Hipster Survivalism

29 Feb 2012|Cultural Insight Team

There is a sort of hipster survivalism that is fascinating the young and dissatisfied. Discussions about essential belongings and the role of outdoor clothing in fashion indicates an emerging identity about being always ready to move and survive in the simplest way.

Archival Clothing (store.archivalclothing.com)

In fashion the functional is everywhere. From Archival Clothing’s obsession with all that is outdoors – detailing their own adventures on their blog – to Ozwald Boateng’s empire-ready catwalk colonialists for Spring/Summer 2012. There is a sense in all this that cultural value and use value are sliding together. Perhaps in recessionary times it is important to feel that you’re buying something useful and not just valuable.

But this is only the tip of the iceberg. Among the blogging elite there is an unending interest in being prepared for the worst. Typified by the Burning House blog and the Everyday Carry site’s posts, here people compare what they’d save from a fire and the things they take with them everywhere. And, where EDC is concerned, this goes much further than keys money notebook – you have to see it to believe it.

Best Made Company (bestmadeco.com)

One favourite example of this snowballing trend is the beautiful axes made by Best Made Company – hand crafted in Brooklyn. Who needs an axe in Brooklyn? Answer: Hipsters do. To adorn their mantelpieces certainly, but also for when peak oil finally comes around and we all have to head for Central Park to reclaim the land for the people Detroit-style.

Although with this growing fondness for knives and axes amongst all the young guns, there is a slightly frightening risk of a hipster version of a real life American Psycho scenario. Imagine the iconicity of an axe murder with a killer haircut. We’re a bit bored of blaming every cultural shift on the recession these days so we’d like to point to a few other potential influences on this pessimistic shift towards apocalypse preparedness.

Obviously there are scary things outside of the economic crisis, we’ve already mentioned peak oil, and fears regarding the environment are not going anywhere. But these fears are also making people seek authentic relationship with nature – so the image of the survivalist/boy scout in constant readiness is somewhat optimistic as well as pessimistic.

Everyday Carry (everyday-carry.com)

Undoubtedly there is a gender issue here as well. This is a trend that is predominantly affecting menswear. And our inkling would be that most of the posters on EDC are men too! There has been talk of gender crises for some time, and Hipster men perhaps feel their masculinity most restricted by the values associated with their social group. Cutting down a tree or killing a deer (as long as it’s done sustainably) is much more acceptable than objectifying a woman. Though this blog is itching to formulate its treatise on Indy boy sexism in a later post.

We certainly like to daydream about a world in which we’re whittling wood instead of typing. I for one have become fascinated by the idea of owning a clasp knife – though mainly because I once saw a yellow one. And there is nothing quite like cycling around London at speed to feel like you’re both self–reliant and putting your life at risk. We suspect that this aspiration for a life lived like Bear Grylls but with a better haircut will be around for a bit longer. Until H&M bring out their own range of tents axes and canoes this trend will be influencing design and fashion for some time to come.

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