You might remember Poykpak’s Williamsburg-set Hipster Olympics video from 2007. Events included MySpace photography and ironic t-shirt hunting, and it featured the American Apparel Instant Replay and sponsorship from PBR (“When you aim for authenticity…”) That video was a pretty good primer for anyone who asked “What’s a hipster?”
Three years on, the hipster problem shows no sign of abating; in fact, it’s worsened considerably. I watched the Olympics piece recently, and it seemed whimsical and understated – a relic of a more innocent time. Recently, though, a new video highlighting the East London hipster infestation has achieved huge viewing figures on YouTube. While it’s more abrasive and less affectionate than Poykpak’s, it’s just as accurate – pardon the cliché, but it’s funny because it’s true. While I’m usually averse to including links or even pictures in my TNB writing, I’ll throw one in at the end of this piece. Because you really should see it.
There’s been a bit of a backlash against hipster bashing lately. They’re fish-in-a-barrel easy targets, and a lot of the ire is put down to sour grapes. One possible definition of a hipster is: Anyone younger than you who’s having fun.
But they’re invulnerable! A true hipster can’t know it’s a hipster, so the abuse just bounces off; their ignorance is like a SHIELD of STEEL. So we can get the boot in as much as we like, nobody’s getting hurt and everybody likes a good rant.
I’ve called the situation “The hipster problem”, a title usually reserved for genuinely serious circumstances like, say, “the homeless problem”. Obviously we’re not really dealing with a great societal disaster here, just a huge bunch of twits…but for me, they can be a real problem, and I really do have to deal with them.
I live in the most hipsterical street in London, Broadway Market. At the (thankfully) far end is a black hole of foolishness, a pub called The Cat and Mutton. Not long ago it was as rough as a badger’s arse, a good place to go if you wanted to get stabbed. Now it’s a good place to go if you want to stab someone. Every review of this pub says the same thing: Nice enough interior, good food, rude staff, OK beer, full of wankers. It’s the epicentre of the city’s hipster awfulness. Push through the crowd of Muppets clogging the pavement and you’re in a park called London Fields where, on a sunny day, satellite images show more plaid than grass.
Supposed definitions of hipster are usually descriptions rather than definitions; lists of distinguishing features (skinny, plaid shirts) and behaviours (hanging out in London Fields, being skinny, wearing plaid shirts).
The peculiar thing about the scene is this: It’s unique among youth movements in that it’s not based on anything. Not music, not fashion, certainly not politics. If they had banners they’d say I don’t care or simply Whatever. They could wear little badges reading Meh. I say movement, but that implies momentum and direction. It’s more like a youth stasis.
The hipster conforms to a simple definition of postmodernism – it’s defined by what it isn’t. It’s a cult of self, fostering delusions of creativity in which anyone can be a writer (all you need is a blog), a photographer (if you have a telephone), a DJ (iTunes) or a stylist (you wear clothes).
( Yes, I’m aware of the irony, posting my unedited opinions online, but the Nervy B has entry requirements innit. You have to be totally articulate with words and shit. So suck it.)
They take photographs of, and blog about, themselves and their friends. Nobody else sees or cares about the results of their labour, which is fine, because they don’t care about anybody else. It’s this blinkered self-centredness that, for me, promotes them from an amusing irritation to a real problem.
Last Sunday I went up the road, intending to sit in a café and watch the fools go by. Saturday’s market day, and I expect movement to be slow, erratic and difficult; Sunday, though, should have been OK. But no. I had to keep stopping, saying “Excuse me,” waiting for access, and it took a long time to reach the coffee shops, where the queues were out of the doors. And did the thronging wretches line up along the wall? Of course not! They formed neat lines across the pavement. I turned round, went back home, and got on Twitter, which is a pretty good medium for a quick spleen vent. Each tweet was tagged #BroadwayMarketTwats – I’ll spare you that – but it went a little something like this:
Here we fucking go.
I know you saw me coming, so why didn’t you get out of the way? This wheelchair can’t move sideways. You can.
My wheelchair is a necessity, not a fashion statement, unlike your stupid nonprescription glasses.
I can’t get through the gap between your emaciated arse and the pile of fixies chained to the lamppost. Please move.
I know you can walk without looking where you’re going, you usually stroll along fixated on your iPhone/iPod/navel.
When I said “Hello, excuse me please,” I was addressing you, not your leashed rodent.
Really? That’s a dog? I’ve had more impressive mammals living under my kitchen sink.
Whatever it is, take some responsibility for it. Get it, and yourself, out of the way. Thank you. And you, Tinkerbell.
Is there a Facebook group coordinating East London’s most self-obsessed oxygen wasters?
Because you all seem to be in the same place at the same time.
Congratulations. Anyway. Thank you, drive through. S x
Aha, yes, a wheelchair. In the Hipster Olympics video, a referee checks the competitors’ attributes including jean tightness and appropriate air of nonchalance, ending with “…and, of course, no physical handicaps.” So you see, I can’t be one of them. I’m invisible; I am literally beneath their notice.
Here, have a look at them. A nice bonus for me: The chap in the red t-shirt at 0:55 (who is, to his credit, about the least nobby looking person in the video) is standing outside my house.