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Hipsters shaved bare

By sociologist and subcultural butcher Gerome Godard

Posted March 13, 2015
Look at me, mummy! I'm an individual! By the way, daddy's cheque is running low. © Unknown.

Sociologist and subcultural butcher Gerome Godard takes the knife to the hipster phenomenon.

Has any other subcultural group ever come under more vehement fire than those bearded and bespectacled, ankle-dazzling whimsicians we know as 'hipsters'?

Punks, goths and emo-kids endured their fair share of post-pub shit kickings in their time, but the vitriol against hipsters appears to be an entirely new phenomenon.

There is something inherently odious about the hipster that rallies the rest of society against them in a way usually reserved for those engaged in paedophilia, incest, cannibalism or banking.

But what exactly is it about this latest breed of attention-hungry try-hards that sets them apart from previous generations of cultural explorers?

And why does everyone seem to hate their fucking guts?

If I try and cast my mind back to the time when I first encountered the term 'hipster' in its current usage, it was probably when I was living in Brighton back in the late noughties.

Brighton, England is a town where the mentally ill come to propagate; where artists and dreamers mix in equal numbers with heroin addicts and schizophrenics, and nobody can quite tell who is who.

It is often referred to fondly by people who live there as 'the San Francisco of England'.

If San Francisco is a damp first-floor bedsit occupied by grey poets, lentil-sprouters and junkies then they are probably right.

It is a place where London kids loco down to at the weekends to scoop up the latest in synthesised drugs, STDs and fashion tips and then ferry them back up to the metropolis.

It's cool, and beautifully tragic, in the way that teenage suicide is cool and beautifully tragic.

Seeing people walking around dressed oddly in Brighton is difficult to do, because going shopping in your panda onesie and gas mask is sort of de rigueur, and anyone in a regular suit and tie combo is viewed as 'ironic'.

Nevertheless, it was possible to pick out a growing group of tribal adherents sporting a fairly regular uniform of thick-rimmed spectacles, too-short trousers, plaid shirts (which I assumed they had kept hold of from their earlier emo days) and of course the now famous facial hairs.

Mr Pringle moustaches and Wilhelm Kaiser-era beards weren't unusual in the coffee shops and coffee shops of Brighton, so it came as a surprise when I first heard the above mentioned look described as 'hipster'.

hipster music
Bassoons are so yah: You've probably never heard of them. (Check bottom for credit)

To begin with, the term hipster in itself caused me problems.

For me, hipsters were the jazz poets of the Beat age – Kerouac, Ginsberg, Cassady and Burroughs.

They were the lost wanderers of the great American railroads, the bedraggled and burnt-out amphetamine fiends of New York dive bars and Parisian hotels.

What had they to do with these privileged, latte-brained fopsicles I saw all around me in Brighton, whose great adventures consisted in taking photos of their Grubbs hamburgers to post on FaceBook and leafing through Taschen's latest coffee table collection of ye olde sailor tattoos?

Already I was angered by this misappropriation of the word 'hipster'.

I soon came to understand that this self-same look had already taken hold in the gentrified areas of Brooklyn, particularly Williamsburg.

Identikit, blister-pack style hipsters could be seen on both sides of the Atlantic, augmented by the feedback loop of social media and a lack of originality.

In the same way Britain had once shipped punk over to America in the catalogue forms of Mohican haircuts and tartan bondage trousers, the Yanks had now sent us hipsters.

A cursory examination of how the look developed in America is worth pursuing, in the interests of countering any accusations made against me that I am merely ranting and not contributing anything of anthropological value.

I am a human being with eyes and as such I shall describe my observations.

We are all now familiar with the hipster uniform, but if we take the time to hypothesise on how and why it developed we may be able to shed absolutely no light at all on the half-trillion or so people around the world now sporting it.


A defining feature of the hipster, certainly the early-era hipster, is the wearing of overlarge spectacles of the type once only sported by Deirdre Barlow or Dennis Taylor.

This type of pro-geek, anti-rugged fashion statement would have originally been made to combat the machismo culture of the all-American male, in much the same way that grunge rebelliously appropriated plaid shirts and large workboots.

Indeed, the St Paul of grunge himself – Kurt Cobain – could occasionally be seen sporting the thick-rimmed specs of the high-school nerd.

Cobain was a subcultural martyr, who provided so much angst capital in his short life that his legacy can still be seen today in the hipster dress code.

However, whilst grunge was all about whining and being unhygienic, hipsters are all about embracing what the world has to offer in terms of technology and vacuous materialism, and then crowing about it as though they have just discovered their winkie.

The concerns of Kurt and Co – things like being shafted by huge corporations and moulded into an homogenised mass of mindless consumers – are no longer the concerns of this new generation.

Multinationals in the form of global internet companies and brands are welcomed without a moment's thought.

Glasses, which were once objects of ridicule in the schoolyard, went on to signify intelligence and thoughtfulness and finally have come to signify only that it is now fashionable to wear glasses.

In a similar way, the too-small trousers of the sprouting schoolboy would once have earned you a wedgie and a smack in the mouth.

Hipsters, the self-consciously self-conscious, have taken this symbol of exclusion from the in-crowd and turned them into a badge of cool.

Though the real irony lies in the fact that wearing trousers like this is still an advertisement for wanting a good slap.

woodlouse headed hipster
This? Oh, it's just something I threw on, yah? © Unknown.

The hairy chin and concomitant woollen hat of the hipster is another embellishment of American origin.

In the seminal and now defunct blog Die Hipster, the author continuously berated the "pipe-cleaner armed urban cupcakeologists" – who have gentrified his suburb and pushed up rent prices to unaffordable levels – for dressing like lumberjacks.

These hipsters have barely enough strength to raise an "oxygen-flavoured Panini" to their hairy lips, yet they dress like Davy Crockett's granddad.

Once the beard crossed the Pond the English hipster gave it an appropriately Victorian flavour, took a photo and sent it back to Brooklyn at whatever speed bandwagons travel at.

And if you're going to sport a Victorian beard, you may as well ride a Victorian fixed wheel bike.

The final boil in this list of cultural buboes is the hipster's attitude of aloof privilege and blinkered conformity.

Much of the deep disdain people have for hipsters comes from the way they have appropriated styles that once expressed eccentric individualism and nonconformity and turned them into an homogenous conformist fashion statement.

What is most amazing about them is that they don't seem to see this.

Like a sheep following only the sheep in front they are oblivious to the butcher ahead who is sharpening his knife at the door of the abattoir.

Most pubs in Brighton and East London now resemble gnome gardens, with bearded and woollen-hatted myopic fishermen straining craft ale through their whiskers and talking about megapixels.

If you approach one and ask why he is dressed identically to every other male in the pub, he will respond as though you are taking the piss – as though you yourself, asking this question for social science, are taking the piss out of him.

He believes himself to be a unique individual with his own style, much in the way that identical pint glasses are all unique from each other.

Any sense of original personality has been subsumed to the hive-mind of fashion.

I have to conclude that it is this robotic adherence to style that stirs up the bile in every right-thinking person's stomach.

It is a level of unreasonableness that we once only imagined took place in 1930s Germany.

That's right, hipsters are the new Nazis.

There, I've said it.

Chief hack's note: Well, I don't know about you but for me that has to be the definitive article on the subject. Thank you very much indeed, Gerome Godard. On a sadder note, all here at the Rake & Herald were absolutely gutted to discover that Die Hipster is no more. It was, without doubt, one of the brightest shining lights in the struggle against the hipster onslaught. We miss it greatly and hope it returns soon.

On a brighter note, though, for those of you who use
FaceBook there is now a damn fine group that you can join to vent spleen on the hipster phenomenon. Entitled Hipsters are self-absorbed pricks, it is open to all like-minded souls who find their stomach turning at the mere thought of these pretentious lumberjack-offs and their bile-inducing wrong-doings. So please come and join. The more the merrier, eh? In unity and numbers there is strength and victory! Dress code: No hipsters, yeah?

See also Scrotum 'discovers' Sleaford Mods, posted 10/4/14.

Picture credits

Top, thumb and bottom: Sorry, but we haven't a clue who owns the copyright on those but we'll happily add a credit if the copyright owners gets in touch with us.

Middle: Some hipster band by Kencf0618.

For licensing information click the above link.

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