Friday 4 November 2016

Peter York Meets the Hipsters

I've always rather liked Peter York, perhaps for his old-fashioned mannerly air, his lightly worn sense of his own absurdity - and his enduring insistence on dressing properly. He is one of very few men who can get away with a double-breasted jacket and breast-pocket handkerchief. Just.
 He was back on TV last night, stylish as ever (though walking with a strange half-crouching gait - back problems perhaps). His subject was that bizarre contemporary phenomenon, the 'hipster'. Hipsters are everything York isn't. No 'authenticity' for him, thank you - 'I am one of the most inauthentic people on earth'. No artisan beer either - 'I am the most non-beer-drinking man possible'. Looking on bemused as young hipsters at the wildly trendy Cereal Killer Cafe tucked in to branded breakfast cereals from around the world, York correctly identified hipsterdom as a 'post-post-modern phenomenon'. Even the irony now comes in quotation marks, if it exists at all (it would surely be very hard to remain a hipster for long if you had a well developed sense of irony, or indeed absurdity).
 Visiting Williamsburg, NYC, supposed birthplace of modern hipsterdom, York finds it gentrified and theme-parked out of recognition, but a chap in a barber's chair hands him a neatly deflating definition of the hipster: 'A person in the creative class about to become a yuppie.' As someone else says, estate agents follow where the hipsters lead...
 What is at the core of hipsterdom, York asks? Is it simply a big-bearded, man-bunned, lumberjack-shirted vacuum, or is it all about 'an organic, agrarian take on modern life'? York doesn't seem convinced as he watches various artisanal 'craftsmen' going about their business of taking something simple like bread or coffee or beer and adding so much alleged 'value' that only their fellow hipsters can afford it. Perhaps, York suggests, it's all about 'micro-connoisseurship' - cultivating an ultra-refined sensibility about very small things. Hipsters are 'curating' their lives, curating their environment ('Everything is curated,' says design critic Oliver Wainwright). Perhaps these hipsters are doing nothing more than 'having a nice life'. Oh dear.
 Along the way, York notes that hipsterdom is pretty much a men-only phenomenon. It's hard to identify hipster girls (when not accompanied by male hipsters), if only because of their understandable reluctance to sport a joke-shop beard and 'ironic' work clothes. Oddly, most of the hipster men York spoke to were reluctant to accept the label 'hipster', despite all the evidence of their archetypal hipsterdom. Perhaps even hipsters suspect that really there's nothing there, just a nice life. Well, they might as well enjoy it while it lasts (before another bunch of bearded men take over in their East End strongholds?).
 'We're all a bit hipster now,' York concluded gamely. Not you, Peter, not you.


  1. Very funny! You've captured all of the buzzwords: authenticity, artisanal, curate and my favorite, 'creative' used as a noun. The assumption seems to be that concocting yet another ale flavored with coriander and orange zest, or devising a new time-wasting phone app makes one a 'creative'. As opposed to, say, discovering a treatment for a particularly virulent form of cancer...

  2. I saw it, and it was much more thought-provoking than I expected. In the sense that - aside from (rightly) mocking the artisanal bollocks - it's interesting to consider why the phenomenon has arisen.

    Various theories were suggested - but the decline of permanent, manly jobs is surely a big factor.

  3. Wellington is chock full of hipsters. Loved this on a cafe blackboard: How did the hipster burn his mouth? He drank his coffee before it was cool...