With the proliferation of those perfectly groomed beards and vintage clothes the ‘hipster’ has almost become a euphemism for middle-of-the-road. But there’s a new wave of hipsters and they’re shaking things up, writes Jessica Morris.
Photos by Jeff Chen
When hipster culture came to the forefront a decade ago, it was hard to miss: myriads of 20-somethings would strut around urban areas, decked out in skinny jeans and ironic T-shirts from their local Salvos store. If that wasn’t enough to tip you off, their extra-large takeaway cup of espresso let you know they were way too cool for you.
Unsurprisingly, Christians were quick to follow the trend. And soon, thousands of young adults entered churches wearing owl-rimmed glasses, and demanded a new way of living. Journalist Brett McCracken understands this better than anybody: he spent a year travelling across the US studying the habits of ‘hipster’ Christians.
“Ten years ago, [hipster culture] was a novelty for Christians who were pushing the boundaries of going to church in a new way, with trendy music and an emphasis on style,” he tells me. “Hipsters want to be breaking boundaries and defying categories. They want to be surprising people and circumventing the boundaries and the rules that have been established before.”
The movement spawned a new lifestyle for many people: vegan, paleo and organic became not just a new way of living but a new genre of art created from pain, faith and social justice.
Like all good fads, being a ‘hipster’ was eventually adopted by so many that its very ideal became void. But its mark on culture remains, right down to the ripped denim that you wore to church on Sunday. And with its fingerprints has come the new wave of hipsterdom: the authentic truth-seeker.
From the outset, Stacey and Mark Peric are two people who fit the traditional hipster mould. The young couple grew up in The Salvation Army and attended numerous large charismatic churches before they moved from the suburbs of Melbourne with children, Rocco (4 months) and Leni (4), seeking a new way of life on South Stradbroke Island off the Gold Coast
The Perics believe in sustainability. They live in an eco-cabin, own their own leatherware business called KIND.SIR (which tries to source sustainable suppliers), and eat as much fresh and natural food as possible because they are mindful of the effect their actions have on the people, plants and animals around them.
“I guess you could call our lifestyle slow,” says Stacey. “Not so much in the pace at which we live life but more by how we live our life; mindful and consciously, taking it all in.”
Despite this, Mark says they wouldn’t call themselves hipsters.
“Living in Melbourne for the past five years, we were definitely exposed to the hipster culture and a hipster to me is someone who follows trends and wants to be seen as being cool,” explains Mark.
Stacey elaborates: “I think of someone who is trying hard to be noticed for the choices they make.”
Rather than focusing on being ‘different’ like the traditional hipster, the Perics are committed to connection: with God, with each other and with the people around them.
“How I love is so important to me,” says Stacey. “It’s important that I say hi and smile to the person I’m passing on my bike and it’s even more important for my kids to see me doing this.”
Mark continues, “We’ve deliberately created space for us to have more quiet time—time to be in nature and living in a small community with a very real and practical outworking of my faith,” he says.
“I lived inauthentically for too long and got to the point where I had to make a choice to stay on that path or be true to myself no matter how that looked to anyone else.”
While Stacey and Mark have chosen an alternative lifestyle by living off the grid, they are not alone in their commitment to authenticity. For musician Jeremy Fowler, it is key to his creativity. And while he also disagrees with the sentiment of being a ‘hipster,’ its nuances are found throughout his artistry and way of life.
“I’ve never tried to compartmentalise my music separate from my faith,” he says. “I like to live without those borders and without those walls.”
Jeremy walks the line between faith and culture daily. He fronted successful alternative rock band New Empire for a decade, and just released a solo EP ‘Beggar and the Lion’ under a pseudonym: Parisian. His music could easily fall into the ‘hipster’ genre: the tones are mysterious, ethereal and moody, and his lyrics tell the stories of a broken heart, the loss of his mother to cancer, and his struggle to find God in his pain.
But far from the idealised hipster, like the Perics the unwavering difference in Jeremy’s life is his commitment to absolute authenticity which is at the heart of his faith.
“Everything comes back to the heart for me, because the culture of our world is generally self-centred and very self-serving,” he explains. “God is the exact opposite. His love is unconditional and radical towards us. And I want to become that love for others.”
So is the difference between hipsters and the new wave of truth-seekers like the Perics and Jeremy, one of ego?
“I think the downside of a hipster kind of mentality can sometimes look to exclude others, and out of a place of insecurity give oneself a false sense of worth which is really kind of a symptom of feeling more of an orphan than a son,” says Jeremy. ”The truth of our worth is much more freeing and liberating than that.”
While hipsterdom came about to break the confines of society, in itself it created a new set of rules which became more about trends than free thinking. The new wave of hipsters—dare we call them that—often look the same, but their life isn’t about style: it’s about keeping it real. As Stacey says, “Authenticity is king.
“I think a life lived authentically is such a satisfying one and contributes the most to society,” she says. “There’s nothing like choosing a life you want to lead and going ahead and really doing it.”