Defining the ‘football hipster’: what are they, are they a bad thing, and are you one?

Neil Custis, the most reliably trusted and clued up journalist in the UK media sphere, replied to a tweet about the time of the Superclásico between Boca Juniors and River Plate in the Copa Libertadores final, asking: “Is that hipster time or GMT?” That was just one of many tweets that come up if you run a quick Twitter search of ‘@ncustisTheSun: hipster’.

That’s right, a football journalist, or potentially as he is called on Sunday Supplement, a football ‘expert’, proclaiming the biggest game in South American club football history as ‘hipster’. Someone who pays to write and speak his views on football, fails to recognise football exists outside of England and Scotland. But the term isn’t exclusive to Custis, who we best leave there before we get fined for defamation when we refer to him as ‘the Nigel Farage of journalism’ or something. The phrase is used across football media, specifically Twitter and other platforms.

It got us wondering, what exactly is ‘hipster’ in football? Is it tuning into the Superclásico? Is it doing a Football Manager save with Dulwich Hamlet FC (or employing the cantera policy with Athletic Bilbao if you’re more of a FIFA man)? Wearing a Borussia Dortmund shirt to the gym? You think you know the greatest Dutch player of all time but you pick Van Neeskens over Cruyff? All these could be traits, and they could be signs of a pending diagnosis, but where do we draw the line? Is the answer to stop asking questions in every sentence now?

Yes it is.

From Maradona shirts to Dulwich Hamlet, what fits the definition?

Urban Dictionary defines ‘football hipsterism’ as: “A fake football fan. More likely to be seen on the Internet than in the stadium, where he usually annoys the real football fans with his smugness, while knowing shit about the game. Follows trendy teams like Dortmund and Napoli and is the first to leave the sinking ship.”

Now, to be a football hipster, you don’t have to be a Camden businessman with a moustache and a swanky bar called ‘Barcelo Mielsa’ (if this bar doesn’t exist, 5WFootball now own the patent rights for it). You don’t even need to love the obscure tactical facets of the game. Simply, you just have to strive to be different. You aren’t a hipster because you support Napoli, you’re a hipster because you chose to support Napoli due to Maurizio Sarri’s ‘SarriBall’ in the last couple of seasons.

Author Mark Earls’ book Herd examined the behaviour of humans and concluded that we are collective and empathetic, and that key influencers shape opinion. Tifo Football head of strategy, Alex Stewart, compared Earls’ book to football hipsterism. He wrote, wonderfully: “Hipsters are very well socialized people; an individual who is well attuned to prevailing herd behaviour. They are receptive to endogenous influence and adept at copying but, like all humans, are also quick to assert the essential individuality of their choices. The coalescence of hipster choice is a reflection of the herd nature of their decision, but also of the quality of their decision-making.”

So, what does fit the definition? Are you a hipster?

Watching the Superclásico? It’s Sunday teatime, you’ve got a roast dinner in the oven but no, it’ll have to wait: the Copa Libertadores final is on. Between Reeber y Boca (make sure you pronounce with the best accent you can). It was a great match, I almost felt nervous watching at home as these bitter Buenos Aires rivals went toe to toe, and felt like celebrating with millions at home when Darío Benedetto opened the scoring. I felt pretty hipster. But, really, Neil Custis? It is not the everyday norm of football watching, but to slate football fans for… watching football… is lame. It looks like our readers agree… Hipster ranking: 5/10 

What about Der Klassiker? The biggest match in Germany, on BT Sport in England, clashed with a West Brom home match on Sky Sports. I like the Championship, but obviously I wanted to watch this top of the table clash between the leaders and the champions. In truth, it was probably the best match I’ve watched so far this season, with Marco Reus and Jadon Sancho spectacular on the night. But, I got a bit of banter for it: “Why are you watching that match over West Brom, are you trying to be hipster?” No, no, no. Hipster ranking: 2/10 

Replica shirts of players predating your date of birth? This one may split readers: wearing a football shirt with the name on the back of a player who played before your date of birth. Personally, I haven’t done it, although I wouldn’t say no to a 1974 Holland shirt with #14 Cruyff on the back. I see people doing it, though: Maradona, Pele, Gascoigne even with some kids at the recent World Cup. I suppose the best way to choose the ranking here is the situation you wear it: if it’s to 5-a-side, you can be let off. But, if you walk around the street wearing a 1950’s Hungarian shirt with Puskas on the back, you could be looked at as an elite level hipster. Hipster ranking: 6/10 

Dulwich Hamlet? One thing that certainly does fit the bill of ‘football hipster’ is Dulwich Hamlet Football Club, London’s most hipster football club. The club, who are now in the Conference South, sport an aesthetically pleasing pink and blue strip, and many fans wear replica copies or bring along scarves in those colours. In fact, you can probably find a Dulwich Hamlet scarf in many bars dotted across the capital, especially hipster gin bars or those decadent real ale pubs that have football memorabilia decorating the walls – if you don’t believe me, you haven’t been looking hard enough. Hipster ranking: 10/10 

Tactical vocabulary? You hate formations for they are fluid, instead you love swanky phrases such as Catenaccio, Tootalvoetbaal and Tiki-taka. You don’t say a goal was a great team goal with beautiful build up, it’s “a lovely bit of Pepball” or “beautiful Bielsaball“. You’ve read The Mixer and Inverting the Pyramid back to front, twice. You don’t refer to Italian football as football, it’s calcio, and Spanish football is futbol. Yep, you’re a hipster. Hipster ranking: 8/10 

FC St Pauli? Brown colours, iconic skull and crossbones badge, fancy tifo’s in the stands in all languages – St Pauli has everything you need to become a hipster club. In fact, they do everything right, except on the field. The second best team in Hamburg have never been as good as their city rivals, who are now in the second tier. Hipster ranking: 8/10 

Your view of players is jaded by nostalgia? Xabi Alonso’s time at Real Sociedad was better than his spells at Liverpool, Madrid and Bayern, according to a football hipster. This is almost the opposite of when fans big up players because of longevity. The hipster rates players of the past simply to look better, but realistically, they are wrong. Hipster ranking: 5/10 

Appointing Maurizio Sarri over an English manager? Going back to The Sun, one headline read ‘A SARRI STATE OF AFFAIRS’ when Maurizio Sarri was chosen over an English manager this summer. The article is brilliant. Here’s a highlight:

Chelsea choosing Maurizio Sarri shows Gareth Southgate’s England joy is not enough to earn British bosses a fair chance in the Premier League. For instance, let’s take Chelsea. You might not know a lot about their new manager Maurizio Sarri, although a lot of people on the internet will tell you he is the second coming of Christ. But apparently Sarri is a lovely bloke, who loves “fun” football, smokes fags, is partial to a bit of homophobic and sexist banter and, at the age of 59, has never won a major trophy.

It’s not really that bad, he led Napoli to their best season in years. I doubt Chelsea fans would be happy with Big Sam. Hipster ranking: 3/10 

The 2019 edition of how to become a football hipster is out now, ready for Christmas, and you can get your copy from all good high street retailers by reading below:

  1. You own replica shirts with Cruyff or Maradona on the back
  2. You’ve read ‘Inverting the Pyramid’ cover to cover
  3. You also own retro copies of MUNDIAL mag
  4. You wear all black Adidas boots to 5-a-side
  5. You know it all about young Brazilian kids, such as Lucas Paqueta, before they’ve even moved to Europe
  6. You have an FM save with Dulwich
  7. And you love St Pauli and have took your girlfriend to Hamburg for that sole reason, although she thinks its a romantic trip away
  8. Your Twitter avi is a black and white version of either Andrea Pirlo, Alessandro Del Piero or any other Serie A cult hero, with a glass of wine in their hand
  9. If a footballer has a beard, it makes them 10x better
  10. Finally, you DON’T WATCH the Superclásico, to avoid becoming a football hipster

So, we’ve established what a football hipster is. We’ve established there is nothing wrong with watching foreign football, in fact, tweeting about the fact you refuse to watch it makes you the hipster, as you’re trying to be different from the crowd.

All in all, Mr Custis was wrong to label the game that South American players train every day of their lives for ‘hipster’, or the game that respected journalists such as Rory Smith, Jonathan Wilson et al travelled to, for it to be cancelled, twice. It is certainly not ‘hipster’, in fact, those who label it so are.

We hope this definitive guide has helped you make a diagnosis, and if it has, don’t worry – we all show glimpses of football hipster in us.


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