Having reflected upon the ‘Hipsterism’ debate that raged this month, what seems to have been overlooked throughout the mud slinging and preoccupation with Shoreditch, is that ‘Hipsterism’ represents a facet of a much larger, deeply rooted and significant cultural phenomenon.

The numerous commentators weighing in seem to consistently confuse fashions, which are transitory, with the value systems that they come to represent, overlooking what should be examined, which is the growing global movement of libertarian ‘creative types’.

Certainly the identity of this movement changes periodically with trend (currently beards, dip dyed hair etc) but its uniformity should not be attributed to some backfired quest to be different; quite the opposite, it conveys belonging to a community and functions just like the trappings of any other religious or social group. Forget the surface, what’s underneath is a growing demographic of self-fulfilled, inward-looking individuals that are interested in producing, as much as, if not more than, in consuming. This section of society share in a ‘live and let live’ attitude to life and form a comprehensively media educated fraternity. We employ each other, train each other, cooperate with each other and promote each other.

Yes, Shoreditch, has unquestionably become a brand that embodies this ideology.  JaguarShoes Collective have endorsed, supported and instituted it and I believe it is virtuous, (so the denigratory criticism that persists to date, weights heavy.)


I started writing our business plan there in 1999. A time in which the social landscape proffered only old man pubs, dank dark dance clubs and chrome poser bars. The template document I was filling, asked me to ‘define my market? I ventured then that every school must have a handful of kids who do not appreciate the bonding marionations of manufactured bands, football, or any of the veritable Barbie Dream ‘cribs’ that 90’s consumer culture was defecating for us to worship. My ‘target demographic’, were people like me who had been repeatedly dubbed ‘creative’, by parents or teachers in that condescending come sympathetic tone, like it was some superficially disabling affliction. Those people who have been labeled Shoreditch Twats, Fashionistas, Trendies, Nathan Barleys, and so on, when a valid description would have simply been ‘creatives’.

Well, the tables have somewhat turned. Throughout the noughties, primarily due to technological advance, we have witnessed subcultures digitize, blog, scan & play their way into the foreground of mainstream life. Evolving a popular culture in which society’s outsiders have converged and taken on the hero mantel.

Sympathetic, sensitive, often self-deprecating or despondent, but nonetheless thoughtful personalities have been projected to the status of inspirational protagonist, a post John Hughes epoch in which TV shows like Freaks and Geeks, Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Spaced, have, through their success and critical accolade, spawned innumerate knockoffs and projected their creators and stars to powerful positions in media. Their products revel in self-referential celebrations of pop cultural obscura and in-jokes, endorsing creativity, frailty and broadminded intelligence over the traditional propositions of strength, valor or bloody-minded vengeance.

This story abounds across all media. The ‘creative class’, has extended into every facet of both the virtual desktop and in-turn the socio-economic environment. The forms of employment that defined past generations of working/middle classes, have had their status dismantled, with that status now sought through creative professions. In China the authorities, realising the economic shift, have created academies focused on fostering the nations long overlooked creative talents.

This is a sea change, in which imaginative thinking and innovation have united the arts and the sciences in a movement wherein ‘creativity’ dominates. While the majority of the people that fall into this classification are not ‘creative’ trailblazers and probably do not consider themselves to be ‘hipsters’, they are part of something enriching, inclusive and non-judgemental. Nationality, race, gender, religion, disability or sexual orientations are never an issue to this social group; difference is valued and welcomed. It echoes the values of the 60’s hippy movement (from which the name is derived) but it is laissez-faire, unpredictable and connected globally in a way unseen by any prior mainstreamed subculture. No militant ideology is attempting to direct and yet, as we reject the 80’s ‘Saatchi’ model, corporate brands respond in alarm, trying to be part of the revolution, rebranding their offer to look and feel ‘independent’; but like wolves in sheep’s clothing, all one sees, are their teeth.

In terms of gentrification it seems unnecessary to point out the evident fact that creative communities seek out affordability and kickstart the process. The developers converge, raise the property prices, displacing the creative community. It sucks. No-one likes being pushed out of their neighbourhood, but if an ideology is going to keep on growing and reimagine the decaying areas of London, well, we wouldn’t want it to be one prescribed by bloody tolerant, open-minded and friendly creative types? Would we?

If the Shoreditch community has provided a model for gentrification, I can’t think of a better or more sustainable one. I have inhabited an amazing bubble here for almost 20 years; an established community of kind people with shared values, wherein you can be whoever the hell you want to be, without fear of being judged. Where people are not afraid to show each other love in one veiled form or other. That is a big deal, long may it propagate and grow. It’s those values that founded JSC and its those values we need to see propagating across the UK – because looking at the state of the rest of the world right now, being in Shoreditch makes me feel very very very lucky!

– Nick Letchford



JAGUARSHOES COLLECTIVE – Nick Letchford and his business partner Teresa Skrgatic launched DreamBagsJaguarShoes in Shoreditch in 2001. The collective was born out of the much celebrated bar and exhibition space and the arts organisation now constitutes a group of businesses and individuals working across art, film, fashion, music, publishing and design. The collective provides many platforms for creative talent.