Have you seen this photo of a “Time Travelling Hipster”?
It’s not Photoshop.
When I first saw it, honestly, I was disturbed. How could this be? This clearly modern man in 1940’s Canada…
I delved deeper and at first, further research only freaked me out more because I kept finding similarly-freaky examples. I found this also-very-modern looking guy just kinda hanging out amongst people from a clearly different time-period, and the evidence kept piling up.
What was going on? Was time-travel real? Did we really have time-traveling tourists throughout history, and I was only just finding out? Why the hell wasn’t this on the news?!
Why weren’t we rioting in the streets?
Hand-made shoes discovered in ruins from ancient Egypt, or as I call them:
Adidas Lone Star - Simple Brown/Red 5000 B.C. Edition
Hand-made shoes discovered in ruins from ancient Egypt, or as I call them: Adidas Lone Star - Simple Brown/Red 5000 B.C. Edition
For those of you that are only now finding out about this and are also kinda freaked out, I’ll put you out of your misery; there wasn’t anything supernatural or science-fictiony going on, but what was happening was frankly just as interesting, if much less scary.
So what was it?
Well, simply put; “priming”.
WTF is Priming?
If you weren’t a psych major or an amatuer magician in your free time, this might not mean much to you, so allow me to explain.
I think the easiest way to quickly understand is to see priming in action in another example.
Elizabeth Taylor AGE 17
Have you ever seen pictures of young people in the 70’s and thought “wow they kinda look like adults already”?
It happens to everybody born past a certain decade, and the reason is once again priming; those facial features and shapes that seem mature even without any wrinkles aren’t objectively mature.
Student picture AGE 16
As in, if you see things the way I’ve just described, it’s because you’ve been primed to associate those features with older and more mature people; people like your parents or aunts and uncles or really anyone born during certain generations.
Believe it or not, when a future generation looks back at pictures of young people in the 2000’s, they’ll similarly think “wow they already look so old”, because in their brains, those visual components will be connected to looking older. The older people walking around during their time will be young people born in the last 20 years.
"Priming” is your brain building associations that make you see things/respond to stimuli in a certain way, usually without you knowing that the connection exists at all.
Magicians Are Liars
I mentioned magicians earlier; clever trick-designers can use priming to influence the audience’s mind and produce really trippy results.
For example, without you even knowing, by the time you’ve walked to your seat as an audience member, you’ve already been primed in the hallways by the designer’s subtle use of shapes and colors so that when the time the magician asks you to think of a number, your brain is screaming to offer you the result they primed into you. The result that the magician then pretends to read out of your mind…
It’s not hypnosis, nor is it fool-proof; it relies on the brain’s tendency to use the path of least resistance, and proper priming makes sure that the answer they want you to give is by far the easiest answer for your brain to produce.
Though, even with those limitations, it not only works but is usually flawlessly integrated into our perception to the point where most of the time, you have no idea that it’s even going on.
So, now that we understand what the “priming” is, we can go on to deduce that the “proof” of a “Time Traveling Hipster” is not actually proof of time travel, but rather, the fact that fashion is cyclical.
The printed T-Shirt, cozy cotton sweater cut in an interesting way… those would have also been attractive to people back then, but just simply not associated with the concept of “hipsters”, which obviously wouldn’t be a thing for many more decades to come.
I found myself desperately wishing to know what people of that era would have associated with that look; was he weird looking to them? Did it lean more towards preppy or ragged in their view? Did the Fashionista of the time recognise his effortless chic?
What About the Future?
Sometimes, when I’m standing in front of my wardrobe and trying to curate an outfit, I wonder how a picture of me wearing that would look 50 or 100 years from now, or even 1000 years…
Me, circa 2013 celebrating the "timelessness" of leggings...
I also think about things like… Will the little black dress actually remain “timeless”? What year will stilettos be exiled as the health hazard that they are? What museums will my outfits be featured in?
This often makes me think about all the things that influence our moment-to-moment decision-making when it comes to fashion trends, as in, whether we partake, to what extent, and what that says about us.
Are Trends Inherently “Bad”?
No, like most things, they just are; it’s how we interact with them that matters. Trends are the natural reflection of cultural aesthetic growth.
People live lives and wear things to express those lives; other people respond to those outfits by adopting or rejecting them, innovating on or creating stale derivations from them.
Basically, Fashion trends are the collective consciousness having a conversation about what it should wear, and it’s a long one.
So what does that mean on an individual level? Well, think about it this way; intent and reasoning is everything.
If you wear something because you like it and feel that it expresses you as a person, that’s great. If you wear something because you were pressured socially to be something you’re fundamentally-incompatible with, that’s less great…
Deciphering which is which can seem like a fine line that blurs when examined;this is because your very perception, the one trying to figure out what influenced you to do something, is also influenced.
You are the marble and the sculptor, and it can get confusing at times, so I use some simple questions to help me assess my own associations and the things influencing me when it comes to fashion items.
For example, I ask myself while shopping “Would I wear this if no one ever saw me wear it?” or “Am I wearing this to express myself or to prove myself?”. Decisions based on greed or insecurity? Those fall into Fashion-abuse, not Fashion-use.
Fashion Victim or Fashion Hero
What makes someone a Fashion victim in history? The same look and style, albeit with nuanced differences, can appear both terrible or timeless, depending on how it’s worn.
The reason the Hipster Time Traveler appears so timeless, so visually-relatable to us, is because he’s comfortable in the clothes he’s wearing.
In a sea of suits and formality, that man has sidestepped all convention and expressed what came naturally to him. Free from the influence of what he should be wearing, he picked and chose what he wanted. Things that made him feel cosy and cool, and that difference is evident across all time.
Trends can be both empowering and destructive; they can inspire us and help us take our look to the next level, or they can take us down equally as many notches.
If you happen to like a trend that’s out, the Fashion-insecure folk (influenced to be that way by those which stand to profit from quick trend cycles), they like to roleplay that you’re some type of Fashion victim.
It’s easy to believe them too if you don’t pay attention to the trick they’re playing; after all, if the thing I like no longer matters, do I matter anymore?
But as soon as you step away from their hubris, you realize that that’s ridiculous; the real “Fashion victim” is the one that not only succumbs to trends out of the wrong reasons, but also perpetually molds themselves into something they’re not for the sake of the crowd.
It’s usually these people that also happen to be the worst offenders when it comes to the Fashion-policing, so they’re not hard to pick out of a lineup.
Ok, that got a lot more in-depth and intense than I anticipated when I first started researching Fashionable time-travellers.
Let’s end things on a lighter note by examining one more “possible time traveller” pic. This young soldier that appears to be dabbing, many many years before the Atlanta hip-hop scene would go on to popularize the concept, right?
Obviously, he wasn’t actually dabbing, but I would argue that the intent and emotion he’s expressing is almost identical, and like any expression free from inorganic ties, the message is timeless.
Live free from the shackles of your time and surroundings.
Dab on, Fashionistas.
Read more about how Fashion affects the world and you.