Beanies-Per-Head- James Harmer
Apologies if there are some insulting abstractions in here, I haven’t got time to do research where I would have liked to so there may well be – but I think there is some truth to it. Now I think that beanies can look pretty good. Or at least, the people in them can. But something about them has bugged me ever since I noticed some hipsters sweating them, mid summer, a few years back. Then, while recently watching a late night rerun of Rocky, his gym trainer’s pretty Winter/Spring 2013 Collection headwear reminded me that my first exposure to the beanie was actually about twenty years ago during my trips up north to see family.
The beanie was originally adopted by blue collar workers who needed to keep their hair out the way without the visual obstruction of a brim. In fact, in the past many US colleges have forced freshman to wear this mark of the lower class as a badge of humiliation. How things have changed. As far as I am aware, it was not until the grunge/skater crazes of the 90/00s that it started to become heavily adopted by popular culture. Short or shaven hair was popular by this point and I guess I can see how an association with working class lineage made sense to a culture which was decidedly moving away from the happygo- lucky era of the 90s. Trends like this go in circles and it is not surprising the the beanie has returned. It does appear odd though, that this fashion accessory of the 90s grunge movement has reemerged in association with the current surge of electronic music – and been paired with the 80s fashions which emerged with the last great era of electronic rhythms.
If the classical Hollywood, wealthy family stories of Home Alone (or Richie Rich!) are the epitome of the kind of shit Kurt Cobain and co were rebelling against, it is problematic that the beanie has emerged as the finishing piece for today’s outfits – which are almost identical to the things which our Kevin and co look so adorable in. I would suggest this is largely because both have been lumped in the dubious “retro” category. Beanies and patterned shirts etc. were both present in the early 90s, so both are “retro.”
But they come from very different places. I do not think for one minute that Home Alone or Richie Rich etc. would get made now. There are many well documented reasons for why such wealthy W.A.S.P families are less present on our screens in today’s world. I think the beanie is a way of reflecting this – “sure my clothes look like I’m going for a 1984 picnic in the Hamptons but if that was true I’d have big hair – I am wearing a wooly hat.”
On lengthy reflection, I feel this is where the source of my irk lies. The place I’ve seen (by far) most beanies-per-head is Dalston, where residents increasingly seem to be highly privileged kids who are desperate to appear otherwise – renting a warehouse they barely use at the same annual rate you could buy a house – paid for by their parents as they pursue their artistic inclinations. The problem is that by forcing prices up they and their beanies are forcing others out of their homes – many of whom are the modern-day equivalent of blue collar workers, the lineage of which is being replicated by said beanie. With people wearing them in situations and places which completely defy their purpose, the beanie is a particularly clear symbol for how people pursuing trends can damage the groups they inaccurately assimilate and commodify. There is a dramatic irony invoked by the beanie, which I fear will become increasingly tragic.
They do look alright though.
PS I’m sorry Home Alone, you know I still love you.