Thursday, February 7, 2013

On hipsters and typewriters

Hello, visitors. This post has become one of the most popular on my blog. Evidently, people are curious about the hipster-typewriter connection. For more on this topic, see "The Hipster Brouhaha" in my book The Typewriter Revolution.

As you've probably already caught on, you won't find any hatred for typewriters on this blog. You won't find me hating hipsters, either; I wouldn't qualify as one, but I think most of the vitriol directed against them is mean-spirited and hypocritical. If you're interested in a more tolerant point of view, read on.

The typist in this widely-circulated image is C. D. Hermelin, who earns a little money writing short stories on demand on his typewriter. Here he's plying his trade in New York City's High Line park. He's a smart, creative guy who does not deserve any abuse. You can read his own account of becoming "an object of Internet ridicule" here.

A similar case of mindless abuse was recently directed against an "idiot using his typewriter in a Starbucks."

The typist, Zachary Schepis, courageously identified himself and answered questions with panache.

Moral: learn and think before you judge. Live and let type!


  1. Good read. I second your clarion call on the last paragraph.

    Although it's hard to look like a member of tribe unfashionable when you are typing on a sleek and classy Nizzoli-designed Olivetti Lexikon 80. But hey, "... let the cultural chips fall where they may."

  2. It's also hard being the only hipster nerd typing publicly on an IBM Selectric II... quoting Robert Messenger, "I hope I won't get drummed off the typosphere for that..." but hey, "let the cultural chips fall where they may."

  3. Very well put. I plan to put Twain's words to the test in October (of course, the same thing used to be said about Melbourne, hence On the Beach was set there).

  4. Well said! Have you ever tried riding a Penny-farthing? No fun. I had the chance during the bicentennial celebrations. I think all my life I could fit with the off-beat or hipster. I don't know that I tried much fitting-in to the norm. Maybe I still don't fit. My jeans are not skin tight nor are they baggy.

  5. Excellent. And I like how you used the Sneetches as your closing argument.

  6. The true test of "More Authentic Than Thou" is sticking with something when it's not a fashion, or after it goes out of fashion. No doubt, some people are going to discover typewriters because of television and newspaper articles. Some of them will continue typing, having found that creative outlet they always sought. That is authentic, in my thinking.

    I don't worry about being taken for a hated hipster. I'm a straight, literate, conservative male between 25 and 55. I'm already the most reviled creature in modern society. And, I'm cool with that.

    Unfortunately, the weather looks rainy for the weekend. It does seem intriguing to take one of the typewriters to the park... or maybe to a scenic overlook, near a lake, far away from power outlets and reliable wireless coverage.

    1. "I don't worry about being taken for a hated hipster. I'm a straight, literate, conservative male between 25 and 55. I'm already the most reviled creature in modern society. And, I'm cool with that."

      Tipping my hat in your general direction.

  7. When I was in high school, I didn't give a damn about how I dressed. In college, I hung out with counter-cultural types and wore lots of vintage clothing that was different, but not in style. I was never in the hip or cool category.

    Fast forward 25-years and I am the archetype of uncool. I wear business casual that can be ported over to a tie and sport coat at a moments notice. I will be in D.C. for meetings in a couple weeks and will wear the requisite dark suit to blend in with that distinctive corporate culture. It's all part of the job.

    I'd say that my eclectic collections and blogs at home are my alter-ego except for having a variety of space toys, vintage cameras and robots in my office at work. If my desk weren't entirely buried in stacks of paper I would consider taking notes on a Noiseless 7. As is, I will settle for slightly different glasses and writing daily with a fountain pen.

    With regards to typewriters, one of my measures of who I really like to deal with in business is whether I point them to my personal blogs. Life is full of irony: many of them are art/architecture/design types and former hipsters. The troublemakers tend to be happy warriors.

  8. Being a hipster is in. It's the majority now of the teenage and 20+yr olds. Everywhere you look and turn. A scourge in society, turning into what was once perhaps cool or unique and indivualistic into the in-crowd, trendy, as if they have a monopoly on cool and are the Stewart's. And harbingers and arbiters of coolness.
    Makes me think the guppy is now the anti-establishment.
    Hipsters are moronic, many are overgrown adults still clinging to their college years. It's like jocks that still celebrate their heyday and recount the times they bagged the cheerleaders a decade ago.
    Being a hater is also the norm, and I guess for right now I am gleefully participating in that.

    1. The game of being the arbiter of coolness really is tiresome. It seems to me that hipsters are in a contest with anti-hipsters over who's going to win that game. But as I suggest at the end of the typecast, I suspect that some people labeled "hipsters" are actually just indifferent to fashion, and I like that.

      I've enjoyed watching some skits from "Portlandia," by the way, which as I understand it is a satire on a hipster-esque mentality or mentalities.

      I really doubt that the majority of young people are hipsters, outside a few coastal urban areas in the US.

      What's a "guppy"?

    2. Yuppy which the iPhone autocorrects to guppy hahaha
      Same difference maybe.
      Yeah here in the OC, it's crawling with the hipster.
      Probably worse in LA
      And I understand Portland maybe the headquarters
      The Midwest I hear is also a hotbed.
      Oh well

    3. I think in this sense, Guppy refers to someone of one group imitating those of another group, i. e. a man from the big city carrying himself as a farmer or rancher.

  9. I don't get, nor care, about this whole 'hipster' thing. I suppose the IDEA of the hipster is rather broad and all-encompassing. There are those that take it to extremes, that can be seen, on sight, as such; but I think the majority of what would be called 'hipsters', based on the guidelines you have mentioned, are far less suspecting in appearance.

    I just don't get society anymore. Who gives a damn what other people choose to wear or embrace? My only gripe is the first picture of this post; damn Royal Safari!

    1. Maybe you could loan the poor man one of your superior machines from your inventory. Perhaps that's the only one he was able to find, or could afford. Should you not have one, just let me know, and I'll give him one of mine. I'm sure I could outfit him with something.

  10. And then there are the beards. If I see one more guy under 35 with a beard that makes him look like he's a gold prospector in The Old West, or going after Moby Dick, I am gonna scream.
    The main difference between hipsters and The Typosphere is that The Typosphere didn't read about typewriters being cool in some Sunday supplement of a newspaper or magazine.
    And don't even get me started on the term 'metrosexual'. If Freud once said "sometimes a cigar is just a cigar", then a metrosexual is just a well-dressed man.

    1. The beard trend is easy to satirize:

      But all new fashions are irritating to the norm when they begin.

      I don't care how people find out about typewriters, as long as they come to appreciate them for what they are and not just as a fad.

    2. What sets an enthusiast/collector apart from everyone else is that he/she will continue to use a typewriter/ fountain pen/ film camera/ vinyl record player even though much more advanced (and convenient/expedient) replacements exist.
      If somebody out there is using a typewriter merely to write out funky, retro labels to stick on shoe boxes or jam jars, then they're just following a fad. Let's be ready when they list their typewriters on eBay once they get sick of changing ribbons.

    3. Oh, I don't know about that. Dirty, inky fingers are half the fun!!

  11. I'm with Mr T there...

    Arm your wallets. The fad will fade, and there'll be some awesome machines come onto the market. Mind you, many of them will have considered these as an investment, that they expect to have gotten real world returns at 200% in the first year of ownership. So don't expect the market to be all that cheap at first.