Older: What is hip?

A friend sent me this photo with the wish, "...I hope my friends are this young at heart and hip forever."

(Though many Facebook comments refer to her as "old", I read her as an early-middle-aged women who went white early.)

I enjoyed her well-wishes and at the same time, thought, No way I'd pick that shirt. (Among other constraints, the eyes would pop out at a distressing place on my chest)—but she projects joie de vivre and a whimsical style I'd call more "creative" than hip. Good for her for letting her feline flag fly!

Even if I wouldn't rock a giant cat face, I'm not averse to orange frames; below, me at the softball game/BBQ the evening before the kids' wedding:

Before you think I'm a badass instead: the event was licensed for the beer I'm holding.

As Tower of Power famously asked, What is Hip?

Urban Dictionary says hip is, "Cooler than cool; the pinnacle of "it"; beyond all trends and conventional coolness". (The related word hipster addresses a young-adult demographic; see entry here.)

To me, the ephemeral ether of hip inhabits a less capricious neighbourhood than Ms. Kitty's, more Rick Owens than Trash & Vaudeville. Hip is hatched from a confidence that rejects conformist behaviour such as ironing your hair straight when it's not (guilty, up to my mid-twenties) or starving yourself to size whatever while you're miserable.

The hip women I know are uninterested in copycat InStyle outfits, but always have one audacious detail, a scarf or an unusual ring, or 'their' way of wearing a hat. They are not necessarily pretty, but have strongly expressive faces, like these women:

Left, poet Anne Carson; centre, visual artist Shirin Neshat; right, filmmaker Agnès Varda.

Trying to be hip is like trying to be witty: effort kills it. So does hanging onto youth; as TOP sang,
"...and if you're really hip, the passing years will show."

So who's hip?  To one woman it's Ms. Kitty, to another it's Patti Smith. And, does it matter? I think my friend's wish that we stay "young at heart" is a more compelling goal. Getting older while retaining a sense of humour, the ability to give and receive love and friendship, and an active curiosity—now that I will pursue wholeheartedly!


une femme said…
The top photo is of Sara Jane Adams, who is a jewelry designer, instagram star and who I believe just turned 60. She's definitely into creative dressing à la Advanced Style (and creative living, based on what she presents on social media). More images of her here: http://tinyurl.com/q2mc57r

"Hip" I've come to believe is like Happiness in the Buddhist proverb: the cat chasing its tail vs. the tail following along. I'm drawn to a certain kind of "cool" style-wise, but consciously aim for "bien dans ma peau." ;-)

Love the orange frames on you!
LauraH said…
Interesting post. I've never been 'hip' or anything close to it so I don't think I'll be entering those ranks at this point. Staying young at heart is so much more enjoyable. I try to be open to new things and avoid drawing back from the current world as I see many do as they get older. Hanging out with a 5 year old is a big help in that direction!

BTW both my frames are translucent plastic, one is green and the other purple. A great way to add some zip. You look great in that orange.
materfamilias said…
Much to think about here, although honestly, sometimes I get tired of how much we focus on our age -- and I KNOW we're going to wear out other generations' patience on this one, we Boomers. Not a smidgen of hipness in me, nor do I manage chic or cool, but I do like myself many days, and I'm still so interested in so many things that I feel quite fortunate. Funny, I think, that while we laud (or at least remark, generally favourably, even with a touch of wonder) a child or youth who has "an old soul," we want to be "young at heart" as we age. Are those two phenomena complementary or oppositional, I wonder?
Murphy said…
Anne Carson looks the way I imagine Emily Bronte would have looked if she had lived to be older.
I've never been hip, either, but I want to be interesting and stay engaged with people and life in general. Not sure what outfits will project that - maybe colors that make me happy so I emit positive vibes?
materfamilias said…
back to add that I LOVE your orange frames! I've been wanting to get a pair of bright-coloured ones, perhaps aqua....
Madame Là-bas said…
I'm really unhip but it no longer matters. Mater, maybe what we're really talking about is having the wisdom of experience coupled with the open-mindedness and energy of youth. It really isn't about age or appearance, it's about an attitude. There is a danger, I think, of spending so much time on the appearance of "hip" that we are like Sue's cat chasing our tails.
LauraH said…
Murphy, I had a Personal Colour Analysis http://www.12blueprints.com/personal-colour-analysis/ done 3 years ago and it has made a big difference in my life, much more so and in many more ways than I would ever have thought. It has helped me feel more myself every day when I walk out the door. I'm not connected in any way with the site, just wanted to share that this might be something to explore.
I am not now nor ever will be HIP, besides I am not that into "defining myself."
Being older and possibly wiser allows us to look at the world with different eyes...
the advanced "style" is not for me...I have never wanted to stand out in a crowd or draw attention to myself.

I think your bright glasses are fabulous and they suit you. My walking partner has bright frames and they really light up her face and flatter her grey hair...if I found a pair that looked good I think I would buy some too...just for fun.
LPC said…
I always thought "hip" meant, "in the know." "I'm hip to your tricks," for example. And thus, I'm hip to what's cool. Except, of course, I'm not:). The term I like these days is "modern." So, hip to what's happening, broadly, but no special insight into anything "cool."
Duchesse said…
Pseu: Thanks so much for identifying her; the photo was not sent with the name, and it's good for her to be identified, as she is clearly not reluctant to stand out!
Duchesse said…
hostess: The glasses were $8 at Forever 21.

LauraH and Murphy: I had a colour analysis done (a gift) when I was maybe 32... a long time ago, but it held up and saved me from mistakes. As I believe Pseu has pointed out, there are various schools and taxonomies. I still have my little colour swatch wallet.
Jane in London said…
Thank you for reminding us of ToP, Duchesse - they were certainly hip! It's such a difficult thing to define; that maddening thing that you recognise when you see it, but cannot easily say why.

For me, hip people all (whatever their age) retain that hint of sooty-eyed bad-girl-or-boy and a slight edginess. But it's so terribly subjective and sometimes people who appear to have all the necessary credentials somehow fail to hit it.

So, for me, Chrissie Hynde and Jane Birkin are undeniably hip but Madonna and Debbie Harry are not. Keith Richards and Leonard Cohen remain achingly hip, but Mick Jagger and Paul McCartney do not.

Any striving for hip-ness would surely be counter-productive - if you have to strive, then you'll never have it. I am not hip. Though I did enjoy a short period during the 1970s when I was very cool which was heady but, sadly, fleeting!


Duchesse said…
Jane: I used to keep this photo of Monk on my office wall, because it freed me from ever having to even think about being hip:

Of the younger generation, who might be on it? Many of the cultural figures are not singular enough, it's as if the stylists got ahold of them and excised that edge. But it is edge plus the blaze of intelligence, or Lindsay Lohan would be hip and she is not.

Jane in London said…
Honestly, I struggle to think anyone. You're right about the blandness of 'celebrity' now - and I think that the over-sharing on social media that they all seem to buy into is a death blow to hip. Do you see Van Morrison tweeting a constant stream of 'opinions' and instagramming pictures of his food? No, you do not.

Judy Thompson said…
DUCHESSE! The photo I took of you at Triple Crown is almost the equivalent of the Sara Jane Adams photo. I think you should share it with your public and I shall email it to you again. :-)
Gretchen said…
First, would you look at that woman's skin? Fabulous! Second, I agree that, for those of us who never were hip, it's kind of hard to think what it would take to define it. I like what's been said here, and don't want to add more. As to identifying someone of the younger age brackets that could carry the torch through the years - I don't think Emma Watson is "hip," but her feminism stance is heartening.
Mardel said…
Never been hip, never really wanted to be, but I guess I agree with Jane's assessment. As to the incredibly styled-world of young celebrity, I find it incredibly boring, and hope all these young people will find themselves and some character along the way. For me, I think just staying engaged is key, and hopefully enough.

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