Well, the hipster love of all things retro has finally come full circle, from heritage flannel and artisanal sausage-making to…eugenics. That’s right. Young neo-Nazis in Germany, finding the hulking, booted, shaven-head uniforms of the past so unflattering (not to mention pretty hot in the summer) are adopting instead the mismatched, sweetly-scruffy look of Bushwickians everywhere (because yes, they live all over the world): the bandanas, the whimsical eyewear, the canvas totebags whose racist slogans are made all the cuter for being written in swirly café French, like something you’d buy from the sale section of Anthropologie.
It reads like something out of an Onion article—is it just me, or is it getting harder and harder to tell The Onion apart from the real news these days?—but don’t worry, these neo-Nazis, or should I say, Les Nouvelles, are just as deathly serious as their less polished predecessors. When interviewed, they mention that the old look of the white supremacists was “intimidating” and, frankly, a bit of a turn-off to those young Volk who might be sympathetic to their ideology but loath to give up their Ray-Bans and vintage Red Wing boots.
It’s a fair argument, and one that dovetails nicely, even inevitably, with the Millennial obsession with authenticity. After all, the real Nazis—apart from the upper echelon, who mostly looked like something that crawled out of the mysterious Tupperware in the darkest recesses of your fridge and/or Augustus Gloop—weren’t exactly misshapen Calibans skulking around the margins of the town square in beat up denim jackets and really ugly boots. They were mostly confident, straight-backed, and disturbing good-looking young men in sharply tailored Hugo Boss uniforms and tres moody overcoats, equally suitable for sweeping across a romantic moor or a filthy railway platform crowded with despondent and doomed Untermenschen.
Because, when you think about it, what is fascism but a sinister form of really discerning consumerism, and hipsters, famously, are the most discerning consumers of all. You need the right kind of the chocolate bar, the right kind of handmade boots, and the right kind of people. What is gentrification but a kinder, gentler form of Lebensraum?
There’s nothing neo about the hipster neo-Nazis. They’re just Nazis. And they’re just like us.