Wednesday, February 1, 2012

No School Like Old School

The Millenial generation's hipsters, the latest in more than a century of counterculture movements, seem to be a melting-pot of all those since the '40s:  existentialists, beats, situalationists (remember the May 1968 tumult in France), folksters/hippies, punk and grunge.  With no organizing philosophy, they are like well-versed fans at a retro film festival; the creative element so prominent in their predecessors is lacking.  There won't be world-changing books, songs, art or events produced.  One observer said, they only type of artist you will find is of the tattoo variety.  It's style, attitude, apathy and irony, and immediate experience only.  Because I like retro without reservation, they're still all right with me, though.
Even the Nihilists of late 19th-century Russia did try one grand project ("going to the people" -- educating the deprived rural population of their country); hipsters, having found that education is no longer any guarantee of success and unemployment is only going to expand, get into costume and then into the Way-Back Machine, escaping reality while being acutely self-aware.
You can see how growing up in the soup of all-prevasive media and hyper advertising has led them to abandon anything quickly that gets too much exposure (I suppose the pursuit of cool is a theme in all these movements).  To maintain loyalties would mean losing relevance. 
And just like the beats and hippies, they were sucked up by the ad and entertainment industries, but so much sooner.  I thought that the silhouetted dancing characters in those Apple ads (and now McDonalds and others) were probably a reflection of something new, but didn't know what.  To stay ahead of the pop culture curve, ad agencies pay "cool hunters" in trendsetting areas like New York and L.A. to take note of what's new in dress and consumption.   The party promoters are there at the very beginning of each phase of co-opting youth culture so it can be re-sold worldwide, pre-packaged, at a profit.
The centers of this movement of 25 - 34-year-olds are Atlanta, Silver Lake in L.A., Denver, San Francisco, Portland, Austin and Brooklyn.  I know where they are around here:  since its beginning, the local Neato Burrito restaurants have employed hipsters almost exclusively.  The owner also has a retro clothing and decorating items store and designs his places to look like the 50s on acid.  The employees can dress however they want and blast alt-rock while they assemble the humongous and quite healthy namesake burritos.  A pretty non-demanding job, but the turnover seems swift -- I wonder about that, since there are only so many record stores and Goodwills to work at which would have a similar vibe.  I hope the funny and enthusiastic young burrito barista who served us the other day in the flagship Lemoyne store is there the next time.
Hipster style is more working-class than that of the student counterculturists in the 60s:  faves are cigarettes, PBR and Colt .45 beer, old Polarioid cameras, tank tops and leggings, flannel, big glasses (like Buddy Holly's, so nerdy they're cool), knit hats, skinny jeans, and what I think of as Frank Sinatra hats.  Other must-haves are the American Apparel V-neck T-shirt, scarves and strangely enough, empanadas.
Vice and Papermag are their publications, like our East Village Other and Rolling Stone -- but they of course communicate mainly electronically.  A "fixie" -- a fixed-gear bike with no brakes -- is another defining item, and I have no idea where that came from.

"Nothing says 'I love you' like avoiding eye contact."
                                    -- Lola Wakefield, 20-something blogger


1 comment:

  1. Each generation has a way to rebel, but not ageist itself but make a statement until the reality of finding employment to provide food and shelter converts reality to realism. Even the most rebellious among us must eat.