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Are We All Hipsters Now?

November 2016Words by Mr Alfred Tong

Illustration by Mr Joe McKendry

The hipster, it seems, is the cultural stereotype that refuses to bow out quietly, no matter how many times it is pronounced dead by The Guardian, no matter how many people sneer at its most common signifiers. Testimony to this fact is the premiere this week of Peter York’s Hipster Handbook, a BBC4 documentary from Mr Peter York, the former Harpers & Queen style editor who helped coin the term “Sloane Ranger” in the 1980s. In the course of the film, Mr York travels to observe various hipster types at close quarters, watching a man have his beard sculpted, (“Get it well-rounded, get a good shape going on”), meeting makers of craft ales and artisan sourdough toasties in railway arches in east London, and then jetting to New York to meet among others, the controversial chocolatiers, the Mast Brothers.

Beneath the humour lurks serious intellectual intent. Together with cultural commentators such as Mr Thomas Frank, author of The Conquest Of Cool, Mr Mark Greif, author of What Was The Hipster, and Ms Harriet Walker of The Times, Mr York uses the documentary to pick apart the hipster phenomenon one carefully shaped beard at a time. Still, the question remains: weren’t we supposed to have reached peak facial hair back in 2014? No, not all asserts Mr York.

“There are two timescales in the world,” he says. “Fashion People’s Time: the ‘Oh I saw that last week, it’s so over’ attitude. The other, is Real People’s Time. The moment that fashion people affect to be bored by something, is the moment that it potentially becomes a real world phenomenon.”