Can you remember when you first heard the word "hipster"? I honestly can't think back to a time when we didn't use it to refer to someone's style. It seems it's become an all-encompassing way to describe people that look a bit creative. Red Wing boots? Hipster. Thick-rimmed black glasses? Hipster. Have on an ironic '90s band T-shirt? Hipster. But how did we start defining people as such? According to this Buzzfeed list, being a hipster also includes "bringing your own tote bags to the supermarket," owning an "ironic phone case" and have an item of clothing with the "David Bowie lightning bolt" on it. As a millennial, I recognise all the above as key indicators that someone is a hipster.
But how do I know this? How did it become that we instinctively know what a hipster dresses like? For example, while the early 2000s version might have loved wearing skinny jeans, thanks to The Strokes making them cool again, now it's selvedge denim with turned up cuffs that are in a hipster's wardrobe.
So how then can we define hipster style in 2018 if it's always changing? Is it really still a thing? To better understand the root of its definition and if it really still exists, I spoke to a couple of experts. From the history of the word to understanding how it's represented in other parts of the world, as well as what it looks like in 2018, keep scrolling for more about hipster style...
THROUGH THE AGES
When I spoke to costume historian and director of costume studies at NYU, Nancy Deihl, she said she can remember one of her students using it in 2005. "I remember thinking how dated that word was," said Deihl, "because it used to be a term that people would use to refer to jazz musicians in the '20s. It wasn't a modern term."
Clearly, the idea of the hipster has been around for longer than the early '00s, says Deihl. And professor Daniel James Cole, who teaches fashion at the New York University Steinhardt Graduate Costume Studies, agrees. He told me that while it might have originally been used to describe people on the jazz scene, in the mid-20th century it was also used to talk about those who were part of the Beatnik scene, then it was those protesting against the Vietnam war in the '60s, who were into the hippie look. And in the '90s, it was grunge and then the influence of Britpop. Often it was used to describe those who dressed against the mainstream of the time.
AROUND THE WORLD
After speaking to Cole, what I found fascinating is that while London and New York might have very similar ways of dressing like a hipster, other places in the world are very different. For example, the hipster in Taipei, Taiwan, tends to wear ironic T-shirts and everything is very 'clean' says Cole. It's still that country or city's way of dressing like a hipster, but it's not what we might define it as such in London or New York.
In America alone, there are different versions of the hipster. He cited Portland, Oregon, having a distinctly different hipster style from New York. According to Condé Nast Traveller, the Portland hipster style is very much the "nouveau lumberjack with rugged outdoor-as-indoor fashion." However, the New York hipster, according to Hipster Business Models author Zachary Crochett, is one who brings "their typewriters to the park to write stories, they make action yoga figures, they sew pockets on their underwear."
In the UK, we've often mirrored the New York hipster look, which is mainly concentrated in Shoreditch (and now Dalston and Peckham), thanks to our shared media references, said Cole. But there's another aspect that the two cities share: the negativity surrounding hipster style and culture. From the likes of Charlie Brooker's 2005 show Nathan Barley to the more recent TV series Portlandia, which often pokes fun at the hipster scene in Portland and how it's very much focused on the '90s. (Side note: If you haven't watched The Dream of the '90s video, I suggest you go do that immediately.) Then there's Lena Dunham's Girls, featuring Jessa who is a classic hipster but is monumentally flawed. When there are hipsters on our screens, more often than not, they're unlikeable. If you take another look at that Buzzfeed list, you'll notice there's an underlying sense of scorn. You can practically feel the eye-rolls coming off the page. The hipster, it would seem, is still very much present, and is often referred to in the media, which in turn has made the term so mainstream.
I asked Deihl one final question: Does she believe that this word essentially describes someone who isn't working in an office 9-to-5 and doesn't wear a suit? Deihl said yes, and that interestingly it's down to the gig economy. While it used to be that you'd dress for your job with a suit and tie, and perhaps anything creative you'd pursue in your spare time, now your creative outlet is your job. And people tend to dress for that. So while hipster style is still a thing, it's become much broader. And where it used to be a counterculture, the hipster has now been fully embraced by the mainstream. Perhaps the word "hipster" has become so overused we're going to have to think of a new word. Any suggestions?
The History of Modern Fashion by Daniel James Cole and Nancy Deihl (£50)