Cheap Living Vs Being a Dirty Hipster


Part One: The Ownership of Cool.

Poor is cool, you know, as long as it’s the right kind. The ‘correct’ type of poor in the West usually involves being young, educated, not-on-too-many-drugs and dedicating your time and energy into something noble like university, an artistic pursuit or political activism. So long as you’re lucky enough to tick these boxes you will find that this barren land of poverty sits atop its very own gold mine of cultural wealth.

Looking back to the 60s and 70s we might have thought of these radical destitutes as the Hippies and the 80s/90s versions as the Punks and general Grunge scene. Now, in our finely balanced imbalance of the capitalist world, we have what most refer to as the Hipster.

During Uni, I relied heavily upon this cultural wealth of Hipsterdom to sustain life while maintaining face – paying my rent with the money I saved by buying two dollar pairs of boots at St Vinnies and eating only the leftover rolls my girlfriend brought home, as our ritualistic Brunch-inner feasts. The boots were Vintage after all and nothing tastes better than free food.

Now in my mid-twenties I’m still chasing the arts and renting deep within the inner-suburban nests, but seeing a strange, if a bit belated, hatred or general mockery toward all things ‘indie’ and ‘hip’. Ok, what? What happened in these few short years? More importantly, what the hell happened to my gold mine?

It was on the tram down Brunswick Street in Melbourne, as I passed the dozens of ‘vintage’ retail outlets and the wooden café benches resting atop fluoro milk crates that I realised: Being a Hipster no longer has anything to do with how little money you have or how many hand-made records you’re dropping.

A bad taste crept into my mouth – and for once it wasn’t from the canned chick peas. I was realising that my gold mine was now empty; that companies had tunnelled in from their pastures and ripped it out from under me. You can now buy the very cool that was created by those who couldn’t buy a thing.

Enter Exhibit B: The Dirty Hipster. He is a sweet middle class man who just bought a custom design fixie from Berlin and had his head shaved and beard trimmed at a Fitzroy-based, 50’s-themed barber shop for a mere $120. He frequently visits Shag in the hopes of buying another second-hand pair of brown shoes and he, somewhere down the line, traded in his precious time for the extra money to buy these nice things.

We have all met him – Portlandia makes a comedy on the back of him – and in his wake the Everyday Joe has grown sick of anything within a whiff of ‘Hipster’. But it is not the style that’s gone rotten, otherwise our Mr. B wouldn’t be buying it, rather it’s the money that went in that makes it stink. Where things were once a bargain and thrifty, they now are originating from the same sources (or worse – read “Made in Cambodia”) and being funnelled through profit thirsty companies only to shit out into Fitzroy, then Brunswick, then Footscray and outward and onward.

The tram passed the corner of Rose Street and I looked out at the iconic grey haired punk sitting on the corner. My woollen cardigan – sleeves moth eaten – and his shredded leather jacket were mourning as one – for the decades between us, we have had the same thing stolen – except that this time it can be taken back.

Why? Because The Internet of course.

Because The Internet, we don’t need to rely on financial wealth the same way we once did for social capital – and I’m not the only one noticing it. Studies have shown that people are investing in luxury items much less since the boom of social-networking or, more specifically, since being able to show-off online as opposed to driving a Porsche down Lygon Street. What I suppose here is that we use this internet thing to find out what we really should be spending the pennies on, that is: the recycled, the ethically sourced, the dirt cheap and the hand-made. Maybe more importantly, we use this internet to talk about what we shouldn’t buy in to and that is: the companies – the companies, who do not, cannot and will not ever own Cool.

Let’s begin…

amy wright


Words by by Suga Ruin. Check back soon for Part 2: The Opportunity Shop – where to go, where not to go and how to do it right.