If you’ve been following the news in the last couple of weeks, you’ll have seen footage of a mob trying to burn down a cereal café in East London.
The business was the focal point for a rally against gentrification and an escalating housing crisis in East London. Put in simple terms, you could argue that the rally symbolised the death of the hipster movement.
You can almost hear the cries of ‘hallelujah’ across the planet and a collective sigh of relief as the world of waxed beards, fixie bikes and disheveled clothes are consigned to the annals of history.
Yet as with all societal changes, there’s more to it than meets the eye.
The Origin Of The Hipster
I’d argue that the hipster movement can be traced to the financial crisis of 2007 and 2008, the crash of Lehman brothers and the subsequent Occupy Wall Street protests.
It’s no coincidence that the very epicentre of hipster culture was a couple of miles down the road in Williamsburg and that it germinated from there across the globe.
Before it hit the mainstream, the telling thing about hipsterism was that it flourished in pockets of extreme disparity. Williamsburg close to Wall Street, Shoreditch close to the city bankers with their obscene bonuses, San Francisco with their tech elite, and Berlin beside the seat of power in Europe.
The hipster movement has been about dressing down in the face of power suits. About drinking elderflower presse instead of champagne mojitos, glamping in the middle of the country rather than Nikki Beach in Marbella, cycling to work with the kids instead of taking the 4X4.
The fact that most people had to make those lifestyle choices out of financial necessity, rather than to occupy the moral high ground, only accelerated things.
Hipsterism was an austerity movement, a movement of the forgotten 20-somethings who struggled to find jobs or an identity, and who probably ended up immigrating. Aided by technology, the movement was put on steroids.
It’s also no coincidence that Instagram was founded in 2010 and that people started photographing their coffees, burgers and beers and applying their favourite vintage filters.
Wide proliferation of smartphones and 3G meant that hotel owners, publicans and entrepreneurs the world over were quickly able to copy the trend and offer their own watered down version of hipsterism, to the point where ‘hipster’ quickly became a dirty word.
With parents, uncles and siblings all using social media, it was inevitable hipsterism would spill into society as a whole, which is exactly what’s happened in the last couple of years, effectively stopping the movement dead in its tracks.
The Hipster’s Influence On Popular Culture
The wonderful quote above comes from the movie The Devil Wears Prada, about how high end fashion trickles down to consumers on the high street, and we’ve seen the same thing happen with the hipster movement.
You might think that young professionals in Brooklyn or Sydney don’t have any influence on your life, but they do. They’re the reason why you eat your food off ridiculous chopping boards instead of plates, expensive Belgian craft beer is now stocked in SPAR, or add vintage filters to every photo you post online.
While most of the quirks we’ve picked up from hipsters seem superficial, the impact on our rampantly consumerist society has actually been profound. You could even argue we drink better beer and coffee because of the craft movement associated with hipsters. Not in the overpriced industrial coffee shop or underground Mexican dive bar, but in the larger companies having to respond to changing consumer demands. Just look at kale on the shelves at Tesco and Guinness producing quality mainstream crafts lagers, like Hophouse 13.
While consumers have demanded better products and services for their reduced earnings, the hipster movement has failed at the highest levels of world order. The bankers are back earning like they did pre-2008, house prices are shooting up at the expense of the poor, and our politicians are no more accountable now despite all their promises.
Ironically, you could say that this recession and lean times have ramped up the growing economic divide
between the rich and the poor.
Hipsters had noble goals in the early days, but €5 bowls of cereal and higher prices in general have returned with the improving economies around the world.
Beatnik, Hippies, Punks, Mods and Now Hipsters
As the cereal café shows, we’re at the tail end of the hipster movement. You could argue that as soon as the term ‘hipster’ itself was coined, the actual movement was pretty much toast (€5 rustic sourdough, of course).
When you think of hipsters today, you probably think of a couple in their late 30s having brunch with their baby, before popping off to yoga. The hipsters have all matured from idealistic 20-somethings into people with mortgages and school fees.
Into this void will come the next movement, but with the socioeconomic tail winds starting to blow stronger, the chances of the next big coinable phrase like hipsterism probably won’t come until the 2020s. People don’t tend to be as angry, rebellious or creative when there are plenty of jobs, houses and opportunities.
While the current trend is for people to spit anger at hipsters, history will judge the movement kindly. No matter what anybody thinks, the 2010s (have they decided on a term for this decade yet?) will be the decade our kids look back on in wonder. It’ll be like how we view the hippies or the punks, and future generations will ask what all their crazy parents were doing with huge beards, silly glasses and bulldogs in all their photos.
The hipster is nearly dead, long live the hipster.