If you Google “Thad Kellstadt,” you are likely to run across the term: “Hipster Aesthetic.” What is the “Hipster Aesthetic” and how does Kellstadt’s work embody it, you ask? Well, you see, um, it is really rather simple. It is the aesthetic principles that hipsters live and die by. Obviously. Next question.
Okay. I too was a little thrown when I first encountered the phrase. Unfortunately, it does not appear in my “Art Theory for Beginners” book (thanks for nothing, Richard Osborne and Dan Sturgis). But fear not semi-fearless-quasi-readers. A little research via the internets has given me a little perspective on the topic. Allow me, if you will, to lecture about the “Hipster Aesthetic.”
Class is now in session.
Hipsters, of course, are the reincarnation of the Beat generation of the 50’s and, perhaps, of the Hippie movement of the early 60s. Hipsters originally were divorcees from an American society that encouraged political isolationism and an atomic foreign policy. Today, Hipsters mostly shop at Urban Outfitters, drink Pabst Blue Ribbon, discuss their time spent in Amsterdam, and bemoan the policies of the Reagan Administration (I’m joking, partially. Of course, others who are associated with Hipsterdom have made gainful strides for society. Consider the buy local/organic movement, the green/sustainable future movement, public trans/bicycle movement, TOMS shoes, GOOD Magazine, etc. All these things are positive contributions Hipsters have made). Now, I do not know when the current Hipster movement officially started. But, it was probably entering its adolescent stages in 2003, when The Hipster Handbook was published by Robert Lanham, Bret Nicely, and Jeff Brecthel.
This is also around the time that American Apparel shifted from a wholesale brand to a wholesale retailer, available for purchase by the average Joe (or Josephine). American Apparel is an apt prototype for the modern Hipster movement, as its clothing is manufactured in Los Angeles by employees who are given health care, lessons in English, massages, etc. American Apparel is not only a keen example of the principles of the Hipster movement, but also of the movement’s aesthetic. In a New York Times article, Dov Charney, the company’s founder, asserted that “American Apparel is in the business of designing and manufacturing sexually charged T-shirts and intimate apparel, and uses sexually charged visual and oral communications in its marketing and sales activities.”
So, the “Hipster Aesthetic” is one defined by its overt sexuality (See: V-Necks, Tight Pants, Skirts with tights for ripping [or, for you Lost in Translation fans, “lipping”]). Indeed, this can be seen in Kellstadt’s work.
The NYT article further discusses Charney as one who embraces “the notion of ‘real’ advertising, photographing young ethnic and mixed-race men and women with asymmetrical features, imperfect bodies, blemished skin and visible sweat stains on the clothes they are modeling — the kind of artsy, latter-day-bohemian, indie-culture-affiliated young adults who live and shop in the neighborhoods where American Apparel stores are located.” In short, the “Hipster Aesthetic” embraces imperfection—prefers the real to the airbrushed. This, in a sense, can be seen in Kellstadt’s work as well. The imperfect lines, the clash of colors, the disjointed shapes are all staples of Kellstadt’s art.
So, that is how Kellstadt’s work embodies the “Hipster Aesthetic.”
To read the NYT article, go here: http://www.nytimes.com/2006/04/23/magazine/23apparel.html?pagewanted=6&_r=2
To view more of Kellstadt’s work, go here: www.thadkellstadt.com/