I have been re-reading Naomi Klein’s “No Logo”, and the way Klein describes the ” anti-corporate activist” reminds me of the 1800’s arts and crafts movement’s philosophy and the Hipsters of today. Klein describes a backlash against branded culture as saturation leads to cynicism. Being bombarded by branding to the point of irritation has the potential to turn people against the idea of the “brand” all together. They reject corporately created culture and go about the business of creating culture for themselves with an enthusiastic DIY attitude. This sounds like Klein is describing, ten years after the book was written, what we now call, a “Hipster”. It also sounds a lot like the Arts and Crafts movement in the 1800’s, founded by William Morris, that rejected the idea that progress was tied to industrialization and embraced handcrafting with traditional techniques.
“To give people pleasure in the things they must perforce use, that is one great office of decoration; to give people pleasure in the things they must perforce make, that is the other use of it.”-William Morris
To sum it up, why would you waste your hard-earned money on mass-produced, machine manufactured stuff, when you can edit your wants down to your needs and invest in possessions that were crafted with skill by hand that would last? Morris advocates putting as much time and detail into everything an individual does and making every-day, utilitarian objects things of beauty. He emphasizes the idea that hand crafted is better, higher quality, longer lasting, he looked to the past for inspiration.
Hipster trend goes something like that. If it looks vintage, it has a certain tried, trusted and true credibility. Design is currently flooded with the Hipster trend. The DIY, ephemera look is extremely popular, and I think it means that the dissillusionment that Klein describes has come to pass for enough people to make the backlash mainstream.
Do some investigating about Hipsters and you get some interesting results. What is a Hipster, exactly?
“Well, almost every music buff you’ll encounter will be a hipster, so it’s important to have context. Modern hipsters are middle and upper class young adults who immerse themselves in alternative culture of almost every kind – film, music, art, literature, fashion, food, etc. A bricolage of cultural influences, the hipster is semi-cynical toward alternative cultures, embracing them while also ridiculing them as phony. Hipsters are true practitioners of doublethink in this sense.”
(Alex Weiss, 2009 http://iml.jou.ufl.edu/projects/Spring09/wise_a/history.html)
And this is an amazingly hilarious puppet show that looks at the evolution of Hipsters, and the impact that they have had on society as a whole:
It turns out, Hipsters have a long and colourful History.They were originally called Macaronis. Highlights:
1770 was probably the first time when tons of British middle-class kids had enough cash to blow on sitting around and looking cool. People in London really hated these ‘Macaronis’. They hated them so much they compared them donkeys, butterflies, frogs, Frenchmen, pasta, and women. You might recognize Macaronis from that Yankee Doodle ditty: “Stuck a feather in his hat and called it Macaroni.” -Buzzfeed- Kevin Tang
Hipsterism isn’t all about the style, which rejects labels and embraces used, vintage, and hand-made… or brands that manufacture a used, vintage hand-made style. Hipsters brew their own beer, bake their own bread, refurbish their own furniture, barter for goods and services and engage in all manner of DIY that they can tell a story about. Can you imagine someone 100 years ago acting like it was a huge feat to bake a loaf of bread? Its shows how far we’ve been removed from being self-sustainable. We rely on corporations to provide us with all the basics, and the flourishes, that we need. The Hipster obsession with reviving old skills is like a way of proving that you can still look after yourself. Maybe it strangely ties in with the other current cultural obsession; Zombies. We may have to fight for survival in a post- apocalyptic, Zombie- infested, nuclear fallout world, but at least the Hipsters know how to make sourdough.
The trend is on the brink of being played out. Hipsters are probably too cool for themselves at this point and there’s a lot of backlash. So what is happening? Here’s one theory:
Hipsters eventually have to grow up, and of course grow up means get an entry level cubicle job, upon the realization that only Ke$ha still likes beards, they promptly shave. Female hipsters dye their hair back to one color and remove the facial piercing they been hiding from their mom for 4 years. Having lost their protective coating they are instantly seduced by their former enemy, the sorority girl/frat boy. They maintain some of their characteristics by purchasing a Volvo or VW, however this does little to slow the transformation. As time moves on they become adsorbed in the suburban landscape and get married, while on their honeymoon, to some generic island, they complete their transformation.- Cracked.com
The fact that a website exists called “DIE HIPSTER.COM: A PLACE FOR REAL NEW YORKERS TO VENT ABOUT THE INVASION OF ATTENTION STARVED, USELESS ADULTS THAT WE KNOW AS HIPSTERS” is proof of the backlash, as is the video linked earlier. There are some theories as to what happens next. Urban Dictionary describes a “Metahipster” as:
A subgenre of hipster that constantly satirizes stereotypical hipster behavior. Completely incomprehensible to normal people, irritating and awkward to normal hipsters. Can be genuine,troll
s, or both.
Hipster: “Hey, Animal Collective is having a free concert in the city tomorrow. Do you want to–”
Metahipster: “–I can’t go. I’m getting my mop-top done in the morning and are taking an evening shift at the Marxist bookstore to help pay for these pants that I definitely got at a thrift shop and not Uniqlo.”
Hipster: “Um… wait, what?”
I hope the end of Hipsters does not result in a backlash against the idea of DIY and handmade. Ultra-consumerism needs a bit of light mockery. But where will design go when Hipster is no longer cool? No more badges and banners, arrows and lumberjacks, Futura Bold and rubber stamps, fancy chalkboards, bicycles and of course… moustaches.