In 2010, it was the easiest thing in the world to make somebody laugh. All you had to do was say the word “hipster”, reference flannel shirts, craft beer, fixies or The National, and you’d have listeners howling, doubled over with laughter, visibly in quite a lot of pain.
However, as the decade progressed, it became harder and harder to scale these heady comedic heights. “Hipster” as a category became so diffuse – the term used to refer to so many (often contradictory) genres of person – that it became all but meaningless. Hetty Douglas-esque CSM students in FILA tracksuits, queer techno fans with shaved heads and balding 35-year-olds in checked shirts: none of these people could reasonably be said to inhabit the same cultural space.
As recently as 2018, though, it was still simple enough to skewer a certain breed of Peckham, Chorlton or Finnieston-dwelling young creative without using the H-word or any of its traditional signifiers. How? “They probably drink natural wine, eat at small-plate restaurants, host a podcast that critiques identity politics from a leftist perspective and own a load of Scandinavian workwear.”
This was holding up just fine until the other day, when I saw someone tweet a joke about graphic designers eating small plates, and a chill wind passed over my soul. All Bar One has a small plates menu these days – which isn’t to say no graphic designer ever eats at All Bar One, but I’d wager the bearded east London guy living in the minds of Telegraph columnists and Have I Got News for You gag-writers does not.
So, to help those people find the punchline to their next lazy joke about cool young people, I spoke to a range of trend-forecasters about what’s on the horizon.
Streetwear continues to dominate, and in the pre-pandemic warehouse raves of Tottenham and Hackney Wick, the sportswear aesthetic showed no sign of abating: middle class gay men in their twenties love nothing more than dressing like the boys who bullied them in school. But these are so firmly established that referencing them in a joke would simply be boring.
For something a little bit fresher, outerwear is your best bet – in other words, the kind of gear you’d wear on a walking holiday in the Hebrides. This is a trend that predates the pandemic, but, perhaps unusually, has found itself even more relevant in its wake. Today, in the gastropubs of the UK’s major cities, you’ll find people dressed like Sophie’s dad in Peep Show, or the attendees of a Young Farmers disco: fleeces, hiking wear, bright water-proof materials, even anoraks.
“During the pandemic,” says Hannah Cragg, senior editor at trend forecasting agency WGSN, “people experienced and still are experiencing extended periods of indoor life, leaving them to daydream about immersing themselves in nature, outside the walls of cramped urban flats.”
“For young men’s fashion,” adds Hannah, “it’s taking on more of a performance angle, with an uptick in mountaineering, fishing, hiking and camping brands. Think utilitarian styles: multi-pocketed modular trousers, padded gilets and the low-key but still status-heavy branded fleece, as new streetwear brands collaborate with heritage outdoor brands.”
“Have you asked your dad if he still has that Arc'teryx Gore-Tex in the attic?” says Kyle Parry, Digital Production Manager at Goodhood, a retailer best known for high-end streetwear. “I’d personally say Arc’teryx is having a ‘moment’ right now, even more so than The North Face.”
For women, according to Hannah, this emerging aesthetic “translates to girly dresses and structured separates coming to life as romantic outdoor adventures and picnic parties […] styled back with chunkier performance boots and utility trainers”.
This look is partly tied to the emergence of the “Cottagecore” aesthetic popularised on TikTok, which shows no signs of abating (it’s even influenced legacy designers like Dior and Louis Vuitton). “While most people can't – or won't – completely abandon their city lives,” says Hannah, “they're dreaming about it and subscribing virtually to it.”
There's undeniably something absurd about sommeliers and SEO consultants sauntering down Broadway Market in expensive hiking gear. These kinds of clothes are fundamentally inauthentic – or at least unnecessary – in an urban setting. But for people who can’t explain exactly what they do for a living to their parents, perhaps it’s all about aspiring to a more rugged and authentic lifestyle.
Holly Friend, Youth Editor at The Future Laboratory, agrees that The North Face is big at the moment, while also suggesting that ironic slogan tees are making a comeback. With any luck, you’ll catch me swaggering through Burgess Park in a “Bloody Difficult Woman” T-shirt before the year is through.
This the area in which the pandemic has had the biggest influence. By necessity, people are stuck inside and paying more attention to their surroundings.
“Something I’ve very much noticed recently, in terms of interior design,” says writer and cultural critic Rachel Connolly, “is a certain type of young woman - maybe they work in publishing or literature - who gravitates towards an interior aesthetic of dramatic velour furniture with a Victorian bent. It just looks very strange for a normal room.”
Holly Friend, meanwhile, confirms something I’ve long suspected: tarot is the next astrology. This has been the case for a while now, thanks to wildly popular mental health tarot guru Jessica Dore, the success of Francine Toon’s tarot-influenced debut novel Pine, and the fact the cards do genuinely look cool as fuck.
These days, there is nothing more boring than mocking an archetypal straight, white literary dude-bro for reading Infinite Jest, Bukowski or The Beats.
This folk demon, who exclusively reads books by men and sneers at the silly little novels that women write, might persist in the cultural imagination (he is the subject of “discourse” on Twitter about once a month), but the truth is he’s a dying breed. “He doesn’t exist,” agrees Rachel. “There’s five men like that, and they all live in New York. Anyway, if I went on a date with someone and he started talking about David Foster Wallace, I’d just think ‘Great, this man has read a few books.’”
The literary dude-bro has spent the last decade reading the exact same jokes as you about people who say “not so much a question as a comment” at live Q&As. He’s been laughing ruefully at whichever Reductress articles apply to him and changing his behaviour accordingly. He’s adapted, grown self-aware and embraced performative male feminism, making a big deal of reading books by women, queer and POC authors.
Far from carrying around a well-thumbed copy of Brief Interviews with Hideous Men, you’re more likely to catch this guy posting an Instagram snap (captioned “Right! Let’s do this…”) of the latest Ocean Vuong, Carmen Maria Machado or Virginie Despentes. He may even claim that these books left him feeling “flayed”, “raw” or “torn apart at the seams”.
It’s time we acknowledge that the “Maggie Nelson bro” is a more urgent phenomenon than the Jonathan Franzen dude.
FOOD AND ALCOHOL
It’s been two years since The Guardian claimed that natural wine is wine’s “punk or acid house”. If natural wine is indeed punk, it’s just entered its “John Lydon doing adverts for butter” era. While its popularity is undiminished, it is no longer a marker of cosmopolitan sophistication.
So what comes next? Holly suggests “hard seltzers” such as White Claw, an alcoholic carbonated water that launched in the UK this summer, having proven wildly successful in the States. This may well be the next alcohol craze, akin to the 2020 version of alcopops, but it’s unlikely to become a consuming obsession in the vein of natural wine or craft beer. It doesn’t sound like something you can have a conversation about (“Have you tried White Claw?” “Yes.”) or list as an interest in your Hinge bio, which is actually probably for the best.
For food, obviously “making sourdough” is the one of the definitive clichés to emerge from the lockdown era, and as such is already played out as a reference. More and more people are aiming to reduce their meat intake, which means sustainability plays a factor in a number of up-and-coming trends.
Holly suggests flexitarian meat – food products that mix meat with vegetables – and nose-to-tail restaurants, which take a “waste not, want not” approach to the ethical problem of meat consumption, by using every single part of an animal. I feel like this one’s been going since St John opened in 1994, but: gorging on a pig’s anus could well be the new small plates.
I just ran into your boyfriend in the Northern Quarter and I’m afraid to tell you he was wearing a Arc'teryx jacket, sipping a can of White Claw and reading Her Body and Other Parties. What a desperate cliché.