The Hipster Aesthetic

Culture still seems way too obsession with the high-low mashups. Transport yourself back to 2007. Before the market crashed, before Norcor, before Instagram, The New York Post declared:

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So. It’s been (at least) ten years since this trend started making headlines, and we’re still loving the irreverent humor in high end perfumes selling scents like “Lip Balm”… sterling silver soup cans courtesy of Tiffany’s … and comedians in contemporary art museums. These are just a few random examples, but let’s get serious about the size of this look’s allure. High-low is essentially the basis of today’s most popular street style looks. It’s at the heart of all “eclectic” interior decorating trends, and is the only reason Slaughterhouse 90210 makes sense. (See previous post for more on just how awesome that book’s author is.)

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That said, above are only one-off examples of high-low pairings. The macro example of juxtaposition in culture has to do with interior design. Some call it the “Hipster Aesthetic.” Kyle Chayka coined the phrase “AirSpace,” and Quartz labeled it “the Brooklyn look,” but irrespective of its various names, make no mistake that ‘the look’ (maybe even an ethos) of high-low has wrapped itself around the planet. And the power of this trend — when place in an architectural context — comes down to a sense of access: “For the people who live in towns and cities far from the top-tier of globally-connected metropolises, the global aesthetic that these establishments bring to their towns contribute to a sense of connection with their peers in Copenhagen and San Francisco.”

The Economist goes on to argue, “this is not so much a flattening of taste as a democratization of it,” but I would have to disagree. How are we to engage in creative pursuits if we’re all drawing inspiration from the same visual playbook? I’m not here to comment on the economic implications of a world where we all like the same style…but all our visually-based social media platforms likely have something to do with a world that seems to gravitate to the same design preferences. And it’s not that I dislike ‘the Brooklyn’ look, it’s simply that when you transplant that look into the Ukraine, the story behind the style, if it ever had one, doesn’t translate.

Airbnb took off, at least in part, because it offered a place to stay that promised originality and personality. The point wasn’t ‘I have to stay in the nicest accommodation or a place that looks like what I know.’ The point was to feel like a local. To understand, through homes, the stories of a community of people that live outside your hometown.

Image source: Lobster & Swan blog

To me this is why “cultural decorating” (a totally terrible phrase I’m coining for the point of this post) will be so important to our sense of identity moving forward.

So… my plea to all architects, commercial decorators, and industrial engineers: Please stop putting loft-style coffee shops in Asheville, Boise, Denver and all the other places a gritty, big city aesthetic makes absolutely no sense.

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