Monday, August 20, 2012

Hipster versus Dandy

Redfern Warehouse
Inner-City Style- Redfern, Sydney circa 1996 (For 2 years I lived in the room on the platform behind the weather balloon)

Since the year 2000 I have been seconded away raising kids and working in one of the more remote parts of the world, in a small town that did not have a very stratified social milieu. A month ago I moved to the big city and frankly it has been a shock. Apart from the pleasures of urban life, while I have been away a culture has developed around the inner city of the Hipster. The hipster phenomenon has provoked some reflection for me regarding; what was I when I was 23? When I was younger I lived the whole bohemian inner city warehouse, communal life. I tattooed myself and dressed according to my own variation on fashion. But I remember distinct differences to the inner-city culture of cool (Brisbane/Sydney/Amsterdam/London/Stockholm) in the mid-1990s than how it appears today.

Fashion in mind - me circa 1995.

The inner-city of my youth was more dandy than hipster. Although I believe I came into the early manifestation of hipster, just prior to the Internet launching a thousand YouTube bands and fashion and CD-r labels. The networked culture of contemporary hipster robs it of its earlier radicalism circa 1947. For my youth poverty was an attribute rather than a stigma. Experience was an asset to be guarded and used when necessary rather than a badge. One's social circle was centred on the bar or band you attended or following from personal connections on a local level. We were politically engaged on the level of everyday life. The food coop, market,  the recycling centre, the gallery and the dealer were monumental points for social organization. The festival took precedent over the café. Happenings were inherited from earlier counter cultures and being a musician did not necessarily mean you played an instrument (I drove the van for a band and wrote lyrics for their singer). Education was regarded generally with suspicion. While I had been to university, the cooler kids in Newtown, Sydney came from the School of Life (I am still trying to apply for a faculty position with this famed institution). 

While reflecting upon the proto-hipster I think may have been, I thought about the other great inner-city creature of the early 21st century; the contemporary dandy. The nonchalance one attributes to the dandy was often valued over the performance of the hipster in my youth. Hedonism, nihilism and creativity were parts of the culture I participated in. These today are not part of the conformity and political correctness of the hipster.

Contemporary dandy Sebastian Horsley (1962 – 2010) imparts his wisdom
("The author of his own misfortune")

"Hipster refers to a subculture of young, recently settled urban middle class adults and older teenagers that appeared in the 1990s. The subculture is associated with independent music, a varied non-mainstream fashion sensibility, Apple products, liberal or independent political views, alternative spirituality or atheism/agnosticsm and alternative lifestyles." - Wikipedia
- Buys expensive second-hand clothes in 'Retro Shop' that is called Vintage (often they are actually new)

- Follows music and fashion from blogs, Internet radio, webzines, magazines, films, and television.

- Overly conscious of peer grooming; while the hipster attempts to project an air of anarchistic disregard the level of conformity among hipsters is frightening (see following video)

- The hipster congregates in specific neighbourhoods, seeking out the approval of their peers and driving up real estate prices. Globalization is not on the hipster agenda.

- The hipster avoids danger.

"A dandy (also known as a beau or gallant is a man who places particular importance upon physical appearance, refined language, and leisurely hobbies, pursued with the appearance of nonchalance in a cult of Self." Wikipedia
- Has clothes made or simply acquires them via channels of generosity or neglect.

- Does not follow

- Is anachronistic in a disregard for politics, culture, society, law, philosophy and identity, distilling all into a life of desire and the pursuit of beauty.

- The dandy is at home anywhere and nowhere.

- the dandy likes danger

I would like to see a return to danger and exploration with inner-city culture. I don't think this will happen while the hipster culture hijacks peoples youth in the pursuit of image and spectacle.


meika loofs samorzewski said...


((Jim)) said...

Care to elaborate Meika?