Thursday, May 16, 2013

Hipster irony and the FBI Training Academy in Quantico

Photo From Yesterday
A slight airport delay provided the opportunity to catch up on some podcasts.  This quote summed up some previous conversations as well as provided a stark contrast to the day's events:

Hipster irony doesn't allow you to be serious about anything.  ...Hipster irony is an inability to take anything seriously, or to be sincere about your relationship to anything....  Hipster irony expects you to say [of authenticity], 'this is silly.'”  

- Bryan Lowder, Slate Magazine, in The Culture Gabfest Podcast: A Rhythm of Liquids

Delivering the keynote (and book-signing, and poster-signing) yesterday at the Cyber Conference at the FBI Training Academy in Quantico.  The audience, including many 20-somethings, thankfully take their jobs very seriously. 

There are worse airports at which to whittle away an extra hour.

Brooks Brothers and others have been experimenting with embracing hipster.  The results, predictably, are below.

A perfect combination may be taking one's jobs and responsibilities seriously without taking oneself seriously.  Some earned whimsy at the end of a long day is appreciated.  This flask, a gift by the conference organizers, epitomizes that.


C said...

I think the word "hipster" is starting to take on too many meanings, and thus lose meaning. When I think of hipsters of 10 years ago, I think of a simultaneous healthy disrespect for past & present pop culture while at the same time embracing [past] pop culture & clothing. From what I know about the hipster crowd from my college (c. 2004), and from some I currently know, it is very possible to be a hipster but still take one's job, responsibilities, and social causes, seriously.

All that aside, Black Fleece designs are often bonkers. And really, proper hipsters should be shopping primarily at Goodwill and in their parents' closets. :)

Dan W. said...

Those Brooks Brothers screenshots are devastating on so many levels. 80% off? Brooks Brothers may as well say, "We now guarantee your buyer's remorse."

Anonymous said...

Hipsters shop at Brooks Brothers? I thought they shopped at Goodwill and vintage stores. I'm confused.....

BlueTrain said...

I see you went through National Airport. Yes, it is rather nice these days. I once lived two blocks from there, right where you take the bridge over Rt. 1 and the parkway. Also, both my late father--in-law and his father as well worked in buildings at the airport, although neither one had anything to do with the airport. My wife's father was a civil engineer who helped build the George Washington Parkway.

Can't help with the nectkties. They're a little flashy for me.

Anonymous said...

Your readers probably do not wear tattered jeans and t-shirts plus flip flops when traveling by train or plane. So perhaps you can write a post on what you wear? Another suggestion is to provide guidelines for male/female preps on what to wear when traveling by plane for business or personal?

Anonymous said...

Could we have a guest post or two from your husband.
I would like to know more about his thoughts (and yours) on leadership. education, etc.

John Murtagh said...

Having spent the past year and a half on the other side of Quantico, at The Basic School, I can say that those who spend any time in Quantico can't afford anything else but to take our jobs seriously.

Hipsters are absolutely exhausting...

Greenfield said...

For Anon. 2:56:

One thing I've been told NEVER to wear on a plane is anything synthetic--because in a fire, it MELTS. You can see I'm an optimist about flying . . . just one more vote for natural fibers!
; )

Dave T said...


I've heard the same. I make sure to wear at least khakis and a long sleeve. Flying is extremely safe, but why take a chance?

Harry said...

Ah, Brooks Brothers and hipsters: authentic inauthenticity! Two recent business trips provide the backdrop for my experience of the devolution of this company. In my midwestern hometown a few weeks back, I was in need of a few must-iron OCBDs and a seersucker shirt. There was nothing in my standard size. I left with some crew socks (still made in USA) but not before the store manager lost another middle age customer because of a refusal to exchange a more than 30-day-old defective shirt.

Then, last weekend, I found myself in Toronto tagging along with my wife. Still in need of few OCBDs and a seersucker, I headed over to Bay Street. The Gatsby Collection was prominent in the display windows. Also prominent in the window was a large disco ball. (Yes, a disco ball. Why do I bother? From another angle, Debord warned us of this decades ago.)

Did I find a few must-iron OCBDs? No. Did the clerk seem puzzled when I asked where I could find a seersucker shirt? Yes. Were their any seersuckers which were not slim fit, Red Label? No. Did the clerk in pink linen trousers and a chalk stripe navy, maroon and white blazer deign to wait on me, a middle aged, khaki-clad, slightly wrinkled OCBD guy? No. Again, I stocked up on crew socks, though I did find a nice made in Italy, navy, canvas tab and buckle belt. For those few remaining items of worth at Brooks, online shopping has never looked so good!

Anonymous said...

Hipsters put me into an absolute coma. I want to say, "Please just evaporate, dear. We need the oxygen you're sucking up."

I think we've completely lost BB. I was looking at their site the other day and could not believe some of the offerings for women. I glanced at their clearance items for women. Egad! Some of those shoes were...I don't have the word...

Paul Connors said...

The hipster image at Brooks Bros. is oxmoronic and their latest internet advertising features it prominently under their new(er) BLACK FLEECE label.

The label left me pndering the possibilities of double entendre(s) as in "if one buys this crap, is one being 'fleeced.'?"

The Thom Brown look is distasteful, garish and gauche and for those who are tempted by it, a complete and utter waste of time and money.

These stylistic abominations are living proof, along with the cash grabs that CLAUDIO DEL VECCHIO is absolutely insane and completely devoid of any fashion style in the traditional American sense.

Please CLAUDIO, admit your mistake and SELL BROOKS BROTHERS back to someone who knows how to deal with and retain a loyal customer base.

Paul Connors said...

The hipster/Thom Browne abominations at Brooks Brothers prove t this longtime BB customer that Claudio Del Vecchio is not only insane, but completely devoid of ANY loyalty to the company's loyal customer base.

CDV may have been infatuated with the look while growing up, but he has prove himself to be nothing more than a fatuous, pompous and money-grabbing billionaire who is only interesting in looting this once great company.

Brooks Bros. was created as a place where conservative and traditional dressers could shop to find the classic styles, made from quality materials. These same shoppers were the ones who passed down Brooks Brothers as a legacy to their children.

So now, we have an Italian eyeglass magnate who imposes his supercilious sartorial solioquy on his once loyal customer base nd the results are obvious. The comments here by others reflect a growing distaste for what he hath wrought.

And to younger readers, beware: purchasing these garish parodies of classic styles will mean: a) you have wasted you money and time abd b) before you know it, you will be looking to replace your sartorial excesses with something less prone to raising questions about you masculinity or lack thereof.

Lastly: should hipsters ever appear before me dressed in such bad taste in the interview process, I will immediately disqualify them for loudly proclaimed and quantifiable lack of good judgment.

CHB said...

Paul- you could not be more spot on.

Someone please start a classic clothing company which sells OCBDs, khakis for men and women, navy blazers, and simple shift dresses. Please?

Anonymous said...

Thom Browne is trying to be interesting, not ironic. What's wrong with that? I'm more familiar with his eponymous label than the Brooks Brothers' Black Fleece line, but the Thom Browne OCBD's are significantly better (or "more authentic" or whatever you want to call it) than almost everything else on the market -- provided you're willing to spend $200-$300 on a single shirt.

Seriously. They're really cool. The fabric is thick, the collar has an interesting roll (i.e., the roll that Brooks Brothers is supposed to have).. not sure what else matters. Some of them have grosgrain ribbons on the placket, which I guess could be bad, but so do some of my classic Brooks Brothers shirts.

Also, Thom Browne is a fashion "designer" -- think Hubert Givenchy or Yves Saint Laurent, although obviously not as prominent -- and, as far as I can tell, has nothing to do with hipsters. He isn't trying to compete with Lands End or wherever normal people buy their clothes, and he certainly isn't trying to compete with Urban Outfitters. Essentially, he offers an interesting and modern twist on Americana or whatever. I don't know. I think of Thom Browne as designing preppy clothes that I can wear in NY without looking like a bumpkin.

It seems like Thom Browne strives to produce the "best" OCBD or whatever, while Lands End (and Brooks Brothers, and all of "those brands") strive to produce the worst shirt that can still be sold at $80 [or $35 or whatever].

Here's a link (idk if this is allowed):

Pretty normal.

Or were you singling out those 4 items individually? If so, yeah, they suck.

Anonymous said...

Just to follow up on that last comment -- I think that I concur with Paul Connors, but I don't think that he has explored the issue entirely. It is certainly possible to put together some frighteningly horrible outfits with Thom Browne's clothing, but that is true of any brand. I'm not sure why the models on the website wear such ridiculous outfits, but many of the individual articles of clothing are either very good or very useful. For example, from this season, the plain OCBD's are excellent and some of the critter shorts are unique without being too garish.

The weirder stuff is meant for the people who shop at Bergdorf's, not the people who shop at Lands End or Urban Outfitters. While you still may not approve of the designs, I can assure you that the next time you're on the Third Floor you'll be relieved by the time you get to the Thom Browne.

Anonymous said...

Yes, CHB. I really want a decent pair of khakis for women. It used to be so easy. I have wasted more money on shipping in the past couple of months in pursuit of something acceptable. I am 5'4, 110 lbs, 60 years old, and even though my size would allow me to wear those vile low rise things, I would NOT. I have never liked that look on anyone.