I received a text from a photographer pal last week: “I’ve got a new Brooklyn hat I should showboat to you soon. Moleskin. British racing green. Hope well x” Hipsters are ridiculous.
‘While We’re Young’, a movie written and directed by Brooklyn-born Noah Baumbach, explores creativity across three generations. Jamie, the 20-something antagonist played by Adam Driver, is described as having once seen a sincere person “and he’s been imitating him ever since”. He shrugs off being a hipster, “I’m of a certain age and I wear tight jeans.”
Knowing about one little scene in a documentary lets Jamie pass himself off as an aficionado. He explains: “Nobody owns anything. If I hear a song I like, or a story, it’s mine. It’s mine to use. It’s everybody’s.”
Likewise, thousands of cameras flock to Shoreditch every weekend to snatch other people’s creativity for Instagram, or film a busker to share on Facebook – without tipping. Jamie’s hipster attitude is viral, infectious. Design cred is acquired by association: iPhonification snaps up artwork without understanding or depth. Culture is reduced to a shuffle of greatest hits, with writers and performers reduced to one song, one book or quote, one expression ripped from its context. Real creativity exists, but not in this processed form.
Hipsters are voracious consumers, albeit of yesterday’s gems from vintage blues music to your dad’s camera to your forgotten turntable and unwanted boardgames. Ironically, hipster is a club of which no-one would be a member. The term is ascribed to 20-somethings with affection for beard oil or wearing summer dresses in winter. But few people declare themselves members of the movement – not the way mods, punks, ravers or football fans proudly yell their loyalty. Hipster is in the eye of the beholder. It’s a marketer’s focus group, a sloppy excuse for engineered cool.
In fashion, androgyny is this year’s thing, a slap in the face for hipster’s gender traditionalism. Menswear is booming, but in sportswear and dandy tailoring. Even in east London, the heart of British hipsterdom, a backlash is visible. “No hipsters allowed, take your facial hair elsewhere,” reads a sign outside one Brick Lane bar.
On-the-money marketers are instead looking at the hipsters who grew up, the affluent millennials dubbed by research agency FutureCast as Calculated Go-Getters. They’re married and pull in a household income above $100,000. They’re predictable and traditional and they ask of brands: “How can you make my life better?”
Comedian Jerry Seinfeld accepted a Clio advertising award in 2014 with a speech that elegantly ripped into the pointlessness of those very awards “Nothing is better than a Bic pen, a VW Beetle or a pair of regular Levi’s,” lectured Seinfeld, a view shared by Calculated Go-Getters. FutureCast identifies Trader Joe’s, the “neighbourhood” grocery store that has 450+ outlets across the USA, and sells fresh, organic produce at fair prices, as the target group’s top shopping destination.
Because Calculated Go-Getters adore utility and convenience and engage with brands in conversations, rejecting stamps of affluence. They’re hipsters for whom money is a real thing. They’re hipsters with heart.
Oliver Horton is celebrating 20 years as a pro fashion writer – though you wouldn’t guess to look at him. His by-line has featured in such media as GQ, New York Times and The Independent and, as a consultant, he has crafted communication for brands such as Adidas, Paul Smith, Levi’s and Barbour. He lives in London. @ofhorton