Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Very First Hipsters Part Deux

Here is part 2 of berlinhipsterfestival2012's blog post on the original hipsters.

As we saw in the first part of this blog post the very first group of people to be called ‘hipsters’ were from the 1940s. And often they were identified by (perhaps identified with, rather) with an affinity to the jazz and bebop greats of the time and their lifestyle. The term hipster, itself, came from the word hepcat, which in turn is arguably of African descent, inspired by the Wolof language of Senegal (West Africa being the origin of most slaves to cross “The Middle passage” into the Americas).

“In Wolof, the verb "hipi" means "to open one's eyes." The American slang cat means a person, as in hep-cat or cool cat, and is similar to the Wolof kai used as a suffix following the verb.”

In a sense these roots only further strengthen the claim of the likes of Norman Mailer accusing these hipsters of, effectively, selling their race out. Perhaps selling their race out is a bit too strong a sentiment. It is, after all, generally understood that when Bing Crosby was called the first hip white person born in America it was supposed to be a compliment showing how cool he is. And all this during a time when black people were officially considered inferior (segregation, anyone?) and openly denigrated.

The attraction to the black music and dance is not hard to imagine as today we have the example of hip-hop. It is simply another case of history repeating itself, as history is wont to do. It also doesn’t take a huge leap of imagination to understand that the new philosophies of racial diversity, exploratory sexual nature and drug habits hailing from the 40s would lead to the next era of hipsterdom that I want to touch on: HIPPIES!
PS On a somewhat unrelated-yet-related note we now have the perfect nickname for my partner in crime over here at the berlinhipsterfestival2012: Cool Cat!! Tell me Cat have people yet used it as a nickname for you?

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