The original hipster was a manic jazz pianist in the 1940s
March 23, 2016 - Uncategorized
Harry “The Hipster” Gibson performs with his band in New York.
Image: William P. Gottlieb/Library of Congress
In the first decade of the 20th century, the words “hep” and “hip” were used interchangeably to mean “aware.” The precise origin of the words is unknown, though one theory suggests slaves from Senegal used the word xipi (pronounced “hippy” or “hippeh” in the native Wolof language), which means “to have your eyes open and be aware.”
Calling someone hip or hep became a way to note their sophistication, coolness or knowledge of fashion. It was particularly prevalent in the world of jazz, where the coolest and most in-the-know characters were called “hepcats.” In 1939, Cab Calloway published his lexicon of jazz vernacular, Cab Calloway’s Hepster’s Dictionary: Language of Jive, a pun on Webster’s Dictionary. “Hepster” came to mean a white fan of jazz Read more…