Authenticity and Objects
PRELUDE: THE POSER AND THE HIPSTER
THE MASCULINE: THE HIPSTER AND THE DANDY
The Authentic Gesture
The Dandy: Accessorizing Masculinity
The Bearded Hipster: Pastiche or Postiche?
THE FEMININE: TECHNOLOGIES OF THE SELF
Cultivation of the Selfie
Food Selfies: The Hipster Still-Life
NOTE: ILLUSTRATIONS HAVE BEEN REMOVED FOR PRIVACY PURPOSES
PRELUDE: THE POSER AND THE HIPSTER
The room is dimly lit so only to allow a superficial view of everyone around you, creating mystery between strangers who have so many things in common, yet are too cool to interact beyond the level of a glance. (See Illustration 1.) He sits open legged with little regard for how slovenly this may make him appear, focusing only on its indication of his complete disregard for propriety. Manners are the trait of the upper class, which he outwardly rejects, yet are valiantly represented by his parents. He has been afforded every luxury; a good school and upbringing, access, money, opportunity, education all of which he continually rejects in an attempt to appear subversive. He claims to have no money, yet adorns himself with all the latest clothes, fabricating stories of how he came to own them. His jeans are rolled up at the bottom, faded not from wear but from the commercial fader used in the expansive factories owned by Ksubi, Nudie or Wrangler all masquerading as small-production fashion labels, who in reality are global brands. His T-shirt is crew neck and crisp white, not ravaged by the spoils of hard work or rugged adventures like his American eagle meets mid-west dive bar appearance would suggest. On the bottom right corner near the label, are a collection of strategically placed holes not from years of wear and love, but from the stressed material specifically designed by trendy fashion houses to give that vintage look. A red, blue and black plaid flannelette shirt hangs open and casually at his sides, purchased a week earlier from Ralph Lauren at full retail price, which he will later claim he found on the back shelves of a thrift shop. Think 1890s lumberjack meets 1980s pro-cycling nerd. His beard is full and reminiscent of days gone by, alluding to the proximity of a brown bear and a log cabin, much like his carefully selected over-shirt. His hair is short and slicked, ever so slightly, so it may appear as if he just wakes up that way. His forearms are covered in tattoos from pirate ships, to birds, to punk bands from the 1980s, all of which he got this year but he lies and says he’s had them since he was 16. He only works to keep up appearances, in high-street fashion stores and apathetic cafes, and is primarily surviving on the earnings of his parents, inheritance, or trust fund. He is the poser. He is the hipster of fashion, not of values. He is the co-opter of subcultural trend across generations. Every subcultural group has its “poser”, the person who cares only for what is fashionable and in fashion. The poser represents only sub-cultural style, not values or ideologies. He is not the true hipster.
The true hipster is a complicated entity. The true hipster supports their local: local produce, fashion, art, music, and businesses. The true hipster is difficult to recognize, amongst a sea of people who wish to dabble in this subculture by simply mimicking its fashion. These true hipsters are not the transient hipsters, not the posers, not the people whose mimicry of hipster fashion is fleeting at best. The true hipster is a pioneer of contemporary culture; mixing and remixing styles through carefully selected choices, striving for microcosmic utopia. The true hipster may not completely depart from the image of the above description of their poser counterpart, but his/her intentions are grounded in ideology, authentic gesture and utopian values. The purpose of this dissertation is to assist in defining the difference between the two and the value that dress and objects have in representing a subculture as a whole.
In contemporary western society, the social pressure of conformity has become a key sociological and environmental issue throughout the past three centuries. Be it in business, culture, art, social interaction; the need to differentiate oneself from the pack has long been the concern of subcultural groups. The reactionary nature of the now- dominant and arguably “sub” subculture: hipsters, alludes to a new way of defying conformity through participatory action. Valuing an ideology that in order to effect change one must participate in the already existent social discourse, adopting social practices and ways of living that utilise aspects of mainstream and parent culture as the counterpart to subcultural practices in order to create a desired Utopian society. This is exemplified by an equally common desire for the promise of technological advancement, and nostalgia for the past. This dissertation will argue that the hipster is not merely a contemporary incarnation of the flâneur, sauntering through life with little purpose, promenading in the latest clothes and living a life of excess, but a figurative prediction of a Utopian future.In doing this I will unapologetically attempt to answer the question of whether hipsterism is a complex social ideology, or simply a fashion trend. Are you hipster or are you a hipster? Or more controversially, are you both? Despite negative mainstream discourse surrounding this issue, I will argue that it is in fact the delicate balance between fashion and ideology, which defines true hipsterism.
The prevalence of distaste and criticism in the current, albeit mostly journalistic and unsolicited discourse surrounding the hipster is concerning, as it seems to only focus on the notion that hipsterism is nothing more than an unoriginal fashion trend; as this excerpt from Dads are the original hipster (See Illustration 2.) would suggest:
“Your dad wore flannel before you did and he still has the Pendleton to prove it. In his woven expression of manliness, he could emasculate Paul Bunyan with his axe swings while effortlessly making the Brawny Man look like a bitch. Each of his lumberjack tops were broken in by adventure, bear boxing matches, shotgun recoils and occasionally baby vomit. He didn’t donate his plaids when it was time to retire them from his wardrobe. Instead, he gave them Viking funerals to honor the tours of duty they served his upper body and set them ablaze at sea to ensure that no lesser man would ever disgrace his shirts by wearing them.
So hipsters, next time you slide your frail body into the most masculine of woven wools with hopes that it, in combination with your shitty beard, will make you seem more rugged, remember this…
Your dad didn’t wear flannel to look tough, he wore flannel because it was tough enough to withstand him.”
What I propose, is that in spite of this reductive suggestion that hipsters are essentially just stealing from their parents their “old”, “vintage”, and “cool” objects in order to appear original or authentic, hipsters in fact are making a considered selection, remixing styles and social practices, or “liking” to borrow from the social media lexicon, the best of the last three centuries in order to create their ideal utopian society. Hipsters reject the notion of a pure original and therefore recognize that production of originality has ceased, or perhaps never existed in the first place. Hence, it has become necessary to select from the catalogue of available styles, practices and ideologies to create a new ideal, a new way of living through the gesture of authenticity, a gesture that is associated with the originality of an action, or the intention of a process associated with the object in question.
Notions of originality and authenticity are common to criticisms of hipster culture. Discussions such as JY Lee’s A Hipster Manifesto are associated with accusations against hipsters’ perceived obsession with originality and authenticity, two things that are questioned by the mainstream due to the common hipster trait of referencing a multiplicity of styles.
“Hipsters share the hippies’ self-indulgence, veiled materialism and white upper-middle class privilege, but they contribute a lot less. Hipster aesthetic is blatantly pastiche, borrowing from the past without much originality.”
In a very different context, Walter Benjamin’s The Work of Art in The Age of Mechanical Reproduction iterates this dichotomy, in terms and technologies now long surpassed, but with ideologies that transverse modernist and contemporary discourses and offer some perspective on the actions of the hipster that is perhaps more helpful than the criticism of hipsters by mainstream media. Despite the negative connotations implied by the absence of authenticity and the value associated with the “aura” of the original work of art, Benjamin holds out some hope for the ability of reproduction (or in the case of the hipster, appropriation) to “reactivate the object reproduced” which is directly related to the notion of an authentic gesture. Whilst the object being employed by the hipster may not be original, the nature of its reincarnation gives the viewer, and the user, the opportunity to reconnect with its intended value as an original object, stemming from its original context.
The notion of a current, operational sub-culture within contemporary society is difficult to define in its entirety, as retrospection is often necessary to assess the particularities of a specific genre or time period, and often occurs post it becoming obsolete. Fredrick Jameson discusses this dilemma in “Nostalgia for the Present” where he details the mode of describing a particular sensibility associated with a self-awareness or more accurately self-consciousness about the realities of the 1950s and how the literature and film of that time chose to represent itself. The 1950s subculture comparable to the contemporary hipster was borne out of the materialism and conformity of cold war America creating certain hipster-relevant ideologies that have not changed drastically since that time. The historical hipster of the 1950s is outlined in Norman Mailer’s White Negro,as being essentially Beatnik:
“The hipster, the man who knows that if our collective condition is to live with…a slow death by conformity with every creative and rebellious instinct stifled…then the only life-giving answer is to accept the terms of death, to live with death as immediate danger, to divorce oneself from society, to exist without roots, to set out on that unchartered journey into the rebellious imperatives of the self.”
Mailer’s White Negro was a product of post-war, anti-capitalist existentialism that is derived from the relationship between a rise in “black racial consciousness”, through the reactionary culture of the civil rights movement and a yearning for a similarly dissociative social experience by the white population, in association with jazz culture in the 1950s.
In the shadow of the civil rights movement that was particularly felt in major cities across America, New York City, San Francisco and Chicago alike, the still marginalised black population sought an independence not defined by white inclusion or “colour-conscious internationalism”, while the non-mainstream white population sought to define itself from the post-war social and state power that had thrust it into this cultural position in the first place. The grab for power on the world stage unfortunately was the motivation for civil rights across race and religion hence the distaste for its political legitimacy amongst the fringe. The contemporary hipster is a result of a generational pattern of wealth and a break with the hegemony associated with the upper-middle class, and in direct correlation to the economic climate of late-capitalism that in fact insights the same yearning for social independence from the state that was sought by Mailer’s hipster of the 1950s.
Mailer illustrates that it is the collective experience of modernity or ‘the present’ that categorises the hip; that the hipster exists “in that enormous present which is without past or future, memory or planned intention”. The contemporary hipster embraces the fruits of the past and the possibilities of the future through collective memory and planned intention in order to foster drastic social change. However, just as Mailer’s White Negro is the existentialist, the psychopath, the atheist and the mystic, so too is the hipster weighed upon by their own mortality, trapped by the reality of nothingness beyond life, which is why they create for themselves a utopia within the realm of everyday life: “It is this knowledge which provides the curious community of feeling in the world of the hipster” and it is this “dark, romantic, and yet undeniably dynamic view of existence” that makes these two separate incarnations of hipster so deeply connected at a structural level.
The contemporary hipster is not merely a bi-product of a geopolitical stalemate, but a subcultural activist making a conscious decision to break from parent culture despite the freedoms and access this has afforded them beyond that of the 1950s hipster. Where Mailer discusses the marriage between black and white culture as the birth of his hipster, the contemporary hipster looks not to current social groups but trawls history for a selection of “golden ages” to be applied to every aspect of social production that they value. The golden age of the craftsman, of studio practice, and artisans; of feminism, masculinity, and gender equality; of pre-industrialized means of production, of hunting; of small-scale and local living. It is these ideologies alongside the autonomy of the past fifty years and the promise of current and developing technology that makes hipsterism what it is: a remixing of social order to facilitate new Utopian spaces, ways of thinking, and working.
Whilst the contemporary hipster may exist in geopolitical opposition to the hipster of New York City in the 1950s, they are not so different in their utilisation of objects, ideologies and urban (as well as suburban) spaces for the purpose of their message. The creation of sub-spaces within global cities is key to hipster ideologies, as the need to exist socially at a small-scale sustainable level is what defines the hipster; a prime example of this is Williamsburg in Brooklyn, New York City. No other place could be more indicative of the microcosm of utopian desire that is synonymous with the true hipster; yet no other place is more vilified as the destruction of culture as we know it (by hipsters) in mainstream media discourse. This creation of Utopian space is integral to the physical and philosophical space that the hipster occupies and is grounded in Mailer’s existential atheist who in order to live, must face his own death through the weary longing for “more life”. This Utopian space is artisanal, a space of un-alienated labour. It is not simply labour as commodity that the hipster has to offer, it is a choice to participate in labours of love: artisanal crafts, commonly associated with the social incarnations of the most base human needs and physical practicalities such as building, farming, art making, and production of utilitarian objects. Hipsters own these artisanal shops and work alongside their employees whose labour they are able to purchase, they do not solely own the means of production, however work towards controlling aspects of that process on a sustainable scale, in opposition to mass commodity production.
Another important similarity between Mailer’s “American existentialist” and the contemporary hipster is their shared ability to know their own limitations and desires, for the existentialist “must be aware of the character of one’s frustration and know what would satisfy it” and the hipster knows exactly this. The current state of existence in global cities is not sustainable, capitalism is undesirable, and the ability of the individual to effect change is diminishing. The hipster knows that a change in collective social thinking is integral to progress and thus to the creation of utopia. The contemporary hipster goes beyond the colloquialisms of vernacular dialogue consisting of definitions that are often limited to quips about vintage clothing and veganism (forming the content for hit TV series’ Portlandia and Bondi Hipsters) and forges a social rebellion that is non-destructive in the wake of criticism of a generation who cares very little about its realities and its future. As Mailer aptly points out, “we suffer from a collective failure of nerve” which can be seen as a cyclic social condition epitomised by inaction, fear, and a general apathy for life; a kind of hopeless, passivity that is characterized by a generation’s inability to act for their own existence. The hipster is here to counter this in today’s society.
As affluence and education have become increasingly the primary focus across all classes in the West, social acceptance of trade and service work for the middle and upper classes is still unfavourable amongst the mainstream, with the hipster conversely placing an increased value on specialized, knowledge-based positions within these industries such as the barista, bartender (See Illustration 3.), barber, butcher, brewer, sommelier, chef. No longer is the bartender or barista simply a server there for every whim of their wealthy customer, they are now equal or perhaps even elevated above the consumer as their specialized knowledge brings them into the sphere of an educational economy. Where Marx argues that the work of the proletariat has completely lost its individual character and forfeited its charm, the hipster has reclaimed these features. Despite the argument that the proletariat only has their labour to offer, they are also afforded a certain freedom through the subversion of the bourgeois class system and if the hipster does not seek to emulate this in the way that Marx’s petite-bourgeois does then in fact they have freed themselves from the strictures of this labour-based economy. The hipster does not simply succumb to a life of labour in exchange for “cash payment,” they create new social order entirely through style, and the valuing of previously unvalued spaces of inhabitance and employment. The utopian ideologies associated with hipsterism are paradoxical in that the imagery of hipster utopia relates primarily to pre-industrialization and the ecology associated with a more natural way of living, however, the hipster exists in an urban environment; a combination of a Jeffersonian agrarianism displaced into large, globalized cities. Hipster utopia relies less on the land than the farmer, but places emphasis on the notion of the independent farmer as an icon of artisanal values. The independent farmer is in control of their labour and supply, and is the owner of their own land. The farmer creates for himself or herself a system in which labour is free and unalienated in an urban setting for the purpose of independence from the state. The concept of living authentically is extrapolated by the hipster from the ideal of the independent farmer and contextualized within an urban, global setting in the form of an ideology that has practical outcomes in current contemporary society.
The first chapter of this thesis will focus on authenticity and the authentic gesture, emphasising three key objects that represent the relationship between the two through ideology and fashion in hipsterism with a focus on the male hipster. Each of these objects are intertwined with notions of masculinity, work, class, utilitarianism, and a set of values and philosophies generally associated with the past two centuries, which are fetishized by the male hipster. The flannelette shirt or flanno, a symbol of work, living off the land, and masculinity;the nose ring, a symbol of the changing preconceptions of masculinity and femininity, an indicator of a return to craft values, studio practice and the hand of the artist; and the beard, a symbol of rebellion, masculinity, and pre-industrialization social values. I will highlight and analyse these three objects which best represent not only the paying of homage to other subcultural styles through repetition and contemporary adaptation, but also their individual relevance to the values associated with hipsterism. Reincarnations of figures such as the flâneur and the Dandy are important in this consideration of the contemporary male hipster, their goals, and achievements.
Historically, the advent of new technologies has created a social climate in which both instances of the hipster have occurred; the growth of television as a medium for Mailer’s White Negro and the proliferation of the Internet and personal media for the contemporary hipster, which will be the investigation of the second chapter. The primary focus of which will be the selfie and the use of social media by the female hipster. She interacts with this medium as an extension of the feminist ideologies of hipsterism, through cultivation of individual identity and in protest of the image of femininity within the mainstream. The rampant use of social media and the snapshot image, often in the form of a selfie is directly responsible for the forming of a larger social identity through the use of a technological language both visual and linguistic that perpetuates ideologies, style, and a construction of self not synonymous with hipsterism, with particular relevance to formation of a marginalised identity within the feminine space. The selfie, although grounded within the realm of technological jargon is indicative of the occupation of contemporary social spaces, both physical and online by female hipsters and their proximity to mainstream culture. It is therefore necessary for the female hipster to define herself across multiple platforms.
The selfie provides an insight into the influential nature of technologies of the self within society and the role this plays in development of a social identity and a “cultivation of the self” as suggested by Michel Foucault. In order to ground themselves within the framework of contemporary cultural identity, the female hipster utilises the selfie as an aside to the like, carving out and documenting their identity and ideology through what can be defined as the contemporary self-portrait. The imagery associated with the feminine in mainstream culture is particularly contentious in relation to the selfie as it continues to perpetuate stereotypical eroticization and objectification of female sexuality in Western society, promoting notions of vapidity, vanity and image consciousness amongst women.
The hipster push for a less sexualised feminine stereotype suggests a lack of need for a sexual revolution amongst contemporary hipsters, which separates the goals of Mailer’s White Negro from that of the contemporary hipster. Mailer states that “one is a rebel or one conforms”, however the role of the hipster is less binary in contemporary society; rather than belonging to rebellion or conformism the hipster has more social layers. The contemporary hipster is not the psychopath, divorced from society as Mailer’s hipster is; the hipster is engaged and powerful. The very success of the hipster is his/her ability to maintain subcultural status whilst continuing to participate in the capitalist mainstream in order to achieve their utopia. Instead of withdrawing from society, they simply use its inadequacies and feed off its hegemonic structure. The contemporary hipster subverts Mailer’s anxieties of a totalitarian society by using the very systems they detest to “get ahead” on their own terms. Instead of being “doomed…to conform if one is to succeed” the hipster appropriates the mainstream to his or her own success.
One of the main problems in establishing identity in contemporary society is the difficulty of falling in-between generations. By generations I mean to divide this in terms of cultural production, artistic practice and technological advances common to the prime Hipster age group of 15-31, give or take a few years, characterized by Generation Y or the “Millennial Generation” as termed by Strauss and Howe: “The Millennial Generation will entirely recast the image of youth from downbeat and alienated to upbeat and engaged-with potentially seismic consequences.” Slippage between the values associated with Gen Y, Gen X and Baby Boomers is a difficult issue as those that were born on the cusp of integrated technological advances across mainstream society, brought about primarily by the rise of the Internet, bear an awkward relationship to nostalgic values and ideologies associated with the Baby Boomer and a modernist ideology of progress associated with their own generation. The hipster is borne out of the difficulty of being a generational “in-betweener”. This generational exploration is difficult territory, one that is navigated through the blending of emotional, cultural, societal, and artistic practices and ideologies that are neither modern, nor post-modern but caught awkwardly in-between, suspended in unchartered philosophical and theoretical territory. Hipster ideology attempts to ground this suspension through affirmative action, defining a non-linear perspective and style across generations and striving for utopia through the realisation that utopia cannot exist on a grand scale and must be captured in specific microcosms, through the creation of a Hipstermicroutopia.
THE MASCULINE: THE HIPSTER AND THE DANDY
John Dewey’s idea of “conscious intent” is inherent to the argument of authenticity within hipsterism as illustrated here:
“Experience occurs continuously, because the interaction of live creature and environing conditions is involved in the very process of living. Under conditions of resistance and conflict, aspects and elements of the self and the world that are implicated in this interaction qualify experience with emotions and ideas so that conscious intent emerges.”
A yearning for authenticity as delineation of ideology against the mainstream has been the goal of sub-cultural groups throughout history, going back through the adoption of punk and the punk aesthetic in Britain and America, to Mailer’s White Negro, and the contemporary hipster is no different. Dick Hebdidge references the need for the artist to define themselves within the perceived authenticity of literary and cinematic underground culture from “acknowledged ‘artistic’ sources” , which only illustrates the problematic nature of such territory, as how can something be at once truly underground yet acknowledged? I wish to depart from the common misconception that the hipster’s penchant is for the underground, the unknown or the uber cool and draw comparison between the hipster and the artist, to borrow from Baudelaire, the hipster is “the painter of modern life”. The archetypal artist has often been entangled with images of the socialite, the ambler, the poet, the Dandy, the philosopher; the forward thinking, anti-mainstream figure of society. The hipster is exactly this, the artist of contemporary life, the poet of society performing the spectacle of everyday existence through the authentic utilisation of objects and concepts that form the basis of hipster ideology. The hipster may simultaneously borrow elements from Neitztche’s lyric poet, Poe’s flâneur, Wilde’s Dandy, Kerouac’s wanderer, Mailer’s White Negro, and of course Baudelaire’s painter of modern life, all of which are grounded within the masculine. This chapter will explore the male hipster and the objects associated with the masculine within hipsterism: the flanno, the nose ring, and the beard.
The hipster as the artist stands in opposition to the underground, as the hipster desires to return to the conceptual roots of well known items of dress and objects of ornamentation in order to illuminate their subculture’s ideologies which can be defined as a return to nature, small-scale living, artisanal practices and the artist’s studio, blending of the roles of masculinity and femininity, and most importantly aspiration; which can be categorized as a utopian positivity that rejects the notion of an original; highlights the cyclic nature of style throughout history; and desires a relationship with capitalism that is reciprocal: As Mailer says, “The hipster has shifted the focus of his desire from immediate gratification” like that of the commodified mainstream “toward that wider passion for future power which is the mark of civilized man”. Conscious intent emerges. The contemporary hipster carefully selects aspects of past subcultural styles that can be seen as defining each one historically, creating a remixed aesthetic. This is not independent from but in direct homage to the subcultures they represent and stands in opposition to the integration of aesthetic production into “commodity production generally” by Western mainstream society. This is representative of the way in which the hipster actively engages with the past in parallel to fashion as part of a greater depth of consciousness.
The Authentic Gesture
Authenticity is the defining feature of colloquial, journalistic descriptions and representations of hipster culture. Often negatively portrayed, the mainstream mocks hipsterism’s desire for the authentic through “irony”, highlighting its apparent irrelevance to mainstream culture. As illustrated here by Christian Lorentzen:
“Under the guise of “irony”, hipsterism fetishizes the authentic and regurgitates it with a winking inauthenticity”
This simply illustrates that “authenticity” is problematic as it lacks a beginning or an end and is tethered to the infinitely variable ideal of originality. Historically we recoginise the original in a popularised form, that is to say that the true origin of an idea or a thing may not actually be that with which we associate its originality. Perhaps teen punks were at home carving their names into their skin with razor blades well before Sid Vicious decided to mutilate his own skin on stage but due to his status and ability to reach a wider audience, this act is associated with him as its originator.
The authentic is defined as ‘that which is genuine, and not copied: the original.’ So where does this leave the authentic as defined by the original, which itself cannot be definitively traced to its own source? This definition seems counterproductive as it confuses three completely separate entities and gives them equal weight, deeming them inseparable from one another. I must disagree with at least one, if not all of these definitive connections; firstly, to be genuine is not mutually exclusive with originality. If genuineness can be defined by an act, not simply used to describe a thing, then to be genuine does not necessarily imply originality. Genuine intention, or a genuine gesture can therefore still be considered authentic without being original. Copy is an equally ambiguous term, one that is synonymous with reproduction and lacking what is imperative to authenticity; the “aura” of the original, the essence of what the original strove to create in the first instance. As Benjamin suggested, “that which withers in the age of mechanical reproduction is the aura” of the original. The hipster is not concerned with a goal so unachievable as originality;gestural authenticity is the preoccupation of the hipster both male and female.
We have now identified that authenticity must suffer the same fate as originality, for who would decide the origin of a thing? Who would judge this contest of true authenticity? However, it is not the true authenticity of a thing that is important or even in question, it is the process by which the hipster comes to own or wear or engage with that thing in a broader social context that makes this thing authentic. Hence, the hipster’s role in preserving the “authority of the object” and consequently its aura is through the authentic gesture. The hipster is concerned with the act of authenticity, the gestural nature of an authentic act that is a tribute to the “aura” of the original. What is truly at the essence of the original involves going back through its history and finding the commonalities in each of its iterations that will eventually lead you to the essence of its original form. What about these particular objects has given cause for so many iterations throughout history?
The flannelette shirt or flanno–as it shall be affectionately referred to in this dissertation–can be clearly associated with working on the land, rugged masculinity, and above all comfort and protection from the elements. In this example, authenticity has no boundaries, as Benjamin suggests, it is linked to the durational nature of the term itself; “The authenticity of a thing is the essence of all that is transmissible from its beginning, ranging from its substantive duration to its testimony to the history which it has experienced.” It is this duration that allows the authentic gesture to occur, as the reactivation of the thing exists in the present, much like Mailer’s American existentialist, and concerns over the inauthentic and unoriginal diminish along with the past. The hipster flanno resonates with this durational perspective as it reactivates the history this object has lived in the context of different subcultural groups.
Historically the flanno has been popularized in many different contexts and can be associated with many different subcultures. Once the attire of the American woodsman, and the Aussie farmer, its thick fabric providing protection against the elements; then painfully co-opted by the Aussie bogan in the 1970s and later satirized for its comfort and ability to hide dirt. It has also been commonly associated with the surly, heroin addict musicians of the 1990s grunge movement popularized by Kurt Cobain. Each of these incarnations of the flanno represent key ideologies and cultural, as well as social references that form a chain of commonality between them; comfort, protection from the elements, an association with hard work, opposition to the mainstream, and most importantly as a signifier of masculinity. It is these references that are significant to the flanno, and relevant to hipster culture and ideology.
First, it is important to examine the object in question. (See Illustration 4. And 5.) The hipster wears the flanno casually, when dressing up, to bed, to work, around the house, around the garden. It could be open over a shirt, tied around the waist or buttoned right to the top and tucked in to jeans. It might be with slacks, or chinos, it might be with shorts, it might even be with tights. It might be ripped from years of wear, it might be shiny and new from the local street-ware store, it might be one he borrowed off his mate’s floor and never gave back, it might be one he picked up at a thrift shop for two dollars. Regardless, it is always worn with the same purpose. The hipster uses style to illustrate purpose and fashion is the medium for expressing hipster ideology. The flanno represents who he is, with the also convenient casualty of looking attractive, or “cool”. The flanno is multipurpose and can be worn anywhere.
The hipster does not value one skill over another, all professions can be hipster and there is no elitism or hierarchy of employment within the hipster subculture as previously discussed. The hairdresser, the academic, the musician, the bartender are all on the same plane and the hipster uses the flanno to indicate their ability to be all of these things; to be simultaneously liberated from the past incarnations of these professions and create a new context based on aspects of each iteration. The hipster draws on other subcultures’ interaction with flanno, the common features of which are; masculinity, work, and protection and dramatizes them through a performance of life in a contemporary context.
Glorification of utilitarian values associated with the flanno are integral to this; an association with tools, building, farming, old world values, lack of machinery and the hand of the maker/farmer/builder offers “the Utopian vision of a more human production generally”. If there were to be hipster rules pertaining to utopianism, they would surely be associated with honesty and utility forming the basis of the idealized individual. In this instance, the hipster is the independent farmer, the worker who lives off the land and grows his own vegetables, tends his own animals, makes his own cheese, raises his children through and is generally more connected with a way of living that can be associated with the outdoors and a pre-industrialization way of living. This is the gesture of authenticity and the beauty of hipsterism. In order to be hipster one must act in purity of gesture, and only with the potential “ruthlessness of an elite” which is in turn aspirational and utopian; there is no negative or destructive action. Hipsterism is not exclusionist, and is only elitist by way of tribalism for hipsterism is “the sophistication of the wise primitive in in a giant jungle, and so its appeal is still beyond the civilized man.” The tribalism associated with subcultures is exemplified by the flanno, an object symbolic of allegiance to hipsterism, which stands above fashion. The hipster as the artist is the lone wolf, the Dandy; part of a larger whole but independent in his own right and the flanno serves as a statement of this independence.
This act of spectacle is not to be confused with the promenading nature of the late 19th century flâneur, who contributes nothing other than aesthetic value to the streets of his city landscape, with which the hipster has been excruciatingly associated in current journalistic rhetoric, often diminished to no more than the banal dictionary definition of the term. The flanno embodies the difference between the hipster and the flâneur. Baudelaire affectionately described the flâneur as “one who goes botanizing on the asphalt,” who leisurely strolls about the city and who is a product of both modernity and the industrial revolution. The flâneur by this definition is passive, whilst the hipster is active, and seeks to determine his future. By this logic, the hipster is then not the idle waster of time as the flâneur has been criticized for being, promenading aimlessly through the streets in a general protest to work and capitalism. Although the hipster shares the flâneur’s distaste for capitalism he is active in his protest of this structure, bringing cause for a new definition, he is the flânnoeur. He values work but only at a level suitable to a balanced lifestyle, he is a philosopher and an observer, and like the flâneur he is a public figure, he needs to exist not in secrecy, not in the underground, but in glaring flânnoerie in order to voice his protest to the status quo, and make known his ideologies that allude to the creation of Utopia and utopian spaces within society. Baudelaire also speaks of the flâneur’s unwillingness to let go of a life of leisure against the push of industrialization, where the hipster seeks a return to a more simplified, sustainable scale of living; which can be identified as; a generally more localized way of living, pushing against the downfalls of globalization; re-embracing craft values and the role of the artisan; re-valuing service and trade based employment, not necessarily leisure. That is to say that the hipster effects change, and offers a solution to mainstream society, not just a protest of it. What appears to the mainstream to be acts of exclusion and elitism through the common social event tropes of the hipster; the pop up shop, the unlisted gallery opening, the secret show, the illegal warehouse party; actually allow society to continue functioning at a manageable level, if access were provided to the mass market for everything that was associated with the hipster it would begin to become unsustainable, and in turn would disagree with their utopian vision. Utopia cannot exist in the realm of the mass produced.
The Dandy: Accessorizing Masculinity
The gestural nature of acts of adornment can be found within the everyday objects that surround hipster culture and are comparable to objects that resonate with past subcultures. These objects may often appear to be copied which would render them unoriginal and by default inauthentic, however, the object itself cannot be exclusively judged, as objects can be deceptive. The deceptive object is epitomized in this case by the nose ring for its commonplace appearance and expansive catalogue of historical references across subcultures, much like the flanno. Yet it serves as a representation of hipster ideology in its current state.
Now that we have established the hipster as being sympathetic to the lack of originality in fashion, art and society and formed an understanding of authentic gesture being the result of conscious intent, the ability of this “strange man” as Baudelaire described him, to act without approval is necessary to his very definition:“I want to discourse to the public about a strange man, a man of so powerful and so decided an originality that it is sufficient unto itself and does not even seek approval.”This man is at once the Dandy, more accurately the hipster, and in summation, the authentic artist. Unlike the flâneur, whose element is the crowd, whose “passion…and profession are to become one flesh with the crowd,” the Dandy does not require the flesh of the crowd. The hipster as the reincarnation of the Dandy thrives on the oppositions of the crowd and only in parallel to their existence do his distinctions in dress have weight. As Roland Barthes argued:
“Dandyism therefore is not only an ethos…but also a technique. It is these two together which make a dandy, and it is obviously the latter which guarantees the former, as with all ascetic philosophies…in which a physical form of behaviour acts as a route towards the performance of thought; and since this thought consists here of an absolutely singular vision of self, the dandy is condemned to invent continually distinctive traits that are ever novel: sometimes he relies on wealth to distance himself from the poor, other times he wants his clothes to look worn out to distance himself from the rich – this is precisely the job of the ‘detail’ which is to allow the dandy to escape the masses and never to be engulfed by them; his singularity is absolute in essence, but limited in substance, as he must never fall into eccentricity, for that is an eminently copyable form.”
Hipsterism emulates Dandyism in both the literary and physical sense. He desires to escape the masses and is powerfully individual. I refer to the man here with some caution, as I do not mean to devalue the female role in hipsterism but stress the importance of the hipster male in changing heteronormative ideologies and stigmas associated with the blending of masculine and feminine dress on men in Western society. The resurgence of a Dandyesque figure through the prevalence of hipster subculture is underpinned by male accessorizing. This can be characterized by a number of things pertaining to image, dress, adornment and a general aesthetic that can be associated with the hipster male specifically. (See Illustration 6.) As Barthes would suggest, it is the detail that defines the Dandy from the masses. The male hipster chooses detail, to preen and adorn themselves in ways commonly associated with the feminine in contemporary society; what can be described as a more heightened level of personal care and attention to fashion. It is not unusual for the feminine to be adorned, to wear lavish outfits, to exhibit the fruits of ornamentation without their femininity coming into question, to be detailed down to the most minute of inclusions; fineness and detail are well acquainted with the feminine aesthetic. The masculine however, is constantly questioned and defined within the strictures of a closed-minded social and puritanical norm.
The appreciation for craft values associated with the “hand of the maker” and the authenticity of objects in hipster culture can be directly linked to the embracing of male ornamentation. The addition of male jewellery (See Illustration 7. and 8.) into the aesthetic repertoire of the hipster is an important feature in the context of the subculture itself, in parallel to mainstream society and historically, which is inextricably linked to the value placed on materials, the origin of these materials, the way they are crafted, and most importantly who they are crafted by. The role of the artist or artisan is key to hipster subculture, as they represent what is at the core of both hipster ideology and hipster fashion, creating a symbiotic relationship between the two. The hipster represents this through the ornamentation of their bodies both superficial through jewellery and dress, and more permanently through the skin in the case of tattoos.
This ornamentation might include more flamboyant dress, longer hair, make-up, tighter jeans; all of which are associated with the feminine in Western society. (See Illustration 9.) However, the object that speaks on behalf of all these possibilities in hipster culture is the nose ring. Once the piercing of choice in the punk subculture, the nose ring has for many years been “out of fashion” for both men and women; with the past fifteen years seeing women as the predominant gender for nose piercings with small, gem-stoned studs being the more “acceptable” statement over rings. In recent years however, there has been a resurgence of the nose ring, not just by women but also increasingly by men in hipster subculture. This is particularly interesting as the way in which it is worn is with different intent to previous incarnations of this statement. Unlike the punks, who were more concerned with shock value and a general interference with the body through the implementation of everyday objects into the genre of piercing, with the ultimate goal of physical intervention as a rejection of mainstream culture. The hipster wears the nose ring in a more considered way, “it is worn like an idea, that of a terrific power” demonstrable through its materiality and provenance.
The ring is made of gold, silver, or a medical grade stainless steel. This is for a number of reasons, amongst them and possibly most importantly is the effect on the body. These materials do not react with the body in the same way that base metals do, something that the punk with the safety pin through his nose would have had to worry about. A majority of people can wear precious or medical grade metals without any concern of infection, inflammation or migration not only that, their source can be more easily traced, with a large number of artisanal jewellers seeking out sustainable and conflict free materials. This is of high importance to hipster ideology, as purchasing cheap imitation metals where gold or silver are often substituted for nickel, “gold” plated brass, or plastic not only has implications on the quality of the object but also on the structures associated with its creation, means of production, and location of source. Barthes states that “jewellery has become democratic” however, I would argue that this only exists in circles willing to participate in its presentation as a representation of history, in parallel to its bygone prestige, or its ability to signify wealth. The choice to accessorize with jewellery “includes the circumstances for which the whole outfit is being worn” and in the case of the hipster, this is no accident. Again, tribalism is at the forefront of this adornment, with the nose ring being a subtle indicator of more profound social and cultural issues surrounding dress and ornamentation.
In parallel to this subtlety, literature concerning hipster dress seems to have a preoccupation with the notion of pageantry, which again reinforces the reductive notion that hipsterism is nothing more than fashion. In his slanderous and misdirected account of the New York hipster, Lorentzen dubs them no more than “a pageant of the bohemian undead” implying that their allegiance to style and image has turned them into a staggering, slow-witted parade of hobo-chic, hipster zombies. This leads me to a very important and constantly misrepresented theory about hipster dress. The obsession with the old, the worn, the torn, the recycled, and the re-used is by no means an anti-aesthetic. “What is enacted is a nostalgia for nostalgia, for the grand older extinct questions of origin.” Not to be confused with the assemblage of the Duchampian era, nor the bricolage employed by the Punks who were more concerned with the authenticity of a thing in the everyday context, the hipster has a more romantic aesthetic, one concerned with an appreciation of things, and one more concerned with the appealing nature of dress, adornment and materiality.
The re-embracing of studio and craft values is key to the hipster’s role as the Renaissance man, the jack-of-all-trades. The hipster fights against homogeneity by encouraging the support of small-scale business, art, fashion, and society in general. Like the Dandy, he is engaged socially, he is educated but not necessarily formally. This may take the form of specialized knowledge in one particular area, often in the “dying” arts or trades such as silversmithing, ceramics, barbering, bartending and butchery, all of which conform to a particular set of parameters that revolve around utilitarian values, and a slower way of life associated with the slow food movement. Where old systems of commercial and trade interactions were contained within the local out of necessity and inability to reach a greater audience, this localisation has now been “replaced by a system of universal intercourse.” The hipster rejects globalization and embraces the local in order to gain more from the available skills that this generation has been afforded through economic growth, security, wealth, access, and education.
The Bearded Hipster: Pastiche or postiche?
The third example of the durational authenticity of objects is the beard, which represents not only the object but also a true expression of authentic gesture. The growing of facial hair in the context of the male hipster and as an indicator of values is integral to the case of the authentic gesture. The beard is a sign of masculinity, virility, and rebellion oscillating between high fashion, aristocracy and the unacceptable object of adornment throughout its history; often being viewed as unkempt, criminal, and savage. Many forms of employment still discourage the growing of facial hair and some even forbid it. The way the hipster interacts with employment and protests capitalism is directly linked to the growing of a beard, and rejecting any associations with the image of the savage, the hipster beard is carefully preened, or natural and always grown with pride. (See Illustrations 10. and 11.)
Pastiche and postiche are two terms difficult to separate from hipster culture. Pastiche being the emulation of style, a more sophisticated version of mimicry; and postiche being the art of donning a fake hair-piece, in this instance a “hipster beard” in order to invest in other people’s perception of your masculinity. The fetishization of the beard has become a highly popular trait of the male hipster. The beard itself signifies masculinity, ruggedness, a general disregard for authority, and an alignment with ideology that can be associated with a pre-modern way of living. This again references pre-industrialization in much the same way that the flânnoer or the Dandyesque hipster does. The beard also represents another facet of hipster subculture in that it exemplifies a rebellion against the mainstream as the fashions and social structures that determine the acceptability of facial hair change throughout the centuries. The beard however, can fall into the unfortunate category of postiche in the fight between poser and true hipster. Blogger Nicki Daniels vents her frustration through An Open Letter to Bearded Hipsters at the postiche-y nature of the “fashion beard” and how it is ruining her innate concept of “manliness”. She begins her letter with the following:
“Dear Bearded Hipsters,
YOU GUYS ARE RUINING MY BEARD FETISH. Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve loved a man with a beard. To me, they meant strength, power, MANLINESS. Someone who could protect me. Unfortunately, you guys have turned it into a fashion statement. The beard has turned into the padded bra of masculinity. Sure it looks sexy, but whatcha got under there? There’s a whole generation running around looking like lumberjacks, and most of you can’t change a fucking tire.”
Despite its sassy tone, this passage is actually extremely accurate in representing the discourse about perceived ideals of masculinity and co-opting of hipster style for the purposes of fashion, not ideology. This account is very telling of the social perception of the beard and its ability to imply the status of manliness and masculinity on its wearer. This poses an interesting question when considering what it is about the beard that implicates masculinity. Hairlessness on the face has been associated with immortality and divinity with a beard representing what it truly means to be man, to be mortal; to live and to die. Mailer’s hipster in his complex consciousness “has chosen to live with death” and so too has the contemporary hipster.
Inability to grow a beard reflects badly on man’s virility and masculinity and perhaps the art of postiche is the cure. The bizarre history of the postiche is documented through the inauthentic or more accurately fake collection of The Museum of Helsinki who in 2011 presented a selection of “famous” fake beards in an exhibition entitled The Postiche Collection by photographer Julian Wolkenstein. (See Illustrations 10., 11. And 12.)The editioned catalogue, which is the artwork itself, features both historical recounts of authentic postiche, worn by royalty, political figures, bandits, and religious men alike and is accompanied by a photographic series of meticulous “replicas”. The illusion is so powerful that even the most cynical of critics begins to contemplate the reality of a fabric beard used to insinuate masculinity. What is interesting about this invented quandary of our forebears is that they invoked postiche in order to maintain an air of masculinity that they themselves did not possess and therefore could not impress upon others, in short, the inability to produce facial hair. The postiche that Daniels is referring to in her open letter is much more complex, as these hipsters she is verbally dressing down for their trickery actually have the ability to grow a beard, which in itself aligns with hegemonic constructs of masculinity. These hipster beards that she refers to are postiche only in their inaccurate representation of the stereotypical image of the masculine man, and even then the connection is shaky as it is not at all implicative of a lacking virility.
As previously outlined, the image of the masculine is changing in the face of contemporary hipster culture and masculinity does not have to be defined by stereotypically manly traits such as slovenly behavior, unkempt body and facial hair, or a burly physique. Daniels states that she simply wants “a man who can keep (her) safe”, which causes me to wonder what a woman in her position could possibly need protection from? Perhaps the venomous online quips from the shadowy figures who inhabit the eerie, dark woodlands of the blogosphere? Sitting at their laptops, enslaved by the 160-character limit of their Twitter handle they wait until the female blogger lets her guard down, and with no burly, bearded woodsman to protect her, they strike! If anything, the bearded hipster with his social media savvy is far more equipped to protect her from her #onlinewoodlandnightmare than this imaginary figure of bearded masculinity that is associated with the growing of facial hair.
I would like to detail the story of G. Stanley Hall, a professor and psychologist who was not entirely comfortable with the “Victorian ideologies of self-restrained manliness” that were being perpetuated by civilized society at the turn of the century. His infamous likening of children to “savages” in an attempt to reclaim American manliness is a valuable contribution to the history of masculinity. Hall believed that returning to a “savage state” would in fact find “an antidote to…modern civilization in the ‘primitive’”; as if modern civilization is a problem that needs to be solved, a disease to be cured. Hall of course was dealing with a very different set of problems in his assessment of the era, however the hipster’s problem is no different at its root. In order to cure one’s ills of modern civilization gone awry, the hipster male must grow a beard.
Benjamin argues of the work of art that although the work of art itself may not be affected by reproduction, the “quality of its presence is always depreciated”. Challenging us to conceive of the subtle differences between reproduction and reactivation, the hipster aesthetic is a gesture of reincarnation and is more noble of intention than reproduction as it does not seek to copy or trick or devalue the thing, it seeks to advance the context of its original, thus maintaining its authenticity. It is the presence of the original, which serves as the prerequisite to its authenticity, where presence can be ideological, and based in values it does not have to be physical or even obvious in order to maintain this. The process, intention and gesture of authenticity as carried out by the hipster with his utopian ideology as the driving force, is how we can define authenticity in relation to hipsterism.
THE FEMININE: TECHNOLOGIES OF THE SELF
This section will explore the interaction between hipsterism and technology, more specifically, social media and the images and objects associated with a cultivation of identity by the female hipster through these platforms; the primary example of which is the selfie. This extends beyond the notion of the self-portrait to more abstract concepts of the medium to include images that don’t necessarily depict the subject, yet still contribute to the personal narrative of that subject such as documentation of food or the “food selfie”, places visited, friends, pets, and other social environments. In explaining this narrative, it is Benjamin’s “storyteller” who emerges as the protagonist and it is the selfie that reveals the creation of her “perfect narrative” through a careful crafting of layers. The female hipster selfie is an artisanal narrative, and as the teller (and listener) of these stories, the hipster on social media is the storyteller of contemporary society.
It may seem convenient to dismiss the selfie in all its forms as nothing more than vapid cultural commodity, however, the participatory nature of hipster culture approves the use of this medium and thus the selfie may be repurposed by hipsterism’s utopian ideology into a powerful feminist discourse. Where the romantic self-portrait is quizzical and knowing, the selfie is questioning, naïve, and hopeful for the future. This hopefulness is manifest through the interaction with a growing field of technology that is still in a state of flux and uncertainty, and a need to define both the individual, and more specifically the feminine in the context of hipsterism in an increasingly globalized social environment.
It has been established that hipsterism and globalism do not share the same goals, but what if the selfie and its counterpart, social media facilitate cultural exchange between the microcosmic societies in which hipsters live; allowing them to function in the style of globalized living without effecting their sustainability in a physical sense? The bar in Brooklyn can post food selfies of its latest cocktail, while hipsters in San Francisco show their appreciation via social media, without environmental impact.
It is unfortunate that social media, and consequently the selfie medium is a breeding ground for the poser, hipster and mainstream alike; which can make identification of a narrative of the hipster self as represented through social media difficult to decipher, as the poser exists only in the context of current fashion, and the selfie is certainly en vogue. The difference is identifiable not through the formal qualities of the selfie, as one thousand selfies, hipster or otherwise may appear to be identical. It is the authenticity of narrative, storytelling, and gesture that makes a selfie “hipster”.That is to say, it is not the exclusive privilege of the hipster selfie to act within this authentic narrative and there will inevitably be iconographic and stylistic crossover between hipster and mainstream selfie imagery. It is therefore the intention and the context of the selfie as part of a broader narrative that makes it hipster. The relationship to the poser as well as mainstream culture is important in the consideration of the female selfie, as the imagery associated with the feminine within the mainstream is underpinned by an overly sexualized and aesthetically dominant norm. The selfie medium within the mainstream is a strong representation of anti-feminist ideologies, which are not consistent with hipsterism. The female hipster therefore employs and appropriates the selfie in order to reclaim the feminine as individual, autonomous and powerful. As I have illustrated in the previous section, the ability of the female hipster to define herself solely through dress is diminished due to already highly ornamented fashion associated with the feminine throughout history. If the female hipster could just as easily be confused with the poser at any given moment, how then does she define her identity and thus her ideology? She must create a narrative that is broader than simply fashion, that is multifaceted and spans all interactions with hipster and mainstream culture. It is this narrative, pertaining to an individual presentation, cultivation and exploration of the feminine self that will be the investigation of this section. This section will illustrate what makes a selfie “hipster”, which will not necessarily exclude non-hipsters (or men for that matter) from this definition, but will nonetheless highlight the traits and symbols that identify the use of the medium as hipster in the context of the feminine.
Cultivation of the Selfie
With the prevalence of smartphones increasing exponentially over the past five years, adoption of the selfie medium has occurred ad nauseum. In order to establish the intricacies of the selfie medium it must be determined what the selfie is used for by the hipster female and thus more broadly by the mainstream female. A selfie is a self-portrait photograph taken by the subject of the subject, utilizing a hand-held electronic device, be it a camera or more commonly a smartphone; the 21st century incarnation of the self-portrait. This image most commonly manifests as a close up image of the subject’s face, but can sometimes include a partial body shot depending on the angle and intention of the subject. The mainstream selfie commonly features an extreme close up of the subject’s face with very little depth of field or context, where the hipster selfie will often include more information within the frame and additional information about time and place in comments or hashtags. These images will inevitably be uploaded onto various social media platforms, most commonly Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr making aesthetics and conviviality the key factors in creation of these objects. However, it is not merely the visual aesthetics that are important here; the aesthetics of life, mirrored through a performance and cultivation of the self is what is being presented and shared through the use of selfies and their circulation on social media. It is important to remember in considering the selfie that the idea of constructing the self through portraiture is certainly not a new concept. The self-portrait dates back to the 15th century and has long associations with interest in the self, and a more individualistic social focus. Given the individualistic narrative that exists in Western culture, the proliferation of the selfie in this century is surely not surprising: it may, however, come as a surprise that such a practice which has been so widely adopted by the mainstream has also been adopted by the hipster. However, it is the female selfie that is in protest of the mainstream as reclamation of feminine identity. Artists have long invoked the self-portrait medium in order to explore or illustrate the self through their own viewpoint and the prevalence of the hipster selfiesince the advent of the smartphone represents an artistic performance of life that can be directly associated with the relationship between the hipster and the archetypal artist, as illustrated previously.
Roland Barthes lamented that it is “the image which is heavy, motionless (and) stubborn” that fails to “coincide” with the “profound self”, which is “light, divided (and) dispersed”, however the snapshot image – the selfie – is in fact “light”. The selfie dances with the same weightless agility as Barthes’ profound self. It is this ability to represent the feminine self as fluid, wild, and shifting that makes the selfie a significant illustration of hipster ideology, manifest through emergent technologies and practices. The female hipster is not concerned with conforming to the stereotype of the eroticized and objectified female. She represents herself as an individual, separate to femininity yet still acts in celebration of it through the use of the selfie. This notion of the profound and individual self is connected to Michel Foucault’s description of the cultivation of the self as described in his analysis of philosophical thought and its pedagogy in ancient Greece. This everyday cultivation of the self bears direct resemblance to the way in which the hipster, like the artist, cultivates their identity through an exploration of the self and the selfie medium as a side effect of its relationship to self-portraiture; Which has been representative of women’s exploration of their individualism in parallel to society as a whole throughout history. The immediacy of this medium seduces both subject and audience into the illusion of a simplistic and un-tainted representation of lived experience of an exact moment in time, as much photography has throughout history. However, the ability to manipulate images, determine when and where they will appear, and the optional addition of text means that the selfie resides within the realm of a cultivated experience which contributes to a greater narrative of the self beyond the formal qualities of the selfie image.
The main casualty of the complexity of the selfie is that “the part” of the self within the narrative “is acted not for an audience but for a mechanical contrivance”, meaning that the interaction between subject and audience only begins to occur once these images are uploaded onto social media. Thus the selfie is arguably only a selfie once it has been uploaded onto these platforms, and it is its place within this context that contributes to the cultivation of the self by the hipster. This means that the moment in which the image was captured is important to the individual, and important in the context of the narrative but only important to the audience’s understanding of the subject as one piece of the whole story. This interaction between the individual and their audience, which as Benjamin would suggest “permits the audience to take the position of a critic, without experiencing any personal contact”  with the subject, creates an environment where the entire context surrounding the selfie must be taken into account. The selfie cannot be separated into sections: object, image, subject, context, content, time, or place. What the selfie actually represents is the personal narrative, or story that the subject wishes to convey, making the object in this instance obsolete without all of those contributing factors. The mainstream selfie however, wishes to maintain the value of the selfie as solitary object and thus relies solely on the fact that context is divorced from the image. Additionally, the selfie that exists only in the image library of the smartphone is in fact, not a selfie, or perhaps only a selfie-in-waiting. (See Illustration 15., 16. and 17.)
As is evident through a visual comparison of these two selfies, (See Illustrations 18. and 19.) which in fact share many formal qualities, the difference in intention is clear and consciously employed by both parties. The hipster selfie displays a narrative of the self through creation of narrative context that is represented through all aspects of the medium. This context is created through visual imagery as indicators of time and place as well as narrative text and hashtags that determine the purpose and time frame of the selfie and the portion of the narrative of the self to which it aligns. You can clearly see objects in the photograph other than just the face; the picture on the wall and books on the shelf are indicative of personal context. The composition of the image and facial expression lead you to believe that there may be more to the narrative of the individual than simply “good looks” and the comments and hashtags give context and even purpose for posting this image in the first place. What can be gained from piecing these things together into the story of the female hipster is what is at the basic foundation of storytelling: who, what, when, where, why. The mainstream selfie however, simply shows an aesthetic representation, one that is pleasing to the mainstream construction of what it is to look attractive, that gives little insight into the individual. She is wearing make-up where the hipster is not, and is posing in a way that is consistent with mainstream constructions of the feminine, but the feminine. This facial expression is commonly referred to as “duck face”. We have developed a behavior in this century that relies dominantly on the privilege of observation and consequently we have learnt to “see ourselves photographically: to regard oneself as attractive is, precisely, to judge that one would look good in a photograph.” In this instance, the mainstream selfie is only for the purpose of vanity, displaying that she does in fact look attractive, by mainstream definition, which does not contribute to any narrative of the self, other than that which is defined by the broader social norm. The female hipster selfie challenges this notion of “looking good” in order to establish a dialogue between the feminine and their audience. Which of course does not mean that she looks “bad” but is more powerful in the creation of a relationship between hipster ideology and employing of this medium for the purpose of Utopianism.
What is created here is an interesting relationship between authorship and audience. Once the hipster enters this realm of social media, they utilize this technology to detail the narrative of their personality, physical self, and journey through everyday life. In the same way that Foucault suggests that caring for the self through cultivation of our whole self; mind, body, soul, is the only way to achieve a true knowledge of the self, the way in which the female hipster interacts with the selfie medium is directly related to establishing a grasp of the whole self and thus a presentation of this self to a greater audience. Cultivation of the whole self through the creation of the selfie narrative; which incorporates much more than simply the aesthetics and vanity associated with the mainstream selfie; but time, place, individuality, femininity, life events, and personality which is integral to hipster ideology. This cultivation of the self through the use of social media creates an outlet for individuals to connect with an audience, which “tends little by little to transform this…into a shared experience, from which each derives a benefit”. This relationship between audience and individual is important in the context of contemporary society as the hipster seeks to work towards a greater social balance, particularly in the case of deconstructing heteronormative ideologies within the mainstream. Dewey suggests in reference to the nature of experience that “the scope and content of the relations measure the significant content of an experience” which means that the experience had is directly related to the level on which these relations between author and audience occur. If there is no scope and no relevant content, the experience will not exist for either party.
To approach social media and the experiences it creates for both author and audience from a philosophical stance, the cultivation of the self through the selfie is a 21st century enlightenment of the self as a concept. Hipsters are reinventing the way we think about the feminine; hipster notions of visual representation of the feminine, form part of a larger discourse through social media and the interaction with the self in the private and public space. Facebook and Instagram are the catalysts for a cultivation of the self in the contemporary social site, with the hipster as their promoter, and although Foucault suggests that the “golden age” for the “development of the art of living” has passed, it would seem that Facebook and Instagram have inspired a resurgence in this field; a kind of renaissance for the cultivation of the self. This is not strictly limited to representations of the physical self, but as an all-encompassing narrative of the self. A performance of life that can be documented through the female hipster selfie on social media platforms. As we grow into a globalized age, the hipster interaction with the selfie is hopeful, yet cautiously aware of its engagement with the mainstream.
Food selfies: The Hipster Still Life
Facebook and Instagram are the primary medium for perpetuation of the relationships between audience and a performance or narrative of the self in the context of hipsters’ interaction with social media. There is a popular notion that if its not on Instagram it didn’t happen, which is perpetuated by hashtags such as #picsoritdidnthappen or #instagramoritdidnthappen. (See Illustration 20.)
As Sontag suggests of photography’s role in this dilemma, “it is common for those who have glimpsed something beautiful to express regret at not having been able to photograph it” which may be a simplistic way of illustrating the emotional attachment to the selfie. However, she goes on to say that “so successful has been the camera’s role in beautifying the world that photographs, rather than the world, have become the standard of the beautiful”, which interestingly demonstrates the value of capturing significant moments through the selfie medium. It is this standard however, which has been defined by the mainstream. The hipster seeks to counter this standard through subversion of the medium in order to illustrate the relevance of hipstercentric notions of “the beautiful”. Perhaps the beauty of a person, an object, a sunset, a sandwich, a moment in time, or a place was fleeting and it is the capturing of that experience which is beautiful, rather than the thing itself and therefore is the most authentic representation of that thing, thus the object that is left behind; the image, (See Illustration 21.) supersedes the lived experience as the artifact of its narrative, not simply as a representational tool.
It may be easy to dismiss the creation of this image as a mere piece in a grander narrative, however the trace that remains in this nomadic culture of the snapshot image is a kind of storytelling that cannot be de-valued especially in the context of Benjamin’s suggestion that the “ability to exchange experiences” has been lost. Despite his pessimism about the decay of the verbal narrative, Benjamin sees hope in recognizing the “beauty in what is vanishing” which in this instance can be attributed to the growth of technologies that support a new kind of storytelling through “an orientation toward practical interests” and the dissemination of counsel or wisdom to an audience, which is how Benjamin defines the role of the “real story”. He laments the advent of the novel as supporting the creation of the “solitary individual” which some have argued is in fact one of the casualties of social media, however, the use of selfies in fact opposes this notion as what may seem like an act of solitary, in actuality tells a story to an audience which has no ending, is open to multiple interpretations and retellings, the possibility of change, perspective and all the positive associations that Benjamin attributes to the value of the story and the storyteller.
“A man listening to a story is in the company of the storyteller; even a man reading one shares this companionship. The reader of a novel, however, is isolated, more so than any other reader.”
It is unfortunate that the woman has been so poorly represented throughout the historical recount of the story. The selfie however offers an interjection into the writing of current history from the perspective of the female in equal or perhaps higher representation than the male through this medium. The selfie is at once novel and story as the companionship that is fostered by the combined closeness and solitary that is involved with the entire process of the selfie is what makes this medium remarkable in the historical advancement of cultural storytelling. This medium provides a solution to a problem which has existed since the advent of the novel; this generation has returned to a more fluid and amateur desire and appreciation for the story and hence the value of the storyteller has risen through social media. Without the complication and finality of the novel and its associations with facing our own mortality, something that the hipster has already to deal with on a daily basis, the selfie provides an outlet for simple storytelling across a platform that is suited to the pressures, in particular those pertaining to a lack of “free time” associated with contemporary living. We lack the time to sit and share stories with each other so we have created and utilized a way of communicating directly to one another without the growing inconvenience of physical presence.
The use of the food selfie, or hipster still life as perhaps a more appropriate title, contributes to the dialogue of the selfie as a medium and the hipster desire to render all people equal, as Norman Bryson suggests; “even the great” must eat and within the representation of food through still life “there is a leveling of humanity, a humbling aspiration before an irreducible fact of life, hunger.” This leveling of humanity can also be attributed to the desire to return to a simplified way of living, which includes gender equality, with the hipster still life contributing to the dissemination of knowledge about hipster life in general. As has previously been alluded to, it is not the underground that is obsessively pursued by the hipster, as we all are aware, social media is hardly a subversive tool; however it is the hipster interaction with this tool that makes it noteworthy. The intention behind the interaction with this medium is divorced from the banal nature of simply documenting one’s mealtime. The hipster uses this medium to distort the lack of attention given to commonplace items, such as food, and allows the viewer to interact with these objects as if they hold the same value as the Mona Lisa, Eiffel Tower, or any other item of cultural significance. This of course raises the question of why they should or should not be held in the same “high” esteem as such objects of fiscal and cultural wealth, for food is what allows us to live, to continue living and despite its cultural interventions over the past three centuries, is what makes us human. Raising the status of food in our society to an object, not simply a necessity of life actually illustrates this grounding truth about the life giving qualities of food and the importance of these qualities to the everyday life of the hipster.
Bryson discusses the notion of a “reality turned into theatre” where images of food are taken beyond their natural purpose and into the realm of social status, wealth, and representation. One might argue that all instances of food, photographed or otherwise in the Western world move beyond purpose and into a realm of theatre. It is however this theatre that separates the banality of necessity and transforms it into the spectacle of human existence, the performance of life. The hipster still life speaks to “overcoming necessity through cultural organization, refinement, and symbolic play” and invites a reading of hipster interventions in social media that reinstate it as form of philosophical exploration rather than just a place to brag about what restaurants you eat at.
These new and evolving practices of communicating and cultivating both feminine identity and self, play an integral role in reconceiving the way in which we consider the object. When captured on personal media it is easy to reduce the selfie to simply an image of an object, or a representation of beauty through its mainstream construction, however it is increasingly necessary as we move this image of an object onto a social media platform to contemplate this image as an object in itself, an object, which is now part of a greater narrative of the self. This continuation of the personal dialogue illustrated by the selfie medium creates new meaning for the authenticity of the experience and consequently fosters a relationship between user and audience that is grounded in hipster ideology. If the selfie has now become the object to be coveted, it is once again the role of the gesture that gives this medium such weight. The gesture of the act, the object and its artefact, the new object; the selfie as it appears on social media are now all bound together as an authentic experience as you cannot divorce the elements that make up this story from one another. The selfie not only represents the immediacy of technology and its place in the 21st century but the relevance of this technology to the female hipster. The interaction between user and technology within the social media landscape, inhabited by both hipster and mainstream culture is integral to understanding the importance of both a performance and “cultivation of the self”. Thus the experience and performance of life is altered accordingly to incorporate these emergent practices of cultural and technological trends, adopted and nurtured by the hipster, creating a symbiotic relationship between a re-creation of the past and shaping of the future, which is of course commensurate with the creation of utopia within hipster culture. In order to protect their ideological viewpoint for the individual, yet maintain a sustainable outlook within micro communities world-wide, it is necessary to interact in the technologies of the self – social media – in order to “leave no trace” in the physical sense, yet maintain an individual footprint in the medium of this century; technology.
The hipster is a reactionary entity, like Mailer’s White Negro. The contemporary hipster is borne out of a need to differentiate oneself from the mainstream through formation of a complex social identity. This identity is physical, philosophical, virtual, technological, ideological and above all, utopian. The utopian goals of the hipster and consequently of hipsterism, are that of a hopefulness for the future and an active participation in realising this future as a physical space through social and cultural intervention. This is achieved by nurturing of small-scale living within microcosmic social spaces such as Williamsburg through the re-embracing of craft values and artisanal production generally, which is key to defining hipster ideology. In addition to this, hipsterism defies mainstream constructions of political hegemony, capitalism, work, living spaces, and communication practices making it one of the most successfully integrated but still “sub” subcultures of our time.
The importance of authenticity as defined by the authentic gesture is instrumental in the hipster’s selection of and interaction with objects that form the basis of this subculture both in their ideologies and the mainstream construction of rhetoric, which surrounds this culture. Despite the cynicism from the mainstream regarding the unoriginality and inauthenticity of a remixed aesthetic, the hipster proceeds in a quest for utopia. The hipster fetishizes the everyday object and reactivates selected objects from past subcultures in order to mark their relevance to contemporary culture and signify a way of living that is sustainable, both physically and philosophically. The key objects that have been illustrated throughout this dissertation are indicative of the way in which hipsters interact with the nostalgia of the past with the immediacy of the present, and the promise of the future. The flanno, the nose ring, and the beard are reincarnations of past objects of protest, participation, utilitarianism, and utopianism that are engaged with by the hipster in order to reactivate these objects and give voice to their meaning throughout history. This meaning manifests not only as style, or fashion, but as ideology and social practice in the context of hipsterism and its parallel to the mainstream. This means that notions of fashion and ideology within the hipster philosophy are not mutually exclusive but also cannot be definitively separated. Consequently, the importance of fashion within hipsterism is measured by its ideology and cannot be diminished by mainstream accusations of pageantry, ironic justification or the unoriginal.
A combination of nostalgia for the past and an embracing of the future through technologies of the self, such as the selfie defines hipster ideology. The strong involvement of technology in the hipster subculture is a result of the yearning for the promise of the future that can be associated with hipster utopianism. Hipsters embrace technology, in particular social media and surrounding practices such as the selfie in order to tell stories and as a medium for the cultivation of feminine identity. The female hipster’s support for this medium is in alignment with hipster ideologies that are in direct opposition to negative, stereotypical, mainstream constructions of the feminine.
Hipsters renounce globalism, and through a relationship between both modernist and post-modernist ideology achieve an existence defined by interaction with both mainstream and hipster culture, rooted in the exploration of individual and collective identity. The complexity of the relationship between fashion and ideology within hipsterism is exemplified by the interactions between dress, work, identity, constructions of gender, and is grounded in tribalism, historical representation and authenticity of gesture and intentional selection of objects for a cultivation of identity. The hipster is complex, he is not the poser, she is not the poser; they are collectively a representation of an ideology that strives for a Utopia.
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 In his account of Phillip K. Dick’s novel, Time Out of Joint
 Norman Mailer. “The White Negro” in The Beat Generation and Angry Young Men. Ed Gene Feldman and Max Gartenberg. (New York: Citadel Press, 1984), 342.
 Mailer, “The White Negro,” 343-344.
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 Johnathon Rosenburg. How far the Promised Land? (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2006), 157.
 Rosenburg, How Far The Promised Land?, 163.
 Mailer, “The White Negro,” 344.
 Ibid., 347.
 Ibid., 347.
 Ibid., 346.
 Portlandia and Bondi Hipsters are both hit TV series based around mocking of hipster life and practice with Portlandia focusing on Portland, Orgeon and Bondi Hipsters focusing on Bondi, Sydney.
 Mailer, “The White Negro,” 343.
 Karl Marx et al. The Communist Manifesto. (New York: Sentry Press, 1963), 28
 Michel Foucault. The History of Sexuality Vol 3: The Care of the Self. (New York: Panthenon Books, 1986).
 Mailer, “The White Negro,” 344
 Neil Howe and William Strauss. Millenials Rising: The Next Great Generation. (New York: Vintage Books, 2000), 4
 Dewey, John. Art as Experience. (New York: Capricorn Books, 1958), 35
Dick Hebdidge. Subculture: The Meaning of Style. (London: Routledge, 1987), 27
 Charles Baudelaire. “The Painter of Modern Life”. In The Painter of Modern Life and Other Essays. (London: Phaidon Press, 1964), 1.
 Mailer, “The White Negro,” 348
 Frederic Jameson. Postmodernism, or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism. (Durham: Duke University Press, 1991), 4
 Christian Lorentzen. “Why the Hipster Must Die”. In Time Out New York. May 30, 2007. (Last Modified: March 28, 2014) http://www.timeout.com/newyork/things-to-do/why-the-hipster-must-die
 Sid Vicous, the bass player from the Sex Pistols carved the words “Gimme a fix” into his chest during their US tour in 1978 and appeared on stage with this open wound much to the shock and punk delight of his band members and adoring fans.
 Oxford English dictionary
 Benjamin, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction”, 215
 Jameson, Postmodernism, 307
 Contrary to popular reference that the hipster life is that of exclusion and elitism.
 Mailer, The White Negro, 348.
 Walter Benjamin. Charles Baudelaire: A Lyric Poet in the Era of High Capitalism. (London: Verso, 1983), 54
 Such as the nose ring and general association of body piercing with punk
 Charles Baudelaire, “The Painter of Modern Life,” 5.
 Ibid., 9.
 Roland Barthes. The Language of Fashion. (Sydney: Power Publications, 2006), 67.
 Barthes, The Language of Fashion, 60.
 Migration of piercings is common when the body rejects the metal that is used to maintain the pierced hole. When migration occurs, the hole droops and stretches beyond the original site and often causes the wearer to remove the piercing entirely.
 Barthes, The Language of Fashion, 62.
 Barthes, The Language of Fashion, 63.
 Lorentzen, Why the Hipster Must Die, 2007.
 Jameson. Postmodernism, 156.
 Marx, The Communist Manifesto, 30.
 The hipster beard is not actually fake, however it is commonly represented in popular culture and mainstream media that hipsters are deceitful in their growing of facial hair as they lack traits canonically associated with masculinity. This is often reduced to accusations about their small, “frail” builds.
 Nicki Daniels. An Open Letter to Bearded Hipsters. (Last Modified January 6, 2014) http://nickidaniels.com/2014/01/06/beardedhipsters/
 Mailer, “The White Negro,” 347
 Gail Bedermann. Manliness and Civilization: A Cultural History of Gender and Race in the United States, 1880-1917. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995), 78
 Benjamin, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction”, 215
 Walter Benjamin. “The Storyteller: Reflections on the Works of Nikolai Leskov.” In Illuminations. Ed Hannah Arendt. (London: Fontana Press, 1992), 92
 Roland Barthes. Camera Lucida. (London: Vintage, 2000), 12.
 Michel Foucault. The History of Sexuality Vol 3: The Care of the Self. (New York, Panthenon Books, 1986)
 Benjamin, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction”, 222.
 Susan Sontag. On Photography. (New York: Penguin, 1977), 85.
 Foucault, The History of Sexuality Vol 3, 53.
 Dewey. Art as Experience, 44.
 Foucault. The History of Sexuality Vol 3, 45.
 Sontag, On Photography, 85.
 Benjamin, “The Storyteller”, 83.
 Benjamin, “The Storyteller”, 86.
 Sherry Turkle has been instrumental in the conversation surrounding solitary practice and social media. See Sherry Turkle. Alone Together: Why we expect more from technology and less from each other. New York: Basic Books, 2001.
 Benjamin, “The Storyteller”, 99.
 Norman Bryson. Looking at the Overlooked: Four Essays on Still Life Painting. (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1990), 61.
 Bryson, Looking at the Overlooked, 62.
 Bryson, Looking at the Overlooked, 63.
 Foucault, The History of Sexuality Vol 3, 42.