Beatnik Dialectics

Whether you adopt the ‘Beatnik’ garb or not, the stripy jumper, or likewise men and women with berets, leggings and neck-a-chiefs, just make sure you consider this irony: the Beat Generation was a subculture uncommitted to the pursuit of vanity and clothing. It was predominantly a literary movement associated with bohemian littérateurs such as Jack Kerouac, Alan Ginsberg and William Burroughs, whose books were often the focus of US obscenity trials and circulated from San Fran’s infamous City Lights Bookstore. Yes, a few of them may well have sported a goatee and burglar stripes on occasion, but Beatnik is indeed an anomalous style to be filtered into mainstream fashion.

The adjective “beat” (proffered by Herbert Huncke) was to connote “dead-beat” or “down and out,” whilst “beatnik” was a derogatory term in Cold-War US meant to connote, the Soviet “Sputnik.” So, what does this mean when you wear black & white stripes on your torso? You are a burgling communist hobo. Great! Jests aside, when you don something in the style labeled ‘Beatnik’, do so without ignorance of the movement it stood for. Wear your stripes proudly because you share the values shared by the Beats. Ethics quoted by Ginsberg as: “spiritual liberation and sexual revolution,” “liberation of the word from censorship,” “the spread of ecological consciousness,” “opposition to the military-industrial machine civilization,” “respect for land, indigenous peoples and creatures” and finally a “return to an appreciation of idiosyncrasy as against state regimentation.” Therefore if you are a sincere Beatnik, source your style from charity shops; or to be truly idiosyncratic, avoid the latest fashion fad altogether.


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