Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Village Vanguard, the Roots of all Hipster

When exploring social history, I like to look at its relation to fashion. Who were the people setting trends and revolutionizing the culture? So I decided to look into the origins of Hipster. You know, that sub-culture that has always been about revolting against society, being strongly-associated with a particular look, and has even spawned sites like Look at this fucking hipster. I guess you can say I have this fascination with it.

The late 1940's-1950's was a time when being prudent and politically correct were the right things to be. This was the generation where hipster began.The emergence of a group of writers and artists, called the Beats, brought about a different ideology. Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg wrote about spontaneity and breaking the repressions of society. Their Beat poetry evolved from improvised spoken word and the musical nuances of jazz, highly influenced by the likes of Dizzy Gillespie and Miles Davis. The poetry gatherings would take place at coffeehouses around NYC, mainly the Village Vanguard. They explored the existentialist themes that were revived by Sartre and Albert Camus. As Sartre put it, "man can will nothing unless he has first understood that he must count no one but himself; that he is alone." And why wouldn't their philosophy make sense during a post-war time? After all, the word existence derives from the Latin word existere, meaning "to stand out". And this is what hipster culture is about. 

With this movement, the world of fashion began to take note and inspiration from the Beat style - dark clothing, berets, horn-rimmed glasses, turtlenecks, white under-shirts and faded jeans. It was the era of the cool cats and chicks. James Dean and Marlon Brando embodied the 'rebel without a cause' style. For women, it was a very androgynous way of dressing; a wardrobe consisting of slacks, oversized sweaters, men's shirting, blazers, leggings and ballet flats. Fashion it-girls of the era - Audrey Hepburn, Twiggy and Edie - all embraced this hipster look. As creative director of Dior at the time, Yves Saint Laurent showed a collection in 1960 based on Beat style, which drastically revolutionized the post-war "New Look" dresses.

Transition to the Beat Generation 
Song: Blue in Green by Mile Davis

With new hipster icons like Zooey Deschanel, new stomping grounds like Brooklyn, and even skinny jeans for guys (eh, New Boyz), the hipster look has since evolved. However it still stays true to its rebellious roots of finding your own voice and style within an overbearing mass society. After all, you stand alone and you were born to stand out.