Who does this guy think he is?
Trendy metrosexual fashion – check.
Sneering insincerity – according to Oxford columnists, yes.
Pointless snobbery about foreign obscura – sure.
1770 was probably the first time when tons of British middle-class kids had enough cash to blow on sitting around and looking cool. People in London really hated these ‘Macaronis’. They hated them so much they compared them donkeys, butterflies, frogs, Frenchmen, pasta, and women.
Their families bankrolled their Grand Tours across Europe, and they came home name-dropping Italian opera singers and restaurants no one’s heard of.
You might recognize Macaronis from that Yankee Doodle ditty: “Stuck a feather in his hat and called it Macaroni.”
‘Macaroni’ soon came to mean ‘anything baffoonish and annoyingly snooty’. The only thing trendier than being a Macaroni was hating on them openly.
In the artsy Strand neighourhood (later settled by Dickens), Matthew Darly’s print shop made a wildly popular series of prints skewering 1770s Macaroni culture. No one hates a Macaroni like a Macaroni. It was their version of #LookAtThatFuckingHipster or Die Hipster Scum or Hipster Animals.
Then came the era of…
trustafarian hippies, handcraft fetishists, and supremely petulant writers. Were they slumming in your 3BR Craigslist rental today, you’d probably roll your eyes at them.
William Morris rejected lamestream industrialism and insisted on vintage DIY crafts
William Morris was a Victorian designer and staunch socialist — despite (or because of) the fact that he came from a wealthy family. His friends were the DIY fanatics at your corner cafe. In an age of factory booms, he rejected mass-production and preached handmade designs at his studio, which exists to this day.
Baudelaire was a trust-fund dandy. He ran up a debt on snazzy coats, then begged his parents to fund his poetry projects
His stepfather wanted him to be a diplomat like himself, but Charles Baudnasty refused. His mother liked that he was a famous poet, but wished he’d listened to his father, to which Baudelaire said the French equivalent of “fuck you, dad.” Yes, he was the forefather of every bratty privileged art school dropout.
OMG, Tolstoy was the worst hippie hypocrite
Tolstoy slummed with his servants, tried to mow grass and sew shoes with them, making everyone uncomfortable. He dressed like a pauper to look cool and preached simplicity, poverty and vegetarianism from his ginormous mansion. Plus, while writing War And Peace all day, he made his wife take care of all the tedious finances and treated her awfully.
Walter Benjamin’s dad was ashamed of being a businessman, so he paid his son to be a philosopher
As was common among Jewish Germans, Walter Benjamin’s banker dad was not proud of his own financial success, and wanted his son to legitimize the family intellectually. Walter, meanwhile, felt himself entitled to a monthly allowance so he could continue writing in obscurity.
Now, of course, he is so adored that Philly hipsters brew boutique whiskeys in his honor.
Just don’t imagine Lena Dunham’s character in Girls telling her mom she’s the next Walter Benjamin.
Hannah (not) convincing her parents why she needs an allowance for her writing.
So yes, these kinds of people have existed all along. Many of them are awful and irritating. Some of them made beautiful things.
Now let’s retire the word ‘hipster’ forever and stop talking about them. The H-word is hella Macaroni. High fives all around. We’ve slayed the meaningless word.
(Further reading on why we should stop talking about hipsters).