Making Our Own History By Doing Things Ourselves

Making Our Own History By Doing Things Ourselves

If you recall, I wrote a piece a few months ago about the fall of the Hipster, asking what was coming next: what group was collecting the Hipster’s ashes to create something new? Who are these people? Where do they live? How can I buy clothes that associate me with this new group?

I did not have an answer then, nor did anyone else who commented. We got a lot of snide comments about hipsters and hipsterdom, and about being hipsters and about the article’s topic being a giant has-been. Well, duh.

But, that wasn’t the point. The point was to figure out what is next–who is the new group? Some said the Meta-Hipster or the Gangster Hipster or even the guys behind Odd Future. However, I think the notion a few people were getting at about the DIY movement being more than just Etsy crappers and hippies being hippies is that the DIY crowd is becoming the in-crowd, somehow shifting their ideals into what is becoming a new norm.

This “do it yourself” attitude is not about creating your own crafts, but rather creating new histories and resurrecting histories to create new ways of living. The idea ties taste to wealth and shifts lifestyles away from acting a part to living a part. The hipster that was DIY has morphed into this person who is not only vegan, but raises their own crops and produces their own clothes and only walks to markets, even when living in Los Angeles. They’ve gone from hipster to helpster, to a weird, self-sustaining group that understands what technology is doing to the world and how they can use this to create a new world.

Of course, this gets at doing things yourself. Making your own foods, making your own transportation, doing everything yourself. You are more than just a person that makes crafts and sells crafts, but you are a person who makes a trade and sells this trade. So many craft butcher shops and breweries and fashion houses have emerged so densly in the past few years because so many people have access to technology and old ideas. You don’t have to go to college to be able to make a living and to make something. Instead, you can research about the topic and make a living in the topic.

Bobby, for example, did not go to college, and instead, turned to the Internet to figure out how to make things. While the things he makes are not tangible, real life tactile objects, he’s constantly creating things online. I, on the otherhand, spent thousands and thousands of dollars on a sub-Ivy League university to get an education in writing and acting and I barely am able to do them, no less make a living from doing them.

Kids these days are skipping college because they don’t have to go to college any longer. Other kids are pursuing higher education beyond undergraduate degrees because they feel this will make them stronger candidates for jobs when, in reality, delaying the workforce makes them less of a part of the world. Unless you are going to become a doctor or lawyer, college is no longer necessary. You can take a few classes locally and work locally and get what you want out of life. You just have to be commited to what you want to do.

The notions that papers and magazines are making about college becoming extinct is both fascinating and hilarious because, well, it is. There is no need to do it anymore because you can literally plot a plan for a career by working hard at it. I can say that there is not a day that I do not think that I wasted my time by going to school.

As an actor and a writer, I did learn a lot from school. I had a great time in college. I will not deny that. However, those four years I could have spent putting the pedal to the metal, fucking acting and shit on YouTube and writing on my own blog but–instead–I let taking classes on chemistry and world history distract me from what I really wanted to be doing. I did not let myself be independent and really pursue things: I let the lull of being in school provide the comfort I thought I needed in order to succeed.

We are bitter. We want to rectify those years of being willingly put into an institution. We want to create, we don’t want to be in offices, we don’t want to network: we don’t want to be our parents. In turn, we are using the energy from DIY to create opportunities for ourselves. Doing things for yourself and being your boss is the goal of any entry level employee. And, aside from accountants and veterinarians and defense attorneys, you can do things yourself and you can do it locally. There is always a need for local goods and services. Yes, you cannot make a living as a butcher in Bumblefuck, Southern State, but you can in Hustle and Bustle City, Any State. Go to Dallas, go to New York City, go to Atlanta, go to San Francisco, go to Seattle: people are making a living making things, being their own bosses, planning and taking a risk on a career.

People are doing things like making $15 chocolate bars and making $60 shoes that are all conscious of the world around them. They are things that are done caring for their local community while caring for the world: these people give a shit about things and have done their homework and have made a living out of it. Yes, they are ahead of their time but, no, they are not a part of this new movement: they inspired it.

People like the Mast brothers and Blake Mycoskie crafted careers from crafts. Granted, they both did this in varying degrees, but no one can deny that they literally built these businesses from the ground up without a greater goal in mind. They wanted to make things that were not purchased in some store, coming from some void of God knows where, and that was–in some form–helping others. They did their research and made it work as a career. They worked at it and they hustled and they were driven to succeed and they did. That is what is at the heart of this new movement: making your own career, working to make it your own career, and having it become your own career.

A big factor in this, which hints at the greater movement behind the DIY mentality, is that people want things from nearby, that they know where it came from. They want to know the history of an object. New thinkers would rather go to a thrift or vintage store to buy lifestyle items, rather than go to Ikea. Yes, Ikea is great and is an easy one stop shop, but people would rather buy a desk that has a history for the same price at a local thrift store. They’d rather go to a farmer’s market and buy food that locally harvested or, instead, grow their own food in their small patch of land behind their brownstone or apartment. They’d rather go to a butcher shop and see their food being butchered, seeing the meat for the animal it was. People want to walk, driving themselves by foot, taking in where they came from and where they are getting to. Money is a large factor in this but so is helping the world, helping themselves, and helping non-megacoporations.

I’ve been alluding to this, but the DIY movement and the craft(smen) movement is born out of the Internet and desire to not support megacorporations. It is born out of self-propelled research and a desire to learn. People now go to flea markets and thrift stores and yard sales and buy interesting, unique products and go home and research where it came from. People would like to go to a local store and see that history and research it first hand. Instead of buying steak and returning home to figure out what part of the cow it came from and where Safeway buys its produce, these people can ask the vendor directly: where did you buy this? Show me on the animal where this cut of meat came from. How did you get this meat? How did you learn how to do this?

As you can see, the Etsy, DIY movement has gone from silly homemade items to a world all about the creation of thousands of small towns within their bigger cities. The scope of things have shrunk from trying to conquer the world to trying to conquer a neighborhood, then a city, then a state, then a country, then a hemisphere, then the world. This new movement gets at trying to create within the now, within the tangible. Why else are places like Rudy’s Barbershop and The Ace and Intelligentsia Coffee and Tea and Chipotle so big and successful? Why else has J.Crew opened up various, niche pop-up shops that are locally driven and why else has Apple gone through great pains to ensure that they are community engaged, offering help well before and well after the store is open for business? Business and craftsmenship needs to go the extra mile of not just providing a service but also complimenting the community. You can create anything, anywhere. But, if you create without using the resources your community has to offer you, then why are you creating?

I recently interviewed graphic designer and artist Keith Scharwath. We had a great talk and eventually boiled things down to his newest project: studying sign painting at a local trade school to incorporate the technique into his work. Beyond learning a new style and skill into his art, he was supporting a dying, historical craft that he learned locally, from a trade school that may or may not be here in the next decade. When in session, he adjusts his work schedule to be able to pursue this education. In turn, he uses this knowledge to make awesome pieces. He’s been commissioned by GOOD Magazine and Frank Chimero to use this talent that he’s learned. He has done it himself and is still doing it himself. I was amazed by this and it further lit the lightbulb flickering in my mind around the DIY movement.

Of course, there could be another meaning to all of this that I am overlooking but, honestly, I feel this is where things are sidestepping toward until a newer, more complex version of culture encompasses us all. The Internet and need to be away from the Internet, immersed with people making things and making history by hand and contributing locally, is where I think the hipster has led us to.


7 Comments Making Our Own History By Doing Things Ourselves

  1. Brandon July 18, 2011 at 12:46 PM

    I think the shift is finally getting around to people being genuine, about themselves, what they look like and what they are interested in.

    Hipster culture is something that deconstructs, and over time it has claimed different eras of design and fashion and destroyed the original meaning by making it ironic or trivial.

    DIY is deliberate decision to create something, to be invested in it. Deconstruction only can go so far and after that someone has to start creating things again, making things that once again have meaning.

    I don’t think this is the definite answer on the subject, but I hope there is the trend of good people building meaning into their own belongings and style rather than living out one long, huge ironic joke.

  2. Brennan July 18, 2011 at 1:14 PM

    It’s sweet to see this as an actual thing.

    I always attributed it to my nerd tendencies when I wanted so desperately to know where things came from and why they are the way they are. I love talking to the butchers and makers just as you’ve described above. Learn the story behind things.

    My parents have money, but they DIY because there is a certain soul attached to it, a certain satisfaction of doing things with your own hands.

    I’m a poor student, but I don’t think I do it for lack of money, I think I do it because I’ve been taught to appreciate those sorts of experiences (and outcome objects!)

    So, I hope it spreads, but I hope it spreads for the right reasons. Not for some pseudo-hipster self righteousness, but because I think a lot of people are genuinely curious like I am, and desire this sort of satisfaction that the box stores aren’t giving us.

  3. Greg July 19, 2011 at 2:16 AM

    Very interesting analysis Kyle and I also liked the first one on the death of hipsters.

    However I think this is quite an urban evolution of people who want to go back to their roots but that do not want to leave the city, and I’m sure for good reasons (job opportunities, friends, etc.).

    Also I think your view is really focused on how people want to do things theirself in their job but to me this is not an evolution of one part of the population. I think the evolution is more of people finally opening their eyes and discovering that in this critical times their are so many things they would like to do in their life. So more of a D.I.Y generation I would say it’s a Do What You Want or Do What’s Important To You in Life generation.

    As Paul Gilding said: “How many people, lie on their death bed and say, ‘I wish I had worked harder or built more shareholder value,’ and how many say, ‘I wish I had gone to more ballgames, read more books to my kids, taken more walks?’ To do that, you need a growth model based on giving people more time to enjoy life, but with less stuff.” And that’s when the D.I.Y comes in.

  4. Loui July 19, 2011 at 5:29 AM

    I like and admire the DIY movement going on at the moment, but it does often strike me as something for the privileged in terms of both constrution and consumption. I would love to own my own business but i can not afford to rent a studio space, buy the equipment i would need and take the time from work to devote to this new business not knowing if it will be a sucsess or not. Where does the money come from? (seriosly if anyone knows, please tell.) Also – i cannot afford a $15 chocolate bar.

  5. Brooke July 19, 2011 at 10:15 AM

    I agree with what Loui said. It’s still kind of a hipster thing. Until the raw materials are cheaper, it’s going to just be another hipster movement.

    Also, I’ve noticed that only people with college educations say college educations were a waste of time and money. Let me tell you right now. I’m 34 and a high-school dropout, finally putting myself through college that’s not Ivy League but quite prestigious anyway (UC San Diego) and after struggling to prove myself for so many years, this college education is worth every penny, if only for having people finally recognize how intelligent I am (and I don’t care if that sounds arrogant – I know I’m smart – but others didn’t necessarily know it.)

    So count your blessings. People with college educations remind you every day of your life in very subtle ways that you lack an education, and you have never had to experience it. I know it feels like no big deal, but really, it is. Best of luck to you.

  6. ETrine July 19, 2011 at 5:28 PM

    I think there is a very specific distinction between DIY and the emerging Craftsman/Entrepreneur movement. I think DIY has more to do with un-consumption rather than responsible consumption.
    I love the emerging buy local/buy craft mentality, but that seems to be just a better way to consume. DIY, rather, flips the entire producer-consumer relationship on it’s head. DIY undermines and subverts the market.
    J Crew is opening up niche local markets because it makes market sense right now. If J Crew was opening up community sewing stores – where consumers could learn how to make their own clothes then that would be a completely different story.

  7. sara July 23, 2011 at 8:15 PM

    I agree wholeheartedly with ETrine…I survive solely on what I make (or find) and sell. I live very comfortably (own my own house and car) making what most would consider peanuts. It’s never been about how much I make, it’s always been about how little I spend. Once you break the consumer cycle, living becomes much more relaxed and manageable.

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