have bet that the next thing the cognicenti would get into would be the beret wearing, Mailer reading, Ginsberg reciting,  slow chain smoking beatnik down in their jazz basements, in the shadows with their joints, illegal absinth, and epiphredine or what ecver the fuck they sped on. Hipster has no defence position. It is conspicous, it is talked about, it is not underground. Most of all for the average male 19 to 45 year old it is darn comfortable and pretty low risk to get into, especially if enough people are into it. Hipster, both hello new trivial follower  and farewell old compatriot.

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