Hipster or Hobo
Words – Kate Forsyth
Photos – J Forsyth
Hipster please – an exposé no Driz-A-bone, tattoo, skinny jean or anorak should miss
Surely you noticed it was Loreal Melbourne Fashion Festival just last week (LMFF)? Melbourne was littered with people going to events to see fashion and be seen in fashion. Patrons sported curated outfits bordering on fancy dress, with no nod to weather conditions and little chance of that outfit ever being worn in totality again. Generally, the effect these marauding fashion packs have on me is to decide to take a scorched earth policy toward my wardrobe and start all over again.
I didn’t attend any events, but in true expose style, that shall not stop me. After all, I live in Melbourne, I wear clothes daily, and I’ve been style blogged twice*. This makes me an expert. Also, if I were to call up talk back radio, I could quickly be considered a ‘fashion expert’ just by saying I am. After all, talk back radio so often covers the big fashion issues, such as what Julia Gillard is wearing and whether it’s her choice of jacket or her hair do that is her biggest failing as Prime Minister, and the obvious catalyst for Australia’s imminent decline.
While I did not attend LMFF, I did observe groups of young women fashioning the shit out of the latest fluoro pant, bun and sequin combos in pursuit of LMFF glory. And what a sight! Melbourne is a great city to live in if you love fashion. Even in non-fashion-event weeks, you’ll encounter endless streams of fabulously dressed people, most abundantly found in the city and inner suburbs.
Don’t shoot the messenger, but there exists a correlation between increasing distance from the city and how poorly outfitted people are. A line graph would perfectly illustrate this statement, however due to Melbourne Arts Club being an arts and photography blog, it’s a sackable offense to include charts, graphs or spreadsheets of any kind.
In lieu of a graph, please accept a text from my father to corroborate this hypothesis: “I’m about 70km north of Melbourne getting petrol. EVERYONE here has a mullet. Why does everyone here have a mullet? INCLUDING AN INFANT. It’s Dad here”.
And while fabulously dressed, fashion forward folks litter inner city streets, there’s a group who are also defined by their threads (plus their choice of music, art, café and bicycle) who are DIVIDING THE NATION!
HIPSTERS. And no, I am not talking about that el-cheapo retail store found at the souvenir end of Swanston Street, and selected suburban malls near you. You know the store – featuring loads of polyester and dresses for chicks trying to dress like Mischa Barton in her heyday, but coming off more like your mum in the eighties.
I’m talking about the yuppies of today –the much maligned hipsters. You know the ones. They make your coffee and man the boutiques. They’re at art openings and seeing bands – you can often spot them by their beards and buns, but most easily, it’s their intense look of nonchalance that stands them apart.
Fashion-wise, hipsters have moved through preppy, retro, rock n’ roll, vintage, lumber jack and country get ups. Many would say the hipsters’ defining characteristic is their compulsive need to have, be or do something that no one else owns, is or does. You know that old joke: how many hipsters does it take to change a light bulb? Um, it’s like a really obscure number. You probably haven’t heard of it.
So as the hipster fashion pendulum swings, you see more and more obscurity walking down a graffiti covered laneway near you, to a bar that has no name nor sign, to consume a beverage that your nanna used to drink, but in an awfully ironic fashion. What am I getting at? Well there’s only so many vintage sweaters you can acquire while you were in Portland on your way to a summer music festival in San Fran. Looking like you rolled in superglue then jumped in a Brotherhood bin no longer cuts it. To remain a hipster, you must innovate. You must move forward. You must find obscurity and make it look effortless. This is art of the Hipster Execution Strategy – wearing something truly crap but looking cool in spite of it. I mean, how the heck do you think Driz-a-bone jackets and Rossi boots made their way onto a hipster near you? Anorak parkers? Ankle skinning pants on fellas? Giant glasses? Ned Kelly facial hair? You gotta keep it moving to keep it hip.
But have these hip young people gone too far?
For instance, a friend once complimented a dude at a bus stop on his excellent vintage jumper, only to find he was homeless rather than hipster, and that sweet sweater was either a) the last thing he ever purchased in 1987 from Fosseys or Venture before becoming a street person, or b) the most recent thing he got from the op shop and the only thing he owns.
Another pal who has quite the penchant for Ned Kelly facial hair believes it’s a minefield nowadays: “You’ve got to be so careful. One minute you’re quietly checking out that dude with the very long beard and curly locks, the next you’re catching a wiff and a getting a closer look. You’ve accidently eyed off a hobo.”
Sometimes, large groups of hobo hipsters congregate in a bid to frighten old people and provide talk back radio shock jocks with vitriolic material about the ‘youth of today’. One could be forgiven, for instance, for thinking they’d come across a hobo convention at West Brunswick’s Gillon Oval when Pub Footy is on every few Sundays in winter.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics reports that 97% of Pub Footy attendees – lady or gent – wear farm coats, tight jeans, a flanno or equivalent, boots, and accent this look with a hobo’s best friend; a mutt wearing a bandana. ALL the men have long beards and most have straggly long hair. Hairy men with dogs can also be found on a street corner near you, asking for your spare change or shouting, ‘BIG ISSUE’.
Turns out I am not the first exposer to uncover this terrible truth. Straggly hair, outta control beards with farm jackets and faded jeans have been outed by the internet.
“Hipster or hobo”, says The Internet.
“Who bloody knows?” says I (and others on The Internet).
But perhaps this is entirely the point. The hipster pendulum has swung so far that the level to which one must be obscure to be a true hipster is to emulate the look of the desperate, lonely, addicted, afflicted and ill people who find themselves homeless or similar.
And not to be a hipster basher, as really that’s so mainstream (see: Dads are the original hipsters; Look at this fucking hipster; Portlandia ), but please let this be the final iteration; the furthest the pendulum can swing before beginning again.
Otherwise, what’s next? Tranny hipster? Hooker hipster? Zombie hipster? Surely not the latter, since zombie is strictly the domain of the goths and the emos, who we all know are defined by how much they weigh. Overweight? Become a goth. Runty? Emo it is!
But would the hipsters and the goths and the emos go to war over zombie-chic ownership? Doubtful, due to the combined nonchalance, lack of confidence and emotional toll it would take on these groups. If anyone’s gonna fight back when they get fashion-jacked, it’ll be the hookers.
A former colleague once overheard a fight between two St Kilda street lady persons on her way home from work. One was berating the other for her alleged anti-competitive oral sex pricing structure: “Fifty bucks is not enough for a blow job. Really, you’re doing a disservice to us all and I’m tellin’ ya, you’ve gotta stop it. You’ve gotta charge more cos its makin’ the rest of us look bad.” The hookers stand up for what’s theirs.
Perhaps, if The Sartorialist features a ‘street walker’**, it could start the next wave of hipster madness. After all, the internet alleges that it was The Sartorialist who posted a shot of a hobo looking good back in ’09 that started this folly. I can’t corroborate this fact, courtesy also of the internet and its most annoying feature ‘error 404; page not found’. But since I choose to believe all the things The Internet tells me, let’s blame Mr Sartorial for the current crisis of women erroneously engaging with men at bus stops, and accidently eyeing hobos instead of hotties. Good day.
*I was twice style blogged when I lived in Vancouver. Vancouver’s idea of fashion is wearing Lulu Lemon sports pants and Uggs to the office. My mum could have gotten style blogged in Vancouver. Therefore it doesn’t count.
** I searched for hooker; so far nothing.