Monday, 30 June 2014

The Two Faces of January Costume Design.

 Kirsten's Marriage Made In Vintage Heaven
23 May 2014

THEY say diamonds are a girl's best friend, but for an actress trying to get into a role, her best friend on set is often the costume designer. Kirsten Dunst was paired with Stephen Noble (responsible for the costumes in everything from Wuthering Heights to Trainspotting) for new movie The Two Faces of January - set predominantly in Greece in 1962 - and it was a marriage made in vintage heaven.

"It was a joy to work with all three actors, but I really bonded especially well with Kirsten in our first costume fitting at Elstree Studios," Noble told us. "I called in vintage clothes from around the world and made the fitting room look like a vintage Aladdin's cave, and we spent many hours trying on shapes and silhouettes and choosing fabrics. Most actors do have an input as well as the director as to how they see their character and they develop this over the prep time, and this of course includes discussions with me about what they think their character would and wouldn't wear."

"Stephen is meticulous, but it's also very effortless," Dunst said. "He's very good at making it not look costumey. It's a marriage between the costume designer and the actor getting it right together, because you know things about your body that they might not know right away, or colours that might look better. I love doing period films, I really do. It's just so much prettier! Especially in this movie, I feel like the wardrobe helped shape the character. I had this little wiggle because of the skirts."

The film's costumes - worn by the three leads: Dunst, Viggo Mortensen and Oscar Issac, as well as newcomer Daisy Bevan - feel authentic without in any way pulling focus, creating a backdrop to a film that doesn't just look like it's set in 1962, but is set in 1962: a feat that was not as effortless as it appears.

"I looked at films like La Dolce Vita, Plein Soleil, The Roman Spring of Mrs Stone, A Bout de Souffle and many other iconic films of the decade," Noble said. "Also, original ciné films of tourists on holiday and original fashion magazines of the era such as Vogue. Jean Seberg and Alain Delon were an inspiration. The designers I took inspiration from were Dior, Chanel, Nina Ricci, Lanvin, Pucci to name but a few. The clothes for the three main characters were all bespoke and the remaining 3,000 cast were a mixture of bespoke and vintage - either bought or hired from costume houses. A selection also came from my own personal studio collection."

Flea markets, costume houses and custom made designs were used to dress the cast of The Two Faces of January… with a helping hand from Chanel.

It is difficult to imagine a more glamorous era in Greece than the swinging sixties. Aristotle Onassis cruising the Athenian Riviera on his yacht, Jackie Kennedy by his side. Glitterati like Brigitte Bardot and Grace Kelly holidaying on the island of Mykonos. Directors making movies like 1964′s Zorba the Greek starring Anthony Quinn. Greece had it all.

“It was a very bohemian time,” says costume designer Steven Noble, who worked with director Hossein Amini on Mediterranean-filmed drama The Two Faces of January. “You sort of had the beginning of the hippies travelling as well, there was so much diversity going on. It was such an exciting period.”

It is amidst this golden age of travel that The Two Faces of January kicks off, atop the Acropolis no less. It is 1962, and Chester (Viggo Mortensen) and Collette (Kirsten Dunst) are a sophisticated, stylish American couple touring Europe for the summer.

Alas, all is not as it seems. A chance encounter with a young American tour guide in Athens called Rydal (played by Inside Llewyn Davis’ Oscar Isaac) will set in motion a tragic course of events. What follows is a slow but superb suspense thriller.

If it sounds a couple of degrees away from The Talented Mr Ripley, you’re on the right track. Both films are based on novels by American author Patricia Highsmith, whose first book was adapted into Alfred Hitchcock, no less, for Strangers on a Train in 1951.

As we’ve come to expect from Highsmith adaptations, costumes and art direction play an important role in the storytelling; here, it’s once again a wonderfully understated take on sixties elegance. Did Noble ever feel intimidated about following in the fashion footsteps of those revered films?

“I think that would have terrified me if I thought that,” he laughs. “I never really think that about any film I go into, you just try and do the best job you can, within the boundaries of what you’re allowed to be doing. I was almost left to do what I wanted.”

To that end, Noble absorbed himself “in all the films of that genre, from the late 50s to early mid 60s”, re-acquainting himself with European classics like La Dolce Vita by Federico Fellini, Plein Soleil (France’s 1960 crack at adapting The Talented Mr Ripley), The Roman Spring of Mrs Stone (the 1961 version starring Vivien Leigh and Warren Beatty) and Jean-Luc Godard’s A Bout de Souffle.

Noble estimates that of the 3000 outfits used in the film, around 80 per cent were vintage, sourced mainly from secondhand shops, flea markets and costume houses like Angels and Movietone in London. However, having to dress up to 300 extras in the background sometimes necessitated looking further afield – especially since Noble and his team were meticulous in their attention to detail.

As Mortensen notes, “a lot of times, even in big movies, people in the deep background might not always be dressed appropriately in terms of the quality of the costume or the period. Or their wigs will be kind of crooked. There’s just not as much care taken. With this movie, every single person in the background or that we walk past, whether it was in Greece or the Grand Bazaar, looked right. It makes you feel like you’re there.”
“I like to visit the costume houses where we’re actually filming,” admits Noble. “If we were filming in Istanbul, it would only be right to source some of the costumes from there for more of an authentic look. So there were bits and pieces from costume houses in Turkey and Greece too. And then also, luckily, you go ahead of time before you start filming and scour all the local flea markets and vintage shops and pick up some pieces as well to mix in. It was a very eclectic amalgamation of things from everywhere, all around the world.”

For Rydal, Noble dressed Isaac in as many Greek labels from the period as he could find, to reflect someone who had been living in Athens for two years.

Still, director Hossein Amini and Noble were both keen that The Two Faces Of January never feel like a stuffy period piece.

“Obviously we wanted the period to come through…to have the essence of 1962,” says Noble. “But we also wanted to make it contemporary so it would look fresh and more exciting rather than some old foisty costume drama.”

As such, while Dunst’s smart daywear is predominantly bespoke costuming, designed using digital reprints of original fabrics, her accessories (e.g. hats and gloves) are minimal for a woman of her standing – Noble’s contemporary nod.

It is this attention to detail through a contemporary costume lens that really carries the entire film. It is no accident, for example, that in the opening scene Chester’s cream linen suit and Colette’s pale lemon dress complement the cool marble of the Parthenon steps.

“It just felt right they shouldn’t pop from their surroundings,” says Noble. “A normal design you’d think, let’s try to put them in a completely different colour to what the background was. But (considering) what colour the stone was, what the light was like… it felt so right to keep it in that palette.”

Indeed, that one cream linen suit of Chester’s is practically a character of its own, requiring a lot of “metamorphic” changes from Noble to get it just so.

“I slightly backdated it to start off with, and gave it a half belt, 40s/50s silhouette and slightly bigger shoulder and slightly wider trouser,” says Noble. “And once I’d toiled it and seen it, it felt completely wrong. This was a modern man from New York, so we decided he would visit his tailor with his fabric and his pattern and have it made up in different fabrics.”

Of course, it is Colette who steals the show with her fabulous slimline wardrobe. Gone are the big petticoats of the 50s and in their place hang slimmer hemlines just below the knee.

“We chatted on the phone to see what colours we liked, I called in lots of original garments and fabrics from all over the world and made it an Aladdin’s Cave, a vintage emporium, and we spent a couple of days trying different silhouettes on and taking it from there,” says Noble. “We had a really good laugh, it was really good fun.”

All of Kirsten’s accessories were also based on original designs – including the stunning pearls Colette wears out for dinner, which were loaned by Chanel. (Luckily, says Noble, Chanel had just launched a classic collection based on late 20s, early 30s designs.)

“I always try and read the novel (of the adaptation),” says Noble, who has designed or assisted on previous book adaptations such as Wuthering Heights, Never Let Me Go, The Beach and Bridget Jones Diary. “There’s always something in the book, even if it’s just one line, that can take you on a whole journey.”

Such as those infamous “enormous panties” Bridget Jones wears in the original film??

“Well yes, those were clearly written in the book,” he says, chuckling, “those iconic pants. That required a lot of sourcing of big pants. And trying on.”

Alas, he is gone before I can find out which ones were eventually cast.

Costume Designer: A costume designer is a person who designs costumes for a film or stage production. The role of the costume designer is to create the characters and balance the scenes with texture and color, etc.The costume designer works alongside the director, scenic, lighting designer, sound designer, and other creative personnel. The costume designer may also collaborate with hair stylist, wig master, or makeup artist. In European theatre, the role is different, as the theatre designer usually designs both costume and scenic elements.

Steven Noble
Costume Designer WORK

Production      Company        Notes
(2014) Scott Free Productions          Dir: Christopher Smith
Prod: Liza Marshall
(2014) Working Title Dir: James Marsh
Prod: Anthony McCarten, Tim Bevan, Lisa Bruce, Eric Fellner
With Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones
(2013) Blueprint Pictures / Film4      Dir: Lone Scherfig
Prod: Graham Broadbent, Pete Czernin
(2013) Working Title Films   Dir: Hossein Amini
Prod: Robyn Slovo
(2013) Film4   Dir: Jonathan Glazer
Prod: Jim Wilson, Nick Welcher
With Scarlett Johanssen

* Official Selection: London Film Festival 2013
(2011) Ecosse FIlms  Dir: Andrea Arnold
Prod: Robert Bernstein, Kevin Loader

* Official Selection: Venice Film Festival 2011, BFI London Film Festival 2011
(2011) DNA Films / Fox Searchlight            Dir: Mark Romanek
Prod: Alex Garland & Allon Reich
(2009) Dan Films       Dir: Chris Smith
Prod: Jason Newark
(2006) Dan Films       Dir: Chris Smith
Prod: Jason Newark
(2005) Paul Weiland Films    Dir: Paul Gay
Prod: Jason Kemp
(2004) MGM  Dir: Kevin Allen
(2002) Revolution Films        Dir: Michael Winterbottom
TWO BACARDI AND COKES      Contagious Films       Dir: Paul Gay
(2001) Working Title
(Assistant Costume Designer)           Dir: Sharon Maguire
(2000) Figment Films
(Costume Supervisor) Dir: Danny Boyle
(1999) Rogue Trader Productions
(Co-Costume Designer)         Dir: James Dearden
(1998) Revolution Films
(Costume Supervisor) Dir: Michael Winterbottom
(1998) Sweet Child Films
(Assistant Costume Designer)           Dir: Betsan Morris Evans
(1997) Figment Films
(Assistant Costume Designer)           Dir: Kevin Allen
(1996) Figment Films
(Assistant Costume Designer)           Dir: Danny Boyle
(1996) J and M Productions
(Costume Assistant)   Dir: John Duigan
Production      Company        Notes
(2011) ITV     Dir: Julian Jarrold
Prod: Lisa Gilchrist
(2007) Tiger Aspect   Dir: Kevin Allen
Production      Company        Notes
(2008) HLA   Dir: John Hardwick
Production      Company        Notes
(2014) Independent   Dir. Gary Freedman
(2014) Rattling Stick Dir: Benjamin Millepied
(2013) Hungryman     Dir: Tim Bullock
(2013) Hungryman     Dir: Taika Waititi
(2013) Iconoclast       Dir: Gustav Johansson
(2012) Stink   Dir: Yann Demange
(2012) Moxie Pictures           Dir: Big Red Button
(2012) Academy        Dir: Peter Cattaneo
(2012) Stink   Dir: Ivan Zacharias
(2012) Waspface        Dir: Paul Gay
(2011) Infinity           Dir: Tom Hooper
(2011) Hungry Man Ltd        Dir: Paul Gay
(2011) Hungry Man Ltd        Dir: Paul Gay
(2011) Hungry Man Ltd        Dir: James Haworth
(2010) Hungry Man   Dir: Paul Gay
(2010) Partizan           Dir: Dominic Murphy
(2010) Hungry Man   Dir: Paul Gay
(2010) Hungry Man   Dir: Paul Gay
(2010) Hungry Man   Dir: Bryan Buckley
(2010) Hungry Man   Dir: Paul Gay
(2010) Hungry Man   Dir: Paul Gay
(2010) Hungry Man   Dir: Paul Gay
(2010) Hungry Man   Dir: Paul Gay
(2009) Hungry Man   Dir: Paul Gay
(2009) Rogue Dir: Sam Brown
(2009) MJZ    Dir: Rupert Saunders
(2008) Rogue Dir: Nicholas Barker
BOOTS NO 7 - "KEELY"    Hungry Man   Dir: Allen Couter
ROYAL BANK OF SCOTLAND   Hungry Man   Dir: Paul Gay
REVELS        Hungry Man   Dir: Brendan Gibbons
PS3 - "SINGSTAR"   Rogue Dir: Ron Scalpello
BOOTS - "SCIENCE"          Hungry Man   Dir: Brian Buckley
CLARKS - "EXPRESSIONS"         Hungry Man   Dir: Paul Gay
MAX HEADROOM MJZ    Dir: Rocky Morton
LYNX / AXE - "HORSES"  Radical Media            Dir: Gary Gray
GAME SHOW MARATHON - IDENTS   Rogue Dir: Daniel Wolfe
GUARDIAN - "MUSICAL CHAIRS"       Another Film Co.       Dir: Nick Jones
TFL - "END CALL"  Hungry Man   Dir: Paul Gay
MOCCONA - "CLINIC"      Another Film Co.       Dir: Nick Jones
BAUER - "IN THE KNOW"            MJZ    Dir: Rocky Morton
RAC - "QUICK"       Rogue Dir: Nick Jones
MARS - "HANDS"   Rogue Dir: Nick Jones
COI - "NICE DAY" & "LIVING"   Hungry Man   Dir: Paul Gay
RADIO TIMES - "GET YOURS"    Partizan           Dir: Ornette Spenceley

Coming / Mon 7 Jul 2014 21:00 / BBC Four / Tales from the Royal Wardrobe with Lucy Worsley.

Tales from the Royal Wardrobe with Lucy Worsley
BBC Four
Mon 7 Jul 2014

Today, few people's clothes attract as much attention as the royal family, but this is not a modern-day Hello magazine-inspired obsession. As Dr Lucy Worsley reveals, it has always been this way. Exploring the royal wardrobes of our kings and queens over the last 400 years, Lucy shows this isn't just a public preoccupation, but our monarchs' as well. From Elizabeth I to our present queen, Lucy believes that the royal wardrobe's significance goes way beyond the cut and colour of the clothing and that royal fashion is and has always been regarded as their personal statement to their people. So most monarchs have carefully choreographed every aspect of their wardrobe and, for those who have not, there have sometimes been calamitous consequences.

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Quirke, BBC One / Quirke-Trailer.

John Banville. Photograph: Kim Haughton

John Banville: 'Quirke comes from the damaged recesses of my Irish soul'
Irish author reveals pleasure and pain of creating pathologist in Benjamin Black books set to star in BBC TV adaptation
Hannah Ellis-Petersen

There are two John Banvilles. The first, a Booker prize-winning novelist, is famed for his poetic and sensory fiction. The second, a crime fiction alter-ego by the name of Benjamin Black, is the one the author admires most.

"My Benjamin Black books are a triumph of nerve and spontaneity I hope," Banville said, "whereas Banville is moulding things away quietly down on the ground, in the darkness for years on end, hoping eventually to come up into some kind of light."

The Benjamin Black books, centred around the charismatic but troubled pathologist Quirke in 1950s Dublin, are now to be brought to life by BBC One. The highly anticipated adaptation, Quirke, will air on Sunday night and features the Irish actor Gabriel Byrne in the title role alongside Michael Gambon, with each episode taking their storyline from a different book in the series.
Banville, who won the Booker for The Sea in 2005, began writing his Quirke novels in 2004 after being inspired to adapt a screenplay he had written years earlier that never made it to the screen.

He said the Quirke books were rich with his childhood recollections of Ireland, far more than so his literary writing.

"I trawled through my memories of being a child when I was writing the books and I was astonished at how much I could remember.

"Quirke lives in the apartment in Dublin which I inherited from my aunt and he moves around in that area where I was when I first moved to Dublin. He's better off than we were in those days, but yes, it's soaked in my recollections. It is more connected to the circumstances of my life than my Banville books.

"As a child Dublin seemed like a magical world. Even still, the smell of diesel fumes still brings me back there. But looking back I realise what a narrow world it was, how poverty-stricken it was. It was a beautiful city, dingy and ramshackle with a melancholy beauty – most of which is gone now."

The hard-drinking, intolerant yet highly instinctive Quirke is a character Banville said had come from the "damaged recesses of my Irish soul. I sympathise with Quirke; he is a very damaged person, as many Irish people are from their upbringing.

"I wish he had more of a sense of humour, but it's quite hard to be humorous in crime fiction, I'm not sure why. My Spanish publisher said to me, I'm so in love with Quirke but couldn't you lighten him up just a little bit. And Gabriel [Byrne] brings a lot of darkness to the character."

While religion is notably absent from much of Banville's literary fiction, with his Quirke novels set in 1950s Ireland "when the church controlled our lives at every level", Banville admitted it was impossible to ignore.

The author himself conceded condemned the Catholic church as a cult, having abandoned his faith in his late teens.

"Back then it was driven by fear. When I was growing up as a Catholic, we were never told about the joys of religion. What we were told about was if that we didn't love God enough to displease ourselves, then God would condemn us to eternal damnation. It's a pretty potent message to give to a seven-year-old child and to keep banging it into us throughout our lives, so giving it up was quite a wrench. If you've been inculcated into a cult, and Irish Catholicism is a cult, then it is hard to break free from."

He continued: "When you're brainwashed like we were, you think this is normal, how things should be and Catholic upbringing is straightforward brainwashing. We were fed a lot of nonsense and a lot of lies under the guise of faith. Meanwhile the church is raking in money and abusing the people in its care. The priests and nuns were denied sexual love and amorous love which I think is appalling, it's a criminal thing to do to people.

"We knew that there was abuse and we knew it was bad, but we didn't know it was quite as bad as what was revealed, and we didn't know the criminal way in which the church protected the abusers, switching them from parish to parish to cover it up. Human beings have this amazing capacity to know but also not know at the same time."

Banville had little involvement in the TV adaptation – "the last thing they want is the author on set" – but had a brief meeting with the writers.

"I met Andrew Davies and we spent a very pleasant afternoon walking round Quirke's Dublin and went for a pint and he asked me some questions about Irish phrases – that was about it really."

As an author who famously deemed his literary novels "an embarrassment", Banville said he had a far less conflicted relationship with his Benjamin Black work.

"They are two completely different writers who have two completely different processes. I certainly like the Benjamin Black books more than my Banville novels because they are pieces of craft work and I like to think they are honestly made," he said. "My Banville books are attempts to be works of art but because perfection can never be achieved they always ultimately fail. So when I look at my Banville books all I see are the flaws, the faults, the failures, place where I should have kept going to make a sentence better."

He added: "When I publish a book and have to do readings, I do it with one eye closed or through my fingers because I know I'm going to find all kinds of horrors."

Quirke, episode one, BBC One, review: 'too long'
Gabriel Byrne's performance in Quirke transfixes the attention, but it wasn’t enough to make up for the drama's flaws, says Chris Harvey

Ten minutes into the first episode of Quirke (BBC One), the new pathologist detective drama adapted by Andrew Davies from John Banville’s novels under the pen name of Benjamin Black, I thought I was in some sozzled dream of Dublin in the Fifties. It was permanently dark, or raining, people were always drunk, or drinking, and I kept hearing people say the words of the episode’s title – “Christine Falls” – without any real sense of who or what they referred to.
Gabriel Byrne was on screen though, being Gabriel Byrne, being Quirke. Byrne’s presence almost guarantees Banville’s pathologist a quiet intensity and an air of life lived and love lost. Christine Falls, I gradually came to realise, was a pregnant woman, who had died and found her way onto Quirke’s post-mortem table. It had happened before the drama began. Quirke didn’t agree with the cause of death given, and he particularly didn’t like the fact that it had been given by his adoptive brother Malachy (Nick Dunning), who appeared to hate him. He wanted to know what had happened to the baby.
The list of important characters kept growing: the woman whose house Christine Falls had been in when she died (soon to be dead herself); the brothers’ powerful grandfather Judge Garret Griffin (Michael Gambon); Malachy’s daughter Phoebe (Aisling Franciosi). She was in love with Quirke, who she thought was her uncle, but who turned out to be her father.
For a literary adapter of Davies’s talent (Pride and Prejudice, Bleak House), it was fearfully hard to follow, and at a 90-minute run time that felt very long, it would be hard to argue that extreme compression was the cause.
The whole drama decamped to Boston for the last half hour, to introduce more new characters and explain the fate of the baby, who had been shipped out as part of a trade in babies born to the poor women of Cork and Dublin, but who had been killed by a chauffeur, who turned out to be a potential rapist.

There was just too much plot, too much gloomy stylised direction and too many strings on the soundtrack, bringing a surreal melodramatic quality to some of the most serious moments. Byrne gave the drama that warm burr and powerful charisma that can transfix the attention, but it wasn’t enough to make up for its flaws. It was heavy going to get to the end.

Quirke, BBC One, review: 'it made no sense'
The final episode of Quirke was hard to understand - and not just because the dialogue was indecipherable, says Benji Wilson

The third and final Quirke (BBC One) was transmitted in the shadow of what I cannot bring myself to call Muttergate (and so will label The Rumble in the Mumble). After the big stink about Jamaica Inn being inaudible, Quirke’s own writer, Andrew Davies, admitted that he had been forced to watch the series with the subtitles on, because he couldn’t hear what the actors were saying.
So in the interests of science I decided to conduct an experiment – I watched a good part of the last half-hour with the sound off (and no subtitles). And I have to say it didn’t suffer greatly. Because I’m not sure that anyone has much of a clue what’s going on in even when you can hear the words.
Ever since Dr Quirke, played by Gabriel Byrne, returned to heavyweight boozing he hasn’t had much of a clue what’s going on either. That’s not the most fertile ground for a testing whodunit.
You sensed in last night’s episode that the director wasn’t particularly interested in the whys and the wherefores of the plot himself. Whether it was following some aesthetic credo or just because they couldn’t afford convincing Dublin backdrops, almost all of it was filmed with the camera right in the actors’ faces. In the case of Gabriel Byrne, a man whose face is an atlas of world-weariness, that’s understandable. But then you remember that Quirke is supposed to be a detective drama with a mystery to be solved in each episode. Here the mystery was: what happened to the storyline?
Quirke was filmed nearly two years ago now. It’s been lingering around the BBC schedulers’ office like those dodgy pickled onions at the back of the fridge, which suggests that the Beeb didn’t know what to do with it. Though Quirke is no stinker, it’s a strange beast. It’s way, way too long, it wears its noir influences about as subtly as a teenager wears sports brands and it’s largely devoid of anything you could call momentum. Yet at the same time it’s chock full of wonderful performances. In particular Aisling Franciosi as Phoebe – a difficult role situated somewhere between sidekick, daughter and love interest – pulled off the triple salchow of being strong, sweet and subtle at the same time with aplomb. We will see much more of her I don’t doubt. As for Quirke? Whisper it, but I suspect not.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

oh gosh ... now that hipsterdom is over ... what the hell am I going to do with all these tattoos !?

A hipster on the streets of London sports trendy tattoos. Photograph: Wayne Tippetts/Rex Features
The end of the hipster: how flat caps and beards stopped being so cool
Now that cocktails in jam jars have made it to EastEnders, what's next for those who would be 'alternative'?
Morwenna Ferrier

Meet Josh. Josh is a 30-year-old artist/chef who lives in a converted warehouse in Hackney, east London. Josh has a beard, glasses and cares about the provenance of his coffee. He pays his tax, doesn't have a 9-to-5 job and, along with his five polymathic flatmates, shuns public transport, preferring to ride a bike.

On paper, Josh is the archetypal hipster – just don't call him one: "I don't hate the word hipster, and I don't hate hipsters, but being a hipster doesn't mean anything any more. So God forbid anyone calls me one."

At some point in the last few years, the hipster changed. Or at least its definition did. What was once an umbrella term for a counter-culture tribe of young creative types in (mostly) New York's Williamsburg and London's Hackney morphed into a pejorative term for people who looked, lived and acted a certain way. The Urban Dictionary defines hipsters as "a subculture of men and women, typically in their 20s and 30s, that value independent thinking, counter-culture, progressive politics". In reality, the word is now tantamount to an insult.
So what happened? Chris Sanderson, futurologist and co-founder of trend forecasting agency The Future Laboratory, thinks it's simple: "The hipster died the minute we called him a hipster. The word no longer had the same meaning."

Fuelling this was a report last month from researchers at the University of New South Wales who discovered that the hipster look was no longer "hip". In short: the more commonplace a trend – in one instance, beards – the less attractive they are perceived to be. And in 2014 we may have reached "peak beard". Could it be that the flat-white-drinking, flat-cap-wearing hipster will soon cease to exist?

Sanderson thinks it's more a case of evolving than dying. Talking to the Observer last week, he suggested there are now two types of hipster: "Contemporary hipsters – the ones with the beards we love to hate – and proto-hipsters, the real deal." And herein lies the confusion.
"Historically, proto-hipsters have been connoisseurs – people who deviate from the norm. Like hippies. Over the years, though, they inspired a new generation of young urban types who turned the notion of a hipster into a grossly commercial parody. These new hipsters want to appear a certain way, to be seen to be doing certain things, but without doing the research. So they appropriated the lifestyle and mindset of a proto-hipster."

It's a definition neatly summarised in the song Sunday, by Los Angeles rapper Earl Sweatshirt: "You're just not passionate about half the shit that you're into."

The problem is that it is now almost impossible to differentiate between the two. "Hipsters are more interested in following; proto-hipsters are more interested in leading. Yet they look the same, so how are people to know the difference?"
This lack of visual disparity has probably led to society's fondness for hipster-bashing. As Alex Miller, UK editor-in-chief of Vice, explains: "I couldn't define a hipster. I guess it's 'The Other'. But as a general term it's blown up because people finally realised they had a word to mock something cool and young which they didn't understand."

It's an age-old scenario. In Distinction, his 1979 report on the social logic of taste, French academic Pierre Bourdieu wrote that "social identity lies in difference, and difference is asserted against what is closest, which represents the greatest threat". So our inability to define a hipster merely fuels the enigma.

"And as you can imagine, this is greatly exasperating to proto-hipsters," says Sanderson.

It hasn't always been like this. While the definition of hipster hasn't altered vastly over the years, there was a time when it was considered to be something both meaningful and specific.

The word was coined in the 1940s to define someone who rejected societal norms – such as middle-class white people who listened to jazz. Then came a reactive literary subculture, realised through the work of beatniks such as Jack Kerouac and William Burroughs. It was Norman Mailer who attempted to define hipsters in his essay The White Negro as postwar American white generation of rebels, disillusioned by war, who chose to "divorce oneself from society, to exist without roots, to set out on that uncharted journey into the rebellious imperatives of the self".

A decade later, we had the counter-culture movement – hippies who carried their torch in a fairly self-explanatory fashion, divorced from the mainstream. The word mostly vanished until the 1990s, when it was redefined so as to describe middle-class youths with an interest in "the alternative".

In the "noughties", hipsters became the stuff of parody, via Chris Morris and Charlie Brooker's satire Nathan Barley, which earmarked the "twats of Shoreditch". Nowadays, though, anyone can appear to be a hipster provided they buy the right jeans. From the twee adverts featuring hipster-style couples to the cocktails served in jam jars at the trendy incomer bar the Albert in EastEnders, "the idea of the hipster has been swallowed up by the mainstream", says Sanderson.

Luke O'Neil, a Boston-based culture writer for the online magazine Slate, says it is the same in the US. "I've even noticed what I call the meta-hipster: a person who sidesteps the traditional requirements and just wants to skip ahead to the status. Like putting on glasses and getting a tattoo somehow makes you a hipster," he says.

But while Miller agrees that hipster has morphed into a negative term, it is less about the word and more about what it represents: "Growing up, we just used other words – 'scenester' at university, 'trendies' at school – and they mean the same. Hipster has simply become a word which means the opposite of authentic."
Double filtered flat-white coffee — because single-filtering is for people who like Jim Davidson. Photograph: Carl Court/AFP
Not everyone agrees. At Hoxton Bar and Grill in east London, 24-year-old graduate Milly identifies with hipsters: "I mean, that's why we all live in east London. It just feels so real, like something creative and cool is happening."

Manny, a 28-year-old singer who has lived in Dalston for more than five years, likes the sense of community: "Young people haven't got jobs or work and they need it. It's like a tribe, like goths. I hope hipsters aren't dead, because I just signed a year lease on my flat."

Miller adds: "We've never written about hipsters as a subculture at Vice because I don't think hipsters are a subculture. However, I do appreciate that people like the idea of belonging to something, so I suppose on that level the idea exists." As O'Neil explains: "Whoever said [hipsters] wanted to be unique? I think it's more about wanting to belong."

So what next? "I think hipsters will have an overhaul. There will be a downturn in this skinny-jean, long-haired feminised look over the next few years owing to the rise of the stronger female role model," says Chris Sanderson." And in its place? "A more macho look, almost to the point of caricature, in a bid for men to reinforce their identity."
Perhaps this explains the phenomenon of "normcore", a term coined by New York trend agency K-Hole in their Youth Mode report last autumn. Though widely derided by the fashion world, this plain, super-normal style is arguably a reaction to the commodification of individuality, the idea that you can buy uniqueness off the peg in Topshop. "Normcore doesn't want the freedom to become someone," they say. "Normcore moves away from a coolness that relies on difference to a post-authenticity that opts into sameness."

It sounds like a joke but, says Sanderson, it might actually might be a thing: "It's the opposite of what people think is hip now, but it's also very masculine – which ties in to the return to blokeiness."

But for many, including Josh, the desire to categorise people is infuriating. Arvida Byström is a Swedish-born, London-based artist, photographer and model. Though sometimes identified as a hipster aesthetically speaking, her work, which focuses on sexuality, self-identity and contemporary feminism, would suggest she is much more than that. Sanderson would describe her as "someone who leads not follows".

She balks at the idea of being a hipster: "I haven't been aware of people calling me a hipster. I certainly don't identify as one. What is a hipster, anyway? It is such a general term. I don't even know if they exist any more."

But as Josh says: "I don't see why you can't just be a guy in east London liking the stuff that's around without being branded as something."


Hipster: The Dead End of Western Civilization
We’ve reached a point in our civilization where counterculture has mutated into a self-obsessed aesthetic vacuum. So while hipsterdom is the end product of all prior countercultures, it’s been stripped of its subversion and originality.
  Douglas Haddow, 29 July 2008 /

I’m sipping a scummy pint of cloudy beer in the back of a trendy dive bar turned nightclub in the heart of the city’s heroin district. In front of me stand a gang of hippiesh grunge-punk types, who crowd around each other and collectively scoff at the smoking laws by sneaking puffs of “fuck-you,” reveling in their perceived rebellion as the haggard, staggering staff look on without the slightest concern.

The “DJ” is keystroking a selection of MP3s off his MacBook, making a mix that sounds like he took a hatchet to a collection of yesteryear billboard hits, from DMX to Dolly Parton, but mashed up with a jittery techno backbeat.

“So… this is a hipster party?” I ask the girl sitting next to me. She’s wearing big dangling earrings, an American Apparel V-neck tee, non-prescription eyeglasses and an inappropriately warm wool coat.

“Yeah, just look around you, 99 percent of the people here are total hipsters!”

“Are you a hipster?”

“Fuck no,” she says, laughing back the last of her glass before she hops off to the dance floor.

Ever since the Allies bombed the Axis into submission, Western civilization has had a succession of counter-culture movements that have energetically challenged the status quo. Each successive decade of the post-war era has seen it smash social standards, riot and fight to revolutionize every aspect of music, art, government and civil society.

But after punk was plasticized and hip hop lost its impetus for social change, all of the formerly dominant streams of “counter-culture” have merged together. Now, one mutating, trans-Atlantic melting pot of styles, tastes and behavior has come to define the generally indefinable idea of the “Hipster.”

An artificial appropriation of different styles from different eras, the hipster represents the end of Western civilization – a culture lost in the superficiality of its past and unable to create any new meaning. Not only is it unsustainable, it is suicidal. While previous youth movements have challenged the dysfunction and decadence of their elders, today we have the “hipster” – a youth subculture that mirrors the doomed shallowness of mainstream society.


Take a stroll down the street in any major North American or European city and you’ll be sure to see a speckle of fashion-conscious twentysomethings hanging about and sporting a number of predictable stylistic trademarks: skinny jeans, cotton spandex leggings, fixed-gear bikes, vintage flannel, fake eyeglasses and a keffiyeh – initially sported by Jewish students and Western protesters to express solidarity with Palestinians, the keffiyeh has become a completely meaningless hipster cliché fashion accessory.

The American Apparel V-neck shirt, Pabst Blue Ribbon beer and Parliament cigarettes are symbols and icons of working or revolutionary classes that have been appropriated by hipsterdom and drained of meaning. Ten years ago, a man wearing a plain V-neck tee and drinking a Pabst would never be accused of being a trend-follower. But in 2008, such things have become shameless clichés of a class of individuals that seek to escape their own wealth and privilege by immersing themselves in the aesthetic of the working class.

This obsession with “street-cred” reaches its apex of absurdity as hipsters have recently and wholeheartedly adopted the fixed-gear bike as the only acceptable form of transportation – only to have brakes installed on a piece of machinery that is defined by its lack thereof.

Lovers of apathy and irony, hipsters are connected through a global network of blogs and shops that push forth a global vision of fashion-informed aesthetics. Loosely associated with some form of creative output, they attend art parties, take lo-fi pictures with analog cameras, ride their bikes to night clubs and sweat it up at nouveau disco-coke parties. The hipster tends to religiously blog about their daily exploits, usually while leafing through generation-defining magazines like Vice, Another Magazine and Wallpaper. This cursory and stylized lifestyle has made the hipster almost universally loathed.

“These hipster zombies… are the idols of the style pages, the darlings of viral marketers and the marks of predatory real-estate agents,” wrote Christian Lorentzen in a Time Out New York article entitled ‘Why the Hipster Must Die.’ “And they must be buried for cool to be reborn.”

With nothing to defend, uphold or even embrace, the idea of “hipsterdom” is left wide open for attack. And yet, it is this ironic lack of authenticity that has allowed hipsterdom to grow into a global phenomenon that is set to consume the very core of Western counterculture. Most critics make a point of attacking the hipster’s lack of individuality, but it is this stubborn obfuscation that distinguishes them from their predecessors, while allowing hipsterdom to easily blend in and mutate other social movements, sub-cultures and lifestyles.

Standing outside an art-party next to a neat row of locked-up fixed-gear bikes, I come across a couple girls who exemplify hipster homogeneity. I ask one of the girls if her being at an art party and wearing fake eyeglasses, leggings and a flannel shirt makes her a hipster.

“I’m not comfortable with that term,” she replies.

Her friend adds, with just a flicker of menace in her eyes, “Yeah, I don’t know, you shouldn’t use that word, it’s just…”


“No… it’s just, well… if you don’t know why then you just shouldn’t even use it.”

“Ok, so what are you girls doing tonight after this party?”

“Ummm… We’re going to the after-party.”

Gavin McInnes, one of the founders of Vice, who recently left the magazine, is considered to be one of hipsterdom’s primary architects. But, in contrast to the majority of concerned media-types, McInnes, whose “Dos and Don’ts” commentary defined the rules of hipster fashion for over a decade, is more critical of those doing the criticizing.

“I’ve always found that word [“hipster”] is used with such disdain, like it’s always used by chubby bloggers who aren’t getting laid anymore and are bored, and they’re just so mad at these young kids for going out and getting wasted and having fun and being fashionable,” he says. “I’m dubious of these hypotheses because they always smell of an agenda.”

Punks wear their tattered threads and studded leather jackets with honor, priding themselves on their innovative and cheap methods of self-expression and rebellion. B-boys and b-girls announce themselves to anyone within earshot with baggy gear and boomboxes. But it is rare, if not impossible, to find an individual who will proclaim themself a proud hipster. It’s an odd dance of self-identity – adamantly denying your existence while wearing clearly defined symbols that proclaims it.

“He’s 17 and he lives for the scene!” a girl whispers in my ear as I sneak a photo of a young kid dancing up against a wall in a dimly lit corner of the after-party. He’s got a flipped-out, do-it-yourself haircut, skin-tight jeans, leather jacket, a vintage punk tee and some popping high tops.

“Shoot me,” he demands, walking up, cigarette in mouth, striking a pose and exhaling. He hits a few different angles with a firmly unimpressed expression and then gets a bit giddy when I show him the results.

“Rad, thanks,” he says, re-focusing on the music and submerging himself back into the sweaty funk of the crowd where he resumes a jittery head bobble with a little bit of a twitch.

The dance floor at a hipster party looks like it should be surrounded by quotation marks. While punk, disco and hip hop all had immersive, intimate and energetic dance styles that liberated the dancer from his/her mental states – be it the head-spinning b-boy or violent thrashings of a live punk show – the hipster has more of a joke dance. A faux shrug shuffle that mocks the very idea of dancing or, at its best, illustrates a non-committal fear of expression typified in a weird twitch/ironic twist. The dancers are too self-aware to let themselves feel any form of liberation; they shuffle along, shrugging themselves into oblivion.

Perhaps the true motivation behind this deliberate nonchalance is an attempt to attract the attention of the ever-present party photographers, who swim through the crowd like neon sharks, flashing little blasts of phosphorescent ecstasy whenever they spot someone worth momentarily immortalizing.

Noticing a few flickers of light splash out from the club bathroom, I peep in only to find one such photographer taking part in an impromptu soft-core porno shoot. Two girls and a guy are taking off their clothes and striking poses for a set of grimy glamour shots. It’s all grins and smirks until another girl pokes her head inside and screeches, “You’re not some club kid in New York in the nineties. This shit is so hipster!” – which sparks a bit of a catfight, causing me to beat a hasty retreat.

In many ways, the lifestyle promoted by hipsterdom is highly ritualized. Many of the party-goers who are subject to the photoblogger’s snapshots no doubt crawl out of bed the next afternoon and immediately re-experience the previous night’s debauchery. Red-eyed and bleary, they sit hunched over their laptops, wading through a sea of similarity to find their own (momentarily) thrilling instant of perfected hipster-ness.

What they may or may not know is that “cool-hunters” will also be skulking the same sites, taking note of how they dress and what they consume. These marketers and party-promoters get paid to co-opt youth culture and then re-sell it back at a profit. In the end, hipsters are sold what they think they invent and are spoon-fed their pre-packaged cultural livelihood.

Hipsterdom is the first “counterculture” to be born under the advertising industry’s microscope, leaving it open to constant manipulation but also forcing its participants to continually shift their interests and affiliations. Less a subculture, the hipster is a consumer group – using their capital to purchase empty authenticity and rebellion. But the moment a trend, band, sound, style or feeling gains too much exposure, it is suddenly looked upon with disdain. Hipsters cannot afford to maintain any cultural loyalties or affiliations for fear they will lose relevance.

An amalgamation of its own history, the youth of the West are left with consuming cool rather that creating it. The cultural zeitgeists of the past have always been sparked by furious indignation and are reactionary movements. But the hipster’s self-involved and isolated maintenance does nothing to feed cultural evolution. Western civilization’s well has run dry. The only way to avoid hitting the colossus of societal failure that looms over the horizon is for the kids to abandon this vain existence and start over.

“If you don’t give a damn, we don’t give a fuck!” chants an emcee before his incitements are abruptly cut short when the power plug is pulled and the lights snapped on.

Dawn breaks and the last of the after-after-parties begin to spill into the streets. The hipsters are falling out, rubbing their eyes and scanning the surrounding landscape for the way back from which they came. Some hop on their fixed-gear bikes, some call for cabs, while a few of us hop a fence and cut through the industrial wasteland of a nearby condo development.

The half-built condos tower above us like foreboding monoliths of our yuppie futures. I take a look at one of the girls wearing a bright pink keffiyeh and carrying a Polaroid camera and think, “If only we carried rocks instead of cameras, we’d look like revolutionaries.” But instead we ignore the weapons that lie at our feet – oblivious to our own impending demise.

We are a lost generation, desperately clinging to anything that feels real, but too afraid to become it ourselves. We are a defeated generation, resigned to the hypocrisy of those before us, who once sang songs of rebellion and now sell them back to us. We are the last generation, a culmination of all previous things, destroyed by the vapidity that surrounds us. The hipster represents the end of Western civilization – a culture so detached and disconnected that it has stopped giving birth to anything new.