It’s no secret that hipsters are ridiculed. What is more opaque is the definition of a hipster, but the fact remains that being a hipster is associated with trying too hard to be different. What makes someone a hipster can be as varied as how they get their caffeine, their transportation choices, or their fashion sense. What unites all people deemed hipsters, however, is that they try to not follow mainstream trends.
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One of the ways hipsters try to avoid mainstream trends is by creating their own, but many hipster trends are not new at all. Indeed, the following ten trends are decades, and sometimes even centuries, old. Perhaps if the hipsters spent less time schmoozing with Instagram thots and more time reading their Bible, they might have heard the ancient wisdom of Ecclesiastes 1:10: “Nihil sub sole novum” (there is nothing new under the sun).
Before people decided to put almond milk in their coffee to save calories or avoid dairy, it was used in medieval cooking. Instead of consuming almond milk to follow a trendy diet, medieval people employed almond milk in their recipes for more practical reasons. During Lent, Christians could not eat dairy products, meat, or eggs, and almond milk served as a suitable alternative to milk. Egg and butter substitutes were also made with almond. Almond milk was also popular throughout the calendar year because of how easily milk spoiled in those days before refrigeration. It was employed not only in desserts, but also in more savory dishes with meat.
Despite the popularity of almond milk, it was a luxury. Not everyone could afford it for everyday consumption because of its high price. Instead, the majority of people would likely have enjoyed almond milk only when they were ill, as medieval doctors argued for its effectiveness in helping soothe the sick who probably needed an energy boost after the same doctors bled them. While almond milk was a drink of the wealthier classes during medieval times, lower prices today means it is more accessible and people can enjoy it in their coffee, in their cereal, or by itself without being Warren Buffett.
A drink enjoyed by a variety of people, from hipsters to those working late-night shifts (especially Listverse-loving truckers!), is coffee. Much like today, Arabs in the 16th century and Europeans in the 17th century flocked to coffeehouses to enjoy the beverage and the conversation of others. While people today visit cafés and sip coffee while working on their laptops, learned people of the 17th and 18th centuries also visited coffeehouses to work. When it came time for the American colonies to rebel against the King, coffee began to replace tea as the beverage of choice in America. John Adams even wrote to his wife, lamenting of how tea was superior, but he would drink coffee to show his loyalty to the colonial cause.
While Adams may not have been fond of coffee, some people were willing to risk their lives to drink it. Under the rule of Sultan Murad IV, residents of the Ottoman Empire could lose their lives for consuming the beverage. Murad IV’s fatwa against coffee was so thorough that he would dress himself as an ordinary citizen and behead his subjects as they drank coffee. His heir made coffee a capital crime only if someone was caught drinking it twice. The reason coffee scared powerful rulers was that it stimulates ideas without disabling people in the way that alcohol does. Much like hipsters have made coffee a daily drink for millions today, forward-thinkers of previous centuries catapulted the drink into mainstream culture. Saint Drogo be praised!
Vegetarian and vegan diets have been promoted for thousands of years for a wide variety of reasons. While today such diets are sometimes criticized as affordable only for the wealthy, they were eaten by a variety of people in the ancient world. Some Hindus, Jains, and Buddhists have followed vegan or vegetarian diets for thousands of years.
Vegetarian diets (excluding eggs) were eaten by Taoist and Buddhist nuns and monks during the 4th century in China. Ancient Greek thinkers such as Apollonius of Tyana, Plotinus, and Pythagoras all followed diets that minimized the amount of meat or animal products eaten. While many people throughout history eschewed meat for religious reasons, more people today are following vegan and vegetarian diets for ethical reasons born out of secular — instead of spiritual — concerns.
Today people use everything from artificial sweeteners to stevia to agave nectar as a substitute for cane sugar. In the 18th and 19th centuries, people looked for alternatives to cane sugar for a different reason: slavery. Opponents of slavery saw maple syrup as a viable alternative to sugar cane. By buying maple syrup, abolitionists could sweeten their palates without the moral guilt associated with buying cane sugar.
Sugar cane alternatives were also found for purely economic reasons. During the Napoleonic wars, the British blockade left France without access to sugar cane. Napoleon turned to sugar beet as an alternative sweetener at the suggestion of French scientists. He encouraged domestic production of sugar beet, which drove down the price of sugar and transformed sweets from a luxury to an affordable treat.The amount of sugar consumed in Europe increased by nearly 300% in the 19th century alone. Nowadays, hipsters use maple syrup as a “natural” alternative to sugar and sugar beet is no longer seen as trendy or innovative.
Today, alternative currencies from Bitcoin to Trumpcoin are used by people as a status symbol and a way to show political affiliation. In true hipster fashion, some people seek out alternative currencies that are obscure precisely because of their obscurity. Centuries before cryptocurrencies became mainstream, the Roman empire allowed local governments to mint their own coins. These coins were used alongside the denarius, the universal coin used in the Roman empire.
While cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin are often used by customers to support libertarian ideals, alternative currencies in Ancient Rome were likely employed to foster togetherness in local communities. In Pompeii, bronze coins were frequently used instead of denarii in local and inexpensive transactions. In Ancient Egypt, lead tokens were used as an alternative form of currency during a coin shortage — likely for similar reasons as the bronze coins of Pompeii. While the concept of alternative currencies may not be new, what makes cryptocurrencies different is its decentralized nature.
Before there were reality TV shows featuring enthusiastic bargainers searching for antiques and hipsters combing through consignment shops for vintage clothing, people looked at art as something to hoard. Art was amassed in ancient Egypt, Babylon, India, and China by wealthy and powerful individuals. It was a status symbol, much like jeans from the 1960s and 19th century table linens are today. The ancient Greeks began the appreciation of antique art and the Romans continued that craze once they conquered Greece. The Romans glorified Greek culture and art and wealthy Romans sought out Greek artwork to add to their collections. Much like people today buy replicas of antiques, Romans would sometimes pay to have Greek sculptures replicated. Desire for Greek art even led unwitting Romans to buy forgeries.
During the Renaissance, wealthy individuals amassed private collections of art, making Greek art popular once again. In time, however, private collections became replaced by public ones as monarchs began allowing common people to see their collections. Some individuals even gave their colections over to the public. Nowadays, people can search on eBay for antiques or visit a museum, meaning we don’t have to be hipsters or millionaires to enjoy art from the past.
Socks with sandals is either the greatest footwear combination or the most grievous fashion sin ever conceived depending on who you ask. Centuries before hipsters decided that socks with sandals were fashionable, Roman legionaries donned similar footwear. In 2010, archaeologists in North Yorkshire found a Roman sandal. What was remarkable about the sandal was the traces of fibers left on it. These fibers may have been the remnants of a sock.
Romans were known to wear socks, so it would not be much of a jump to conclude that legionnaires may have worn them with their sandals. Doing so would have kept their feet insulated against the cold and protected them from thorns. While today socks with sandals are seen as a sign that one is lacking in style, Romans legionnaires likely saw the combination as a practical way to keep their feet battle-ready.
Leggings have catapulted into mainstream society, but they still manage to cause controversy. Leggings have a long history of being accepted, however. On the Great Plains, Native American women wore leggings made of animal skins for modesty — bare ankles were deemed inappropriate — and to shield their legs from the elements. While in the 21st century leggings are oftentimes associated with women who practice yoga, leggings were once primarily worn by men in Europe. European leggings were first created by William Lee in the 1500s and two centuries later, they were sported by men whose jobs or leisure activities included physical labor. Women took up leggings during the sexual revolution of the 1960s and the fitness craze of the 1980s and today, leggings are primarily worn by women. However, meggings are growing in popularity, though they may be more popular with hipsters than your average Joe.
Anti-capitalism is not something invented by hipsters in coffee shops sipping their caramel macchiatos with a dash of almond milk or even by Karl Marx. With the formation of capitalism came opposition to it. Although terms such as capitalism and socialism are relatively new in terms of human history, anti-capitalist sentiments have been expressed for centuries. The Greek poet Hesiod wrote of how men had fallen from the Golden Age when things were shared and humankind experienced peace to the greed and strife of the Iron Age.
Similarly, Greeks were criticized by themselves and others for their markets and merchants. In ancient Rome, merchants were vilified by thinkers like Cicero as dishonest and playwrights such as Plautus mocked them. Early Catholics and Protestants railed against merchants and John Calvin even compared them to prostitutes. Throughout history, greed has been seen as sinful and by characterizing market-driven economies as run by greed, thinkers have criticized capitalism long before the term was coined. It is little wonder, then, that anti-capitalist sentiments are still harbored today. Of course no one fails to see the irony of a hipster wearing a Che Guevara (“chay” – the “ch” is pronounced like “chain” not “shape”) tee-shirt in a Starbucks on their iPhone (except perhaps the hipster himself).
Even hipsters themselves are not new. There have always been those who have subverted social norms and hipsters are the latest group to earn the ire of mainstream society. While hipsters of the modern era draw near-universal scorn, hipsters of the 1930s to 1950s are less well-known these days. The word hipster began as an adjective, hip, used to describe those fond of jazz before becoming a noun. Black jazz musicians inspired the very first hipsters — mostly white men from well-off families — to rebel against social norms. Hipsters entertained notions of nihilism and focused on separating themselves socially from society.
Hipsters experienced a revival greater than their genesis after kids from the 1990s decided to embrace their nostalgia for times they had never lived in. As hipster culture merged with mainstream culture, alternative music and art became mainstream or forgotten. The hipsters of today are different from the first hipsters much like almond milk is used for different purposes today. While many elements of hipster culture are appropriated instead of created, hipsters do help make old ideas trendy again.
The pic above is Allen Ginsberg, the great hipster poet of the 1950s. As you can see, the modern hipsters don’t even have a unique appearance: even that is copied from the original hipsters – from the denim and plaid, to the beard and thick rimmed glasses! For a real treat, here is a video of Ginsberg reading his poem Howl which was so scandalous it led to an obscenity trial! It is one of the masterpieces of the era.
About The Author: Alexandra loves guinea pigs, reading, and writing.