UK Hipster Handbook:
Part I — Behind the Big Blue Wayfarers
As I jammed to the latest buzz band on my iPod while waiting for Neil Young to take the stage (thx for the tix Mom + Dad +/- Stepmom) Wednesday night in Louisville, I got a text on my iPhone, directly followed by an email on my Blackberry, from my ‘bros’ chuckling a few rows in front of me. Both read, “Dude, peep the guy six seats to your left.” I turned, nearly spilling my PBR and crushing my pack of American Spirits, instantly mesmerized by this fellow’s look: monstrous cowboy hat, big belt buckle, semi-toothless grin, and ironically incomplete ‘stache.
As he stood up to hoot and holler some undecipherable message towards the stage, I noticed his royal blue collared shirt donning the UK emblem. Instead of clownin’ this amigo and making snarky comments back and forth about him with my bros via text, I felt an immediate connection with the guy. Smiling, I yelled, “Go Cats!” in his direction. We looked at each other with appreciation, and he shouted it back ten times louder, garnering applause from groups around the crowd. In a sea of Reformed-Hippie-Parents, ground-dragging beards, and tie-dye shirts, this UK Fan’s Big Blue get-up stood out as my favorite sight of the night.
I rode home from the show on my fixed-gear bike feeling ‘happy’ about finally getting to see Neil Young before he croaks[:(], leading to my DocBrown-esque epiphany. My vintage corduroys got caught in my pedals and I took a spill, cracking my head on the sidewalk and knocking myself momentarily unconscious (thx Pabst). I came to my senses enlightened, with two suddenly distinct realizations:
1. The Big Blue Nation is a diverse, unique, loyal, and inherently connected group.
2. Being a UK fan is a huge part of one’s identity, with each identity being ‘alternative’ from the mainstream culture in our own way, not unlike the hated hipsters.
Kentucky fans come from all walks of life. Some listen to Arcade Fire. Others once set fire to an arcade after their minister said video games were the devil’s work. Wherever you go in America, a UK fan is undoubtedly in the vicinity. Chances are they will let you know it, too. Last year at Bonnaroo, I saw over a dozen UK shirts, one UT roach clip (Tyler Smith loves musical festivals), and no other college gear. Loving UK is not something you casually do, but something you live everyday. Whether it be attending games, checking message boards, screaming at the TV, or photoshopping Billy D, one thing is certain — loving UK is essential to who we are.
Like ‘hipters,’ UK fans are often looked down upon by the national mindset, cited as being extremely outside the norm, unapologetic, absurdly passionate, and clinically crazy. Both groups embody the definition of alternative, or ‘Alt’ for the well-versed in counter-culture. Unlike most normal Americans, our fanship to a certain university means more to us than most things in our life, and we wouldn’t have it any other way. Alternative to conventional college fans, or sports fans in general, we give UK everything we’ve got. We portray ourselves as the most dedicated group of folks in the country, and always live up to the billing. And like hipsters, at times we look like fools because we get a tad out of line.
Being a hipster is polarizing, but not more so than being a UK fan. If you venture into a public place wearing Wayfarers and a v-neck tucked under your cardigan, some people will immediately have an opinion on you. However, if you are wearing a UK shirt, every non-fan will have a few preconceived notions regarding your sanity. Unfortunately, we’ve made a name for ourselves that sparks negative opinions. But the fact of the matter is that there are crazies in every fan base. When you have the sheer epic numbers and the unyielding passion we do, sometimes logic goes out the window. And that’s okay. Yes, some will become villians (cough…Mark Hamilton), and rightfully so. But I wouldn’t change much about our fanbase, because taking away all of the bad things would mean that we were no longer the most passionate fans in the country.
Hipsters make a living mocking mainstream society, but UK fans are the best at all forms of insults despite being the butt of many jokes ourselves. Think about this: How many hours of your life have you spent telling/laughing at Pitino/Sypher jokes? My calculations say I’ve wasted 22.3472% of the last year on such things; I cherished every moment of it.
Gimel Martinez had an AltStache before you. DeMarcus Cousins and John Wall smoked oregano with Buddy Holly and did lines of Splenda with Elmer Fudd in their matching glasses and hats. Patrick Patterson owns every Miles Davis album ever recorded… on vinyl. Brandon Knight recites a few lines of iambic pentameter before he smokes his last cig of the day.
But honestly, what is more retro than being a UK fan? 1933, 1946, 1948, 1949, 1951 1958, 1978 are my favorite pre-1980 years.
Hate the illogical and ironic behavior of hipsters all you want. However, whether you’re an AltBro or an AltFan, embrace the oddities, absurdities, and eccentric behavior of your fellow UK brothers/sisters, because, after all, the BBN is truly a family.