by Joe Hill
One of the stranger British footballing tribes to emerge over the last few years has been that of the ‘football hipster’. While related to the broader hipster phenomenon, they do not generally resemble (or identify with) the genuine handlebar-moustachioed Hoxtonian ‘dickhead’ of popular imagining; rather, they walk among us, unnoticeable to the untrained eye, like Methodists or Channel Islanders.
So who are the football hipsters? How do you spot them? And could you even be one? The very fact of reading this article probably puts you in the ‘at risk’ category. Though largely consisting of young middle-class white males, the football hipster tribe is a broad church, albeit one with fact a range of consistent identifying features. Below are ten key warning signs to see if you too are a football hipster…
1. Check your iPod
Specifically your podcasts – if you have two or more of Guardian Football Weekly, The Football Ramble, BBC World Football Phone-In, BBC World Football or any Arsenal-related podcast at all, you are well on the way to football hipsterdom. The WFPI in particular is a sacred text of football hipsters, who will regularly pass off the opinions of Sean Wheelock or Tim Vickery as their own in pub conversation
2. “When I was in La Bonbonera…”
Better-off football hipsters dine out on the experience of seeing football matches played abroad – the more esoteric, the better. Experienced hipsters will be careful to sneer at those who seek out ‘obvious’ matches like the Boca-River match, instead extolling the rarified delights of the Tashkent derby
3. Check your magazine rack
If you regularly take World Soccer, The Blizzard, When Saturday Comes or verging-on-self-parody football hipster bible Green Soccer Journal, you are in serious danger of becoming a football hipster. Less so if you subscribe to Match or Shoot (N.B. FourFourTwo is neither here nor there). Particularly pretentious football hipsters will have a standing order at their newsie to receive Gazzetta Dello Sport and France Football, regardless of linguistic capability. Ambitious football hipsters will have, or claim to have, a football blog focused on an obscure aspect of the game. This is with the ultimate aim of joining football hipster royalty after the fashion of zonalmarking.net, thefootballramble.com or, of course, your very own Cutter.
4. Real Oviedo
The drive to keep financially-derelict Spanish laggards Real Oviedo afloat was the first example of true footballer-hipster-driven social activism. If you bought shares in the club, or conversely sneered at those who did, you are almost certainly a football hipster.
5. Going to games (or not)
Have a look in your wallet. If there is a season ticket in there for a team in league one or higher, you are almost certainly not a football hipster. True football hipsters will occasionally watch their team live, but leaven their matchday experiences with trips abroad (see warning sign no. 2) and semi-regular trips to the nearest non-league side with an unusual name – Stone Dominoes, Corinthian Casuals, Dulwich Hamlet and so on.
On the other hand, if you’re the kind of person who never really goes to matches but streams hooky feeds of the Venezuelan cup (third round) for purposes other than gambling, you are also almost certainly a football hipster.
If you set your Sky+ to record all of the group games of the Africa Cup of Nations then you already know that you are part of the club. Football hipsters love African football, as it combines many of their pet passions – picturesque nicknames, ‘the grass roots’, exoticism, and almost unlimited opportunities for footy-knowledge one-upmanship.
Experienced football hipsters may also claim to follow the African club scene; casually throwing in references to TP Mazembe or Mysterious Dwarfs instantly marks you as a senior member of the tribe.
7. Check your wardrobe
Often combined with black skinny jeans and Chuck Taylor All-Stars, true football hipsters bear their old-school kits as articles of faith; prosaic nineties shirt sponsors (Commodore, Labatts) are their stigmata.
Modern kits are not generally part of the football hipster uniform, and are generally frowned up on. Exceptions to this rule are obscure club kits from Eastern Europe or South America, or national team kits from Africa (see warning sign number 6).
If you are a male heterosexual but unabashedly praise the chiselled physique of Mario Balotelli, dreamy androgyny of Edinson Cavani or even Wayne Rooney’s nice eyes then yes, you are probably a football hipster. N.B. Faux-lusting after Thierry Henry or David Beckham is now mainstream and thus infra dig for true football hipsters
With its cheap ticket pricing, competitive league, fan power, safe standing and good beer (which can be drunk in the stands), German football is catnip to the football hipster – so if you stay up late to watch ITV4′s idiosyncratic Bundesliga higlights programme, you’re well on your way. Better still, it’s only a budget flight away so many novice football hipsters will cut their teeth in Frankfurt or Cologne.
N.B. Older football hipsters who nascent hipsterdom developed on front of Channel 4′s Football Italia coverage may have a hard time accepting the Bundesliga’s adoption by the hipstocracy, and will sneer at Johnny-come-lately jolly roger-bedecked St. Pauli fans, all the while cherishing their vintage 94/95 Parma shirt.
10. Not supporting Manchester United, Chelsea, Leeds or Liverpool.
It is practically impossible to be a football hipster and support one of these clubs. In fact, if you do, disregard any other warning signs you may display and rest easy – you are not a football hipster. On the other hand, the likes of Watford, Reading, Crystal Palace, Sheffield Wednesday, AFC Wimbledon and hipster-club par excellence Arsenal are highly hipster-applicable. Nobody knows why, that’s just the way it is.
So there you go – a handy guide to knowing thine own football hipsterdom, and in passing a spotters handbook too. So, think you might be one? Worried about where to turn, or what to do next? Fear not. Relax. You are a football hipster; others may sneer and snide (particularly backbiting football-hipsters-in-denial) but you are part of the rich tapestry of British football fandom – embrace your hipster side. And try not to piss everyone else off with your pointlessly obscure knowledge or talk of the aesthetic purity of the false-nine. Thanks.
Joe Hill can often be seen in the pubs of Manchester’s Northern Quarter wearing the national team shirt of Uganda and asking the bar staff if they’d mind putting the Europa league group stage match on. He had a Gazzetta Football Italia themed stag do and has fond memories of seeing Hertha BSC thrash HSV in the Olympiastadion