The obituary has been written over and over, but are hipsters really dead? Vv Magazine takes a look at why the craft beer-drinking, bike-riding urban woodsmen are going nowhere.
You know how he looks. He’s thin, bearded and rides his vintage fixie to meet old film school buddies for Sunday brunch on Ossington. His adopted dog is ironically ugly, he works freelance and he shares a twee little flat with his librarian girlfriend, Dorset. They spend Sundays together in Bellwoods sipping almond milk lattes and sharing The New Yorker.
This is the Toronto hipster. And despite many reports of his death, he’s alive and kicking. Well, sort of.
Media have been predicting the demise of hipster culture for years. In 2009, GQ compiled a gallery profiling the rise and fall of hipster culture, including Zooey Deschanel’s peak and Michael Cera’s creepy moustache. Last year, the Guardian published a story titled “The end of the hipster: how flat caps and beards stopped being so cool.” Even the stodgy New York Times, often hilariously behind trend, admitted that the beard is no longer a thing.
But if this is the case, then why hasn’t Toronto killed its bearded denizens? Independent coffee shops are popping up across Toronto (oh hey, brand new Dark Horse at Dupont and Dovercourt), Bellwoods Brewery is opening up a second location and waiting for over-priced eggs Benedict every is still a weekly ritual.
The answer is multi-faceted, and – much like hipsterism itself – nearly impossibly to pin down.
One answer is that what we call “hipsters” is actually two radically different groups. According to Chris Sanderson, futurist and founder of The Future Laboratory, there are contemporary hipsters – the phonies who use organic moustache wax and sleep under Navajo blankets from Urban Outfitters – and proto-hipsters, the guys who started it all and are still a few steps ahead of their wannabe counterparts.
“Historically, proto-hipsters have been connoisseurs – people who deviate from the norm. Like hippies,” Sanderson told the Observlast in 2014.
“Over the years, though, they inspired a new generation of young urban types who turned the notion of a hipster into a grossly commercial parody. These new hipsters want to appear a certain way, to be seen to be doing certain things, but without doing the research. So they appropriated the lifestyle and mindset of a proto-hipster.”
Of course, a proto-hipster would never confess to being a hipster. Unlike the hippies of the 70s or the alt-grunge kid of the 90s, the modern hipster is a cultural paradox. No one wants to admit that they’re trying to be cool or else lose their cool status. As Richard Godwin for the London Evening Standard justly put it, “As with psychos, if you admit to being a hipster, you’re not one.”
Then there’s the proliferation of hipster culture. Mason jars, slicked-back hair, plaid, New Balance sneakers, Levi’s, an OCAD education, cacti, Bar Isabel, cycling, buck-a-shuck oysters, board games, beards, yoga, drinking beer in the park, pulled pork tacos, picnic baskets, Instagram, reading novels, vintage record players, Reddit, jumpsuits, food trucks, cortados, Grand Electric.
If you live in Toronto and are personally familiar with at least three of the above, someone has deemed you a hipster. Guaranteed.
One of the most intriguing arguments on the hipster dead-or-alive debate came from Alex Miller, UK editor of the hipster Bible, Vice Magazine. In his mind, it was never real in the first place.
“I couldn’t define a hipster. I guess it’s ‘The Other’. But as a general term it’s blown up because people finally realised they had a word to mock something cool and young which they didn’t understand,” Miller told the Guardian.
Technically speaking, hipsters are real. The term was coined in the 1940s to describe someone who lived outside societal norms. It has since evolved, disappeared and popped back into modern lexicon. Where the culture will go is really anyone’s guess; there have been splinter groups such as normcore, sportscore and health goth, but none have reached the same ubiquity as men with beards.
So before you judge your bearded friend and his bookish girlfriend, just remember that it’s not their fault. We’re all hipsters one way or another.
Do you think ‘hipsterism’ is dead? Let Vv Magazine know in the comments below, or tweet us @ViewtheVibe.