Probably a combination of a successful day at work and the after-work drinks left Emily and I in high spirits last week, so while the night was still young, we decided to act on a tiny tip-off in TimeOut magazine: a new streetwear shop was throwing an opening party in Shoreditch that evening. We may have only been working here for a month, but we’re quickly learning the beauty of Stellar’s East London positioning on Appold Street. With Spitalfields market five minute’s walk away and Old Street another five in the other direction, you are never far from the Shoreditch action.
Let me first take a moment to talk about Shoreditch. London’s home of cool, a hipster heaven and unfortunately the latest area to be hit by gentrification and ‘cultural cleansing’. It’s part of a classic cycle: a neglected inner city neighbourhood becomes colonised by artists, causing the cafe culture to boom. Then big business take an interest and to move into the area, forcing up the rent and forcing out the artists that popularised it in the first place. This cycle is happening to Shoreditch right now; but we’re fortunate enough that there are still cool places popping up, and staying here, clinging on to the attractive original culture, at least until somewhere else takes up the mantle.
The artists, musicians and creators that populate these places (Shoreditch in particular) commonly are referred to as hipsters - though they would never identify by this term. It’s like the first rule of Fight Club, and labelling yourself as a hipster would go against what they stand for: non-conformism. Hipsters will go out of their way to go against what is popular, commonly agreed upon or accepted. They will listen to music you’ve never heard of, rejecting it as soon as it becomes mainstream, and hang out in coffee shops that they’ve probably worked at at some point in their lives. Traditionally their look and attire consisted of flannel shirts, Converse/Toms, skinny jeans and beards. They soon realised that to continue looking like this would cause them to be a cliché of their own selves (ironic I know) and so of late there has been a move to fisherman beanies, dungarees, shaved heads, ugly trainers and trousers turned up at the bottom that were already far too short for them. But here’s the real irony of this whole situation: I shouldn’t be able to categorise them by putting them into these boxes just described; and in doing so disproves their whole purpose of non-conformism. Dressing and looking a certain way to fit in, even if it is to fit into this ‘hipster’ movement is conforming and thus the premise really becomes a joke. This being the case, it’s still quite a fascinating movement to follow.
This now links to the quite amusing part of our evening. We arrive at the streetwear shop situated on Redchurch Street. It’s called SCRT - if you haven’t heard of it, they probably prefer it that way - don’t worry we hadn’t. We’re greeted by chock-a-block little little outlet with loud indie house music and plenty of beers (craft of course). It was the perfect house party set-up, and they liked it that way - a retro games console, vintage rugs, printed posters with ‘independent thought’ in type completes the picture.
After grabbing a beer and moving over to the DJ booth Emily and I quickly realised we were out of our depth - the place was full of hipsters. Thinking on our feet we decided to make some quick costume changes with what we were already wearing and what was in our bags from work. We took off our coats, I pulled out my beanie and perched it high on my head and luckily I was wearing a cardigan which could be mistaken for a dressing gown, so I fastened its knitted belt that ties at the front - the hipsters would love that! Or so I thought.
It worked. Or at least it seemed - Emily was vibing out to the tunes and within five minutes of the change I was venturing over to the other side of the shop when I was pulled aside by a guy dressed exactly as described earlier on, “Man d’you mind holding your beer and getting in this photo?” Sure! Whether it was ironic or simply to take the mick I will never know, but the guy seemed pleased with his shot and I walked away having learnt something. Despite their flaws, hipsters are a movement that you can either fully engage with, laugh at from the sideline, or simply follow from arm’s-length. I’d probably put myself somewhere in that latter category and as long as you know the score, are aware of their pitfalls and maybe keep them on face value without going too deep… they can be quite an entertaining bunch.