2016 has been the year of (in) authenticity. Politicians have been described as authentic because they are plain-speaking and inauthentic because they are conducting ‘post-truth’ campaigns, the TV programmes Westworld and Humans blur ideas of real and fake, the words authentic, artisan and heritage are the adjectives of choice describing everything from cities, to cardigans to cheese and hygge and the Danish notion of cosiness, is now an international phenomenon.
You say hipster I say #hygge. We used to say hippy. It is hard to see where hygge begins and hipster ends. Hipsters use artisan approaches to growing and cooking food and home brewing, they have beards, visit cafes with distressed, industrial interiors and wear manual workwear, including checked shirts, vintage clothing, jumpers and, of course, like riding bicycles. Hygge is a Danish expression suggesting family-orientation, mindfulness and being in the moment, home-made food, atmosphere created by candles and firelight, wearing knitted socks and jumpers and, of course, riding bicycles.
Hipsters are linked to a number of neighbourhoods, including Shoreditch in London which function as what Peter York calls Hipster Theme Parks. Hygge is less gentrified. It is associated with Denmark, but the British tourist industry has responded with a range of cosy hygge tourism holiday destinations including Christmas markets in heritage cities. Whether these concepts are reactions to globalisation or technology, or are simply canny marketing tools; both have been described as related to the slow food and drink movement and focus on localism, heritage and authenticity. In the world of post-truth and Brexit uncertainty we reach for the comfort of (European) hygge.
Hygge requires contrast, it is at the far end of the scale from Nordic Noir, yet you’d probably want to read a mystery, ghost story or Gothic novel in hygge comfort. You could say that royal drama The Crown is hygge heritage, a soap opera with wonderful frocks and period detail. Snowscape dramas such as Swedish Modus, Artic Fortitude or Icelandic Trapped are hygge. Books such as Rebecca, The Woman in White and The Snow Child, are hygge because their heightened atmosphere requires that you snuggle up safely to read them. Bjork and Sigur Ros are ethereal hygge music. The Cold Swedish Winter by Danny Robins is a Hygge comedy. The Celtic Beer Festival is a hygge event. They all make you glad that you are indoors as a hard frost descends on the bony sculpture of winter trees. So, put on your chunky jumper and bobble hat, get on your bike, have a hygge Christmas and be careful with all those candles!