A weekly series where the unhip author delves into the the biggest sociological group to come out of the aughts thus far: The Hipster. In the first installment, the author will explore the dress of the modern and cool Hipster, a prominent and identifiable mark of hippocity, and I will attempt to understand the principles upon which the coolness of dress is founded. The series will start with spending time on the fashion principles of The Hipster.
The Hipster categorically accepts certain articles of clothing as the mark of being cool, or as their name indicates, ‘hip’. This is nothing new, as most social subgroups have always adopted a standard uniform. From punks to preps, there’s always been a uniform despite their best efforts not to conform. The Hipster too has a uniform founded upon a principle which dictates their dress, though it is difficult to find. I’ll start at the feet, and work our way up.
The Shoes: The Hipster often adorns their feet with pretty minimalistic, non-descript footwear. What is en vogue currently, since it is summer, is a slip-on shoe—usually a pair of Vans, a pair of Chuck Taylor’s All-Stars, a boat shoe usually Sperry TopSiders, or, for the more ethically conscious of the bunch, a pair of quasi-huaraches-cum-populous TOMS—all of which have minimal support for the foot. If The Hipster should choose to wear a more supportive sneaker, they typically opt for a retro-hi-top basketball sneaker, or a loud colored pair of retro Adidas or New Balance running shoe. In dressier settings, The Hipster will enjoy a driving loafer, a penny loafer, a penny-driving loafer (why?) or a desert boot.
All shoes are worn without socks, in the summertime with the exception of perhaps the desert boot. Frankly, I am not so sure what is so uncool about socks. Indeed, I am in awe that The Hipster does not emit an unspeakable odor that wafts up to one’s nose as they walk past, particularly in such commonly sweaty summer spaces like New York City, particularly prevalent in the Williamsburg neighborhood in Brooklyn (I must say a truly lovely neighborhood). Perhaps it is liberating? Often, I tend to think that going sans socks, unless wearing sandals is just incredibly painful on my feet. Blisters often form from the constant raw rub on my heels and toes (heals and toes!), and it seems like wearing socks is a smart idea. Perhaps there is the pain, but the blisters are worth it? Suffer for fashion if it is your passion, and you, my pretty young thing, will go far. However, no matter how young and pretty The Hipster might be, one wonders if The Hipster should go through such pains in to looking so nonchalant. This is just one of the many mysteries that cannot be answered in such limited space, and we’ll revisit it again, so I’ll press on.
As one might already deduce, the footwear choices harkens back to the choices some eighties era Reagan-ites would wear (and still wear) after a long day on the links at the country club, unwinding with a Tom Collins after a nice dinner. The choice of such footwear, as far as I can tell, is mainly arbitrary, however, very important to The Hipster. What makes it important, and what separates their choices in footwear from the Reagan-ites?
Like most choices made by The Hipster, it is the pretense under which they wear them that set them apart from one’s dad. It is done in either the service of irony or in the service of appropriation. There is insufficient evidence to determine which of the two marks the better explanation, but we will explore this in later investigation.
If it is in the service of irony, it appears that the irony can be found in a couple of different sources. First, and most obviously, the irony can be found in the fact that the youth are wearing shoes typically coveted by the old. Just as amusing as it is to see a baby in a suit, it is likewise amusing to The Hipster that she wears the shoes that her father and mother, and other oldies wore during their formidable years. Age appropriateness dress is a sure-fire giggle-fest.
The second way in which it is ironic requires a bit more of a partial explanation I will up later in this series. The Hipster often values themselves as a unique individual, one that participates in the arts and largely succumbs to the corporate demand the United States general collective values, if there are any, places on member’s of society. They are socially conscious and highly self-aware, and as such find it amusing to wear articles of clothing, footwear included, that are typically associated with those fully entrenched by corporate America.
The appropriation sentiment is largely connected to this second sense of irony. They are, without warrant, taking to the style choices of the “Greed is Good” generation, appropriating it for those that now have the general sentiment that “Greed is Bad”.
One’s dad wears such shoes for wholly different reasons, namely that they got stuck in a fashion black hole, never to leave for all eternity by virtue of the incredible weight the gravity of life has put upon them. Or, less dramatically, they do not care enough to constantly update their style, settling to wear whatever is comfortable.
The Hipster, whether their choices are informed by irony or appropriation, never settle to wear what’s comfortable as will become clear over the next few weeks. Tune in next week when I’ll explore The Hipster’s nether regions, and how they cover them: pants!