Fixed-gear bikes, unruly facial hair and a steampunk-meets-dandy look – the modern hipster was born in Brooklyn, right? Well, in fact, there’s evidence that hipsters were alive and well hundreds of years ago. And while they weren’t exactly Instagramming photos of their latte art, these 20 historical figures do seem to be totally rocking the hipster look.
20. Josef Stalin
Oh sure, as the tyrannical communist dictator of the Soviet Union from the 1920s to 1953, Stalin killed and imprisoned millions of people, pushed his citizens into poverty and invaded the whole of Eastern Europe. But back in 1902, when this photo was taken, he was a total hipster.
19. Nikola Tesla
With his popped collar and nonchalant expression, Nikola Tesla was a classic early hipster. The Serbian-American engineer, inventor and all-round science rock star is known for having helped develop the modern electrical system and pioneering early X-rays. He was also pretty much the first person to make a remote-controlled boat – before they were cool.
18. Franklin D. Roosevelt
Franklin Delano Roosevelt was all over the sportswear trend before trends were even a thing. Known affectionately as FDR, this hipster-in-the-making went on to become America’s 32nd president. He won four presidential elections, too – that’s a record – and strengthened the U.S. economy during the dark days of the Depression and war.
17. John Wilkes Booth
Checked suit, quirky bowtie and braces – it’s the hipster suit trifecta. John Wilkes Booth was the actor who assassinated Abraham Lincoln at a theater in Washington D.C. And as well as being a Confederate sympathizer, he vehemently opposed the emancipation of slaves. So hip, perhaps, but definitely not cool.
16. Joseph Vacher
Only the truly dedicated hipster can pull off a rabbit-fur hat and unibrow. Yet while Joseph Vacher may have had style, he had absolutely no sense of morality. Known as “The French Ripper,” Vacher is known to have slaughtered 11 people in the 1890s, though it’s possible that he killed more. When he was arrested, the Frenchman claimed he had contracted blood poisoning. He then changed his story to claim that a curative tonic had subsequently driven him mad. And, just for good measure, he added that he had been sent by God. Nevertheless, he had his hat permanently knocked off when he was sent to the guillotine.
15. Friedrich Nietzsche
The modern-day hipsters populating Williamsburg wish they could grow an awesome ’tache like this. And with said facial hair coupled with a pair of wire-rimmed glasses and a barely-there bowtie, Friedrich Nietzsche’s hipster cred is unmatched. The hugely influential German philosopher and poet was the author of Beyond Good and Evil, and he famously declared, “God is dead.” Because he was so over the whole Judeo-Christian worldview.
14. Johannes Brahms
Believe it or not, some brave hipsters have no facial hair at all – and Johannes Brahms was one of those early trendsetters. And as well as him knowing how to wear a neat suit and elaborate necktie, the German-born pianist is thought to be one of the greatest composers of all time. Of. All. Time.
13. Grigori Rasputin
When you’re an elusive Russian mystic faith healer – and one surely drinking cocktails out of jam jars – you’re basically an automatic hipster. But Rasputin upped his hipster ante with a seriously impressive beard and long shaggy hair. It’s also thought that the former peasant held a mesmeric sway over the court of the last Russian Tsar, Nicholas II. What’s more, like a historical Russell Brand, he’s reputed to have had a devilish way with the ladies.
12. Che Guevara
With his Cuban cigar and chill expression, Che Guevara looks like a total hipster – once he got rid of his beanie hat, obviously. Sometimes known as “El Che,” the Argentine was a Marxist revolutionary who played a decisive role in the Cuban Revolution. He then became the Minister of Industries. But he was way too cool for that, so he headed back to the jungle in Bolivia for more guerrilla warfare.
11. Walt Whitman
A pinstripe suit and shabby chic overcoat – it’s the classic historical hipster look. In truth, though, when he saw this photo, the American poet said, “How shaggy! Looks like a returned Californian, out of the mines.” He also remarked on the image’s “calm don’t-care-a-damnativeness” and its “go-to-hell-and-find-outativeness,” adding, “It has that air strong, yet is not impertinent. Defiant. Yet it is genial.” Modern-day hipsters can only dream of emulating Whitman’s style.
10. Lucian Freud
If there’s one thing more hipster than beards and bowties, it’s taxidermic animals. Here’s Lucian Freud posing with his stuffed zebra head – and dressed to match, no less. It’s not exactly politically correct, but it is very hipster. The Berlin-born British artist, and grandson of Sigmund, is known as having been among the top realist painters of the twentieth century.
9. Dylan Thomas
Dylan Thomas was owning the chunky-knit cardigan look before modern-day hipsters even knew what the word ironic meant. The Welsh poet had a reputation for being “drunken and doomed,” though – and he died in New York City at the age of just 39.
8. Ned Kelly
Sporting a shaggy beard and a quiff way back in the 1880s, Ned Kelly was the ultimate historical hipster. The Australian outlaw started out in horse rustling, and then he went on to kill three cops. His famous last words before being hanged in Melbourne? “Such is life.”
7. Tensing Norgay
Swept-back hair, a hint of a pencil ’tache and a bandana neckerchief – it’s all effortlessly cool. Alongside Edmund Hillary, the Sherpa Tensing Norgay was, back in 1953, the first man to scale Mount Everest.
6. Aldous Huxley
When you’re Aldous Huxley, it doesn’t matter if you’re wearing round glasses non-ironically, as you’re still a certified hipster. The English writer and philosopher is known for his dystopian novel Brave New World and a non-fiction book, The Doors of Perception, that focused on his psychedelic drug trips – which doesn’t exactly hurt his hipster cred.
5. Hermann Rorschach
With his narrow tie and popped collar, not to mention his natural good looks, the inventor of the eponymous inkblot test was style personified. Hermann Rorschach was a Swiss psychoanalyst who followed Freud’s theories; sadly, however, his career was cut short when he lost his life to peritonitis at the young age of 37.
4. Robert Cornelius
You can’t get more hipster than being the guy who basically invented modern photography. The American Robert Cornelius took this dashing self-portrait at the age of 30 outside his family’s store. Interestingly, it’s thought to be the first ever portrait in the photographic medium.
3. Mark Twain
With his mop of curls, thick ’tache and neat bowtie, young Mark Twain was quite the trendsetter. Of course, the American author – considered one of the greatest in history – wrote The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. And his real name was Samuel Langhorne Clemens, which is pretty hipster in itself.
2. Oscar Wilde
There’s no denying the fact that Oscar Wilde was one stylish dude. That fur-lined coat alone gives him a ton of hipster street cred. The Irish playwright and novelist is best known for The Picture of Dorian Gray and for his arrest and imprisonment for being gay. What’s more, the inhumane treatment he received in jail led to his premature death at the age of just 46.
1. Richard Francis Burton
As if the moustache and untucked tailored shirt weren’t cool enough already, Sir Richard Francis Burton was an explorer, geographer, soldier, linguist, diplomat and poet. Oh, and did we mention that he was also a spy who fenced? Hipsters, meet your god.