A closer look at the hipster subculture.

IT’S OFFICIAL: Helsinki is now officially one of the world’s coolest hipster locations. Eclectic haircuts, clothes and thick-rimmed glasses have become more of a familiar sight on the streets of the city, with plenty of hipster-oriented venues and events taking place throughout the year.

But who exactly is a hipster? Although it is wise not to generalise too much, as every member of a subculture has different habits and taste, it still possible to try and list the things hipsters have in common.

An individual with a certain Bohemian lifestyle, a hipster embraces independent culture, while rejecting the “mainstream” one. He or she may live in a young, artsy neighbourhood of a major city – like Williamsburg in Brooklyn or Wicker Park in Chicago – and has an environment-friendly attitude (it is no surprise if a hipster rides a fixed-gear bicycle or perhaps a hybrid car).

An avid consumer of independent and foreign films, books and magazines, he/she has a strong passion for music. The hipster’s “elitist” music taste may focus on genres such as nu-rave (bands like The Klaxons, Cut Copy, Hercules and Love Affair), minimalist techno and independent rap, or perhaps on the so-called nerdcore, or indie rock and punk. As for the favourite band, it is very likely to be Bright Eyes, Arcade Fire, Arctic Monkeys, The Libertines, or something of that nature.

As for food, it is likely that a hipster enjoys “chic” ethnic food, prefers organic and Fair Trade fruits and vegetables and follows a vegetarian, or even vegan, diet.

Often socially minded and ready to take up many causes, hipsters are also, in several cases, ironic individuals. However, it seems that it is clothing that characterises the hipsters of today. Often oriented toward a progressive, but retro, style, the male hipsters’ “dress code” includes items like t-shirts with ironic saying and images, cardigans, colorful hoodies and windbreakers.

Very popular among females, on the other hand, are leggings, mini-skirts, sweaters, leg warmers and ‘60s dresses. Both genders frequently wear dirty-looking jeans, large and thick plastic frame glasses, neo wayfarer sunglasses, and are sometimes pierced and tattooed.

The Nordic countries, and Finland in particular, seem to have launched fashion trends that have subsequently become popular in other parts of Europe. Finland is not a hipster pioneer only when it comes to clothing though. In fact, it is now a destination that many hipsters consider unique.

Hipster Helsinki

Recently, Helsinki seems to have become a city that attracts hundreds of hipsters. Dubbed the World Design Capital in 2012, it established itself as an international, art and culture-oriented location with a Bohemian touch.

The neighbourhood of Kallio, initially inhabited by blue-collar workers, is now what many consider a hipster haven. A Bohemian vibe, historical buildings and a population of students, immigrants and artists, combined with beautiful parks and buzzy nightlife, have transformed the area into a real paradise for hipsters. The neighbourhood, like the rest of Helsinki, offers a little bit of everything, but it is only in Kallio that one finds the city’s most eclectic antique shops and ethnic restaurants, as well as some of the cheapest bars and pubs.

The Design District, and the Punavuori area more specifically, is another hipster-favored part of Helsinki. The karaoke “joint” Swengi is perfect for people who want to enjoy a good drink, while having fun singing. We Got Beef is a very popular hipster bar in the area, while electronic club Playground and Hiutale Bar, which features DJ sessions most of the evenings, are the perfect places for those who like to stay up late.

At Flow, music flows

The summer season, in particular, is a very prosperous one for music events in Finland. Among the bunch of open-air happenings Finland has to offer, Flow Festival is probably the one that stands out more as hipsters-oriented. Organised in Helsinki’s industrial area of Suvilahti, just a couple of minutes walk from Kallio, it celebrated its 10th anniversary in August, with over 150 acts on offer.

Over 61,500 festivalgoers went on to spend a musical weekend at this year’s festival. A diverse line-up, which has been subject of criticism for being too “commercial”, offered the audience pop and rock performances, as well as electronic music, DJ sets, rap and jazz concerts. Amidst the jam-packed bill, one could enjoy the sounds of Swedish electro duo The Knife, local outift Minä ja Ville Ahonen, charismatic “preacher-in-music” Nick Cave and his band The Bad Seeds, Irish alt-icons My Bloody Valentine, American hip-hop legends Public Enemy and the joyful indie folk and pop Iceland’s Of Monsters and Men.

To say that Flow is a hipster event might be not totally correct, for the fact that the festival welcomes everyone without preferences. However, the happening does indeed appear to have a sort “coolness” in itself, that echoes the hip jazz cats of the 1940s. Nowadays, hipness seems to be more of a fashion trend, but it is good to remember that it initially was a state of mind characterised by open-minded individuals.

But if a hipster is someone that has an open and eco-friendly mind, then isn’t there a bit of hipness in all of us?

Yannick Ilunga
Flow Festival Jussi Hellsten