My enviously creative and stylish cousin was visiting me from Toronto last year. We were sitting in Sine E on Colberg Street when she asked me ‘Are there many hipsters in Cork?’ This was the first time I’d heard the expression. Hippies, yes. Hipsters as in a style of low riding jeans, yes, but I was fairly sure this wasn’t what she was talking about. ‘You know’, she continued, ‘Into vinyl, but reads from a kindle, drinks organic beer, into Indie music and probably holds a liberal political view point. Dresses in a skinny jeans, plaid shirts, slogan t-shirts…
I eyed up the bottle of St Peters Organic Ale she was drinkning and tried to mask a confused look because she had just described herself. In fact she had described a sub culture I knew very well but had not identified as ‘hipsters’. I’ve studied Media and worked with big Irish Foodies, both areas are littered with hipsters, plus I was a teenager in the 1990’s when the culture took roots. I can spot a ‘hipster’ at ten paces. I do a pretty good impression of one if it weren’t for my frequent lapses in taste because it really is about a set of tastes. For example a hipster would never wear fake tan or a celebrity endorsed perfume. At least not without a heavy dollop of irony. Then any thing goes.
Modern hipsterdom was first recognised in print in the early 2000’s as a growing trend in Brooklyn, New York. The New York Times then described them as ‘bohemian’ or ‘arty types’. The actual term ‘hipster’ dates back to the Jazz scene of the 1940’s. You were a hipster if you took on the persona of a jazz musician, using slang like ‘Hep Cat’ (cool person). Maybe you smoked canabis but mainly it was about a relaxed attitude and sarcastic sense of humour.
I’ve been reading about hipsters in America and Canada. There is a huge amount of vitriol towards the culture. It seems they are seen as an empty culture, standing for nothing unlike the beatniks of the 1960’s who stood for peace in Vietnam and the punk movement of the 1970’s who raged against conformity and right wing politics. Hipsters are accused of stealing everything that has ever been retro and authentic but coming up with nothing themselves.
You still don’t hear much about this culture in Ireland even though it is rife! Ross Golden Bannon, journalist for the Sunday Business Post, reviewed a café in Dublin 2 a couple of weeks ago. He described the scene as being full of hipsters and he gave hipsterdom an Irish context when he described the ironic use of the sacred heart for deorative purposes.
I rememember the burgeoning culture in the late 1990’s. Musically it was Paul Oakenfold and Portishead although there was a cross over to hip hp and metal. It was shunning the craze for hair straightening, acrylic nails and fake tan. In recent years hipsterdom hit its halcyon days. While mainstream society became obsessed with Cheryl Cole’s eyelashes on the X Factor hipsters were reinventing retro styles of music and clothes. The environment was something you cared deeply about. Composting and growing your own vegetables, a lifestyle choice. For this generation style was not something you could buy on the high street. It had to be made yourself or found in a charity shop. Making something ugly look cool like Buddy Holly style black specs or your granny’s cardigan made your look even more ‘real’. Matt Gransfield, author of Hipstermattic put it perfectly when he said ‘ The way to be cool wasn’t to look like a television star, it was to look as if you’d never seen a television’.
In Cork City a good litmus test of whether you are a hister or not may be if you only drink in the Holy trinity of pubs, The Oval, The Mutton Lane or Sin E. I’ve put together a non-exhaustive list of statement which may help you identify yourself as a hipster.
- You describe yourself as a ‘foodie’ (it’s no longer good enough to just like your grub!)
- You were mortified to admit you bottle fed your baby
- You own several of these items: converse all stars, black skinny jeans, plaid shirt, parka jacket, cowboy boots, Buddy Holly style glasses
- You drink organic beer
- You compost and or grow your own veg/herbs
- You have a record player in your living room but own the latest smart phone
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