Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Were The Sex Pistols the first modern hipsters?

First read this article in Adbusters entitled "Hipster: The Dead End of Civilization." I think it adequately sums up why hipsters are a bad thing and indirectly explains the difference between a true hipster and somebody who merely subscribes to modern fashions and wears tight pants. To summarize, it comes down to hipsters standing for nothing really except seeking authenticity through consumerism. Co-opting working class values and trends and spending lots of money doing it.

A lot of quote-unquote hipsters are really just artsy people who do cool things like sell street food in The Mission or make swimming pools out of dumpsters in Brooklyn. These people are not actually hipsters in my eyes. They are doing something and creating interesting things rather than buying something obscure and then ditching it when it isn't obscure or authentic enough for them anymore.

Again, great article, but I disagree with it where it draws a bright line between hipsters and punks...which brings me to the penultimate punk band, The Sex Pistols.

They declared their allegiance to the working classes and held mainstream society in contempt but really I think it's pretty safe to say they were just intellectually retarded nihilists consumed with image, self-indulgence and popularity. Sound familiar?

Sid Vicious was chosen for his attitude rather than his musical ability and they ended up becoming just as vacuous and rich as the ruling classes and cliched rockers they claimed to abhor.

Punk was sort of an interesting counter-culture moment and I see the value in bands like The Ramones and The Clash. I like the do-it-yourself attitude and the quesitoning of authority, but check out this quote from Johnny Rotten: "[The Ramones] were all long-haired and of no interest to me. I didn't like their image, what they stood for, or anything about them; They were hilarious but you can only go so far with 'duh-dur-dur-duh'. I've heard it. Next. Move on."

Newsflash...The Ramones were developing your sound while you were busy tearing holes in your Pink Floyd shirts and spending money on hair gel and red dye. Get over yourselves. Who cares how long their hair was?

Also, The Pistols (and pretty much all punks and hipsters) constantly talked about how much they hated hippies. The punk-hippie dichotomy really deserves to be explored fully in another post, but when you come down to it, they really weren't that different. The main difference I see is that at least hippies were trying to do something and change the world* while punks were consumed more with rebelling for the sake of rebelling and were ultimately a much more selfish group of blowhards. It's the same difference between a hiptser and somebody who isn't utterly worthless.

*That they failed and ended up becoming the big wigs they were rebelling against is irrelevant to me. At least they initially stood for something.


  1. Great Adbusters article. The visual of a fixed-brake bike makes me laugh...I imagine a hipster struggling to gain momentum and maneuver efficiently, trying to look smooth in the process, failing miserably.

    Also, the paragraph starting with (something along the lines of) 'a hipster dancefloor looks like it should have quotation marks around it' seemed to perfectly correlate with your curiosity about hipsters' dancing issues in your previous post. Pretty funny.

    Some inquiry...

    What do you think a "true hipster's" intentions are?

    Just curious...what should hipsters do to revolutionize the era? Completely fuck off? Make way for a new culture? Or, perhaps, simply dress loose and get movin' on the dancefloor? (For the record, I must admit I'm not actually concerned about hipsters. I guess I just don't pay mind to them.) What type of new movement would you suggest? What sort of movement would you advocate?

    Great post.

  2. Apathy combined with consumerism is the disease. Unbridled hipsterdom is merely a symptom.

    Our generation needs to wake the hell up and refuse to buy into disposable, throw-away culture, stop buying crap we don't need, and build a society that is meant to last.

  3. I like your call to arms Kendall.
    But as for the Sex Pistols being the first hipsters- I am going with no.
    Why? Because Sex Pistols were rebelling against something, they were rebelling against classic rock and roll. Although they were not trailblazers, the very fact that their image was mroe important than their music was an act of rebellion.
    Hipsters are not part of a social movement and to some degree the Sex Pistols were. Hipsters just dress weirdly and are aloof enough to make one think that they are part of a movement.

  4. Word.

    (directed at your comment, Kendall)

  5. Punk music was an act of rebellion against rock and roll. The Sex Pistols just happened to be born in the right time in the right city to capitalize off this movement and exploit it for personal gain. Their manager talks about them almost as a performance art joke that he created while their lead singer talks about them like they were the most important musicians of the 20th Century. I think this incredibly egomaniacal identity crisis is symptomatic of hipsterdom and douchiness in general.

  6. But it seems like you were blaming them for being in the right place at the right time. Which a lot of artists are guilty of.
    Also, who cares how they viewed themselves? How society percieves your art is just as important as how you see yourself. Meaning, hipsters are not important, how they see themselves is irrelevant.
    But the sex pistols did contribute to music, whether it was as important as they imagined is not the issue.
    Egomania is a symptom of hipsterdom, but Elvis suffered from it too and you're not going to say he was a hipster predecessor.

  7. Love it, Kendall. Hadn't examined it more closely... now I'm looking forward to reading the back catalog.