The Hipster Rugby Player

While we were watching Beauden Barrett on Saturday, we felt special. We had seen bits and pieces of Barrett in the last couple of years, but he wasn’t a player who ever makes the conversation when talking about the best outhalves in the game. He’s not in the league of Cruden, Carter, Sexton or even Shane Geraghty. And it’s pretty much because, in spite of his silky skills and natural talent, he’s just a bit .. wild. Like you couldn’t trust him with a late penalty to win the RWC. Like, say, er … Beaver. Anyway, where were we?

But not any more.  Now, when asked about the world’s second best fly-half, having donned your cap, grown a beard and been seen in that achingly cool spot off Wexford Street, you can respond ‘For me it’s Beauden Barrett’. Move over Aaron Cruden, the latest hipster player is in town.  Obviously, as players go mainstream, and even get written about in glowing terms in the Indo, their hipster credentials wane – and it’s a fast moving market. The best hipster players are those who don’t play every game, and are regularly spotted with shades on, shirt buttoned up to the top, reading Proust and drinking single origin Salvadorean macchiato.  Sometimes the players themselves don’t have to be especially hip, but they can still be the choice of hipsters.  Confused?  Well, nobody said being hip was simple.  Next week the rules could be totally different!

So Hip they stopped hanging out in the East Village around the time Girls came out:

Ian Madigan: The Irish Beauden Barrett.  Mad-dog has the nickname, the quiff, the outsize pass as well as – crucially – the manager who doesn’t rate him as highly as the public.  Uber-hip.

Ulster inside centers. Two years ago, Luke Marshall was the hipster’choice  in Ravers. Now, Marshall himself is not very hip, but it was hip to proclaim him the next best thing.  However, once he started playing well for Ireland and people opined on his offloading skills (or lack thereof), it simply became too difficult to justify fandom. So the cognosienti moved on to Stuart Olding. Now that galloots such as Thornley’s sidekicks have Olding inked into the RWC15 starting XV, the tight jean-wearing fan has moved on to Stuart McCloskey. Let’s hope he stays under the radar for a bit longer

Julien Dupuy: Credentials took a nosedive after gouging Ferris, which isn’t very hip.  But James Haskell once wrote a piece about his new lifestyle in France, and in it described Dupuy’s louche, Gallic diffidence to everything, and how he spent his free time sipping espressi in Paris’ hippest coffee houses.  In general, French back play is a mine of hipsterdom, the general principle being that the forwards beat the tar out of each other, while the backs chew feathers and discuss the latest pop-up gallery in that loft on Avenue Foch.

Mick McGrath: Friday night witnessed the Birth of Cool for Mick McGrath.  His hipster beard and hair certainly help; he has the look of a man who could hold his own in a debate on whether Slanted and Enchanted or Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain is the best Pavement album.  Competing with Darragh Fanning for place on Leinster wing, and let’s face it, on cool points it’s a no brainer.

Niall Morris: what do you think of when you see a Leicester Tigers shirt? Muck? A terrifically ugly scrum with steam coming off it? Johnno’s battered face? Certainly not a balletic winger who runs in stylish tries without getting his shirt dirty. Plus he isn’t an assured first XV selection and plays beyond the scope of Irish rugby journalism i.e. outside Leinster and Munster. Let’s hope he doesn’t come back to Leinster.

Richie Gray: hip answer to “best lock in the world” question: Richie Gray. Hip answer to “Who does he play for again?” question: errrr, it’s not still Glasgow right? Some English team? Or is it Perpignan? Not sure. The true hipster is rarely to be found in the popular haunts. Plus he has revolutionary hair and looks like a Renaissance painting.

Formerly Hip, now desperately trying to escape Shoreditch:

Jamie Heaslip: he’s got the hair. He’s got the alternative mates. He’s got the niche eaterie. But he’s getting quite successful and well-known isn’t he? What finally jumped Jamie over the shark was the revelation that BoI are contributing to his salary. A true hipster would have crowdfunded, probably through a (free) app where smartphone users could donate to Jamie’s well-being through tokens for papaya juice.

Cian Healy: hipster credentials were impeccable when Michael Cheika told Deccie that Healy’s favourite pastime was painting, and Deccie thought he meant painting & decorating.  But calling yourself DJ Church without having any particular DJ skills is perhaps a step too far.  Also he’s a prop and it’s hard for props to be hip.  They’re just too big.

So tragically unhip they are still wearing Wranglers:

Munster players: sorry, but the definition of rugby hipsters excludes all salt-of-the-earth in-touch-with-the-fans meat-and-two-veg types. Unfortunately for all Munster players, they get tarred with this brush whether it’s true or not. Even Simon Zebo seems vaguely unhip dressed in a Munster shirt. Munster fans will, of course, whole-heartedly agree and hark back to a time when men were men and trips to Toulouse were the exclusive preserve of 30,000 fans with Credit Union accounts. Stereotype: Frankie.

BOD: BOD’s Twitter account is like a perma-ad for his “partners”, almost exclusively big corporations. Not a micro-financer in sight. Now he’s on Newstalk instead of a pirate. He does fund an (excellent) app, but also a sports management company. Ugh – bet he still drinks flat whites.

Leo Cullen & Devin Toner: just so uncool. So uncool.  Devin Toner’s gf runs a cupcake company, but even that can’t make Devin cool.

The High Priest of Rugby Hipsterdom is of course, one Gervais Thornley. You never know where you will see him next, he wears leather, scarves and stubble. His shades permanently dissect his hair. He imparts cool with one sideways glance. He even has bitter rugby blogs written by chronically unhip underpants-wearers named in his honour. Not that we’d ever reach his levels of hip-ness.



  1. Jimbob

     /  September 30, 2014

    Do you mean Julien Dupuy?

  2. Wowee Zowee is the best Pavement album.

  3. Richie Gray is so-5-minutes-ago. Ally Muldowney is the hipster lock du-jour.

  4. clancystephen

     /  September 30, 2014

    There was that Aussie centre that played for Wasps when they were a GOOD team that skate boarded to training – is that hipster enough?

    • BLT

       /  September 30, 2014

      Nah, he’s Australian, you can’t be Australian and hipster, it’s like being light and dark at the same time, just can’t be done.

    • ruckinhell

       /  September 30, 2014

      Could you be referring to Josh Kronfeld when he played for Leceister? I recall he was a bit of a skateboarding, krustyish free spirit.

    • When Aaron Cruden got called into the Kiwi World Cup squad he had just picked up a skateboarding injury.

      Beaver, on the other hand, was out fishing somewhere. We’ll leave you to decide which of the two is more cool.

      • clancystephen

         /  September 30, 2014

        I’ll see that and raise it with Paddy Wallace being called out to NZ from a family holiday in Portugal. Slightly deferent result though …….

  5. Hairy Naomh Mhuire

     /  September 30, 2014

    You obviously missed the Kearndashians at De Ploughing. I don’t have the hip vocabulary to do justice to how hip that is…

  6. Facezook

     /  September 30, 2014

    Surely the Badge and Connacht rugby are the hipsterest things in rugby these days?

  7. Surely you can’t be hip and champion someone like Luke Marshall who has a Ballymoney accent.

    Ah, I get it, they were being “ironic”….

  8. Presumably the second 5/8 was hip for a while there when everyone had a bosher at 12? I believe second 5/8 hipness reached its zenith with Cheika’s super XV win (claiming Cheiks above Joe as best Leinster coach would surely be a hipster move?) but now that Axel has expressed interest I imagine 2nd 5/8 hipness is dead.

    Is a specialist 7 hip? How about shorter, non jumping French second rows? This is all quite complicated….

    • It’s hard to pigeonhole a position as hip. It’s more of an individual thing. Sam Warburton and Richie McCaw are not hip, but I think it’s fair to say Justin Tipuric is a bit of a hipster player.

      As for those stout French-style second rows, I’m not so sure. Damien Browne anyone? Lillian Nallet? I’m not feeling a hip-factor. Conversely, I think some of their athletic lineout-catching backrows are quite hip. Fufu Ouedraogo is hip, and so is Yannick Nyanga.

  9. Cian

     /  September 30, 2014

    You said “the players themselves don’t have to be especially hip”, but I’d go one further: how hip a player is has nothing at all to do with whether or not he’s a hipster’s choice. There are hipster players and there are hipster fans favourites, and the two are entirely distinct categories. Ian Madigan is a hipster. Just look at him. But he’s never a hipster’s choice: saying MOC ruined Madser and that he should be the foundation of Leinster and Ireland is now the province of Tony Ward and the ravening comment section on!

    Stuart McCloskey, on the other hand, is a true hipster’s choice. If he were to wear sweater vests and listen only to Springsteen he’d still be a hipster’s choice.

    Of course, the overlapping part of the Venn diagram of hipster players and hipster’s choice players contains most of France.

  10. paddypower

     /  September 30, 2014

    Mick McGrath truly is so hot right now out and about.

    Now bbc Northern Ireland ain’t hip at all but the half time features they do are fairly priceless. Most recent was how Darren cave had picked up one of those Italian mini motorbike/scooter things on the recommendation of nick Williams, which was the lead into an interview with the two of them. I must say it enhanced cave’s international credentials in my eyes to have bought such a hip mode of transport!

    The previous episode had a welcome to belfast for the saffers which included an experience making an Ulster fry in the Europa hotel. Wow what cultural wonders are these! South Africans eating meat, well I never! The beeb being ironically hip?

    • Hilarious. On the topic of hip transport, the Kearndashians once tweeted a picture of their brand new, off-the-shelf his & his Shoreditch-approved fixies with brightly coloured rims and the works. Unfortunately such try-hard attempts at being hip only confirmed their deep-rooted lack of hipness.

    • Best ever half time was Nigel Brady at band practice. You all know the sort of band… Was laughing my knackers off.

  11. Andrew097

     /  September 30, 2014

    Toner could well be entering hip as a test match second row who nearly everybody said would not make it. Except of course a few who predicted he would be Legend status at Leinster and beyond when he retired a 38

    • He’s a good player who has delivered more than many forecast he would, but I’m afraid that by any definition of the loose and constantly changing tenets of hipdom, Toner fails to qualify.

      He has a grin like Clark Griswold. True hipsters need to look both distracted and smug.

      • The mad octopus

         /  October 1, 2014

        I’ve always thought that Toner has the look of a Garda from Ballykissangel about him. Not hip.

        On a side note I saw him cycling a very small bicycle down my road last summer.. Made my day! (Think Krispy the clown on mini bike)

  12. When I read “True hipsters need to look both distracted and smug” I immediately thought of Declan Kidney. That cant be right, can it? How can he be hip? Maybe Im not going about this hipster though process correctly!

  13. Some further questions: how does hip relate to good face? And also is good face itself, as I suspect, subjective rather than absolute?

    But, then, what other groupthink exists with regard to good face? If there are hip players, are there mainstream ones? What does mainstream even mean? Popular but not necessarily any good? Hello, Sebastian Chabal!

    Now, despite having once had a media job based in Shoreditch, and a girlfriend with a fringe and lots of dresses who took me to art installations and squat parties (all true), I am not hip. At all. Also I don’t think Stuart McCloskey is better than Luke Marshall or (for sure) Stu Olding. Nor am I mainstream (Chabal was ordinary). What’s left? The misanthropic view? Think I’d rather be hip, or populist.

  14. I distinctly remember Andrew Trimble wearing a bow tie and looking like a mook for the Ireland sponsored formalwear a few years back. What a try-hard.

  15. Do fans create the hipster player, or does he create himself? Are they perhaps in a relationship of hipster symbiosis? Difficult questions abound.

    I think an underlooked category of hipster player in the comments so far has been the player who’s subject to perennial abuse. There’s something very hipster about being a big fan of a player the rest of the rugby world is pillorying. I’ll stand by my fandom of Paddy Wallace ’til I die, for example. (Although it’s worth noting that there was an element of the second five-eighth being hip at the time, so that complicates matters.) The same goes for Andrew Trimble, although now that he’s gotten all popular and mainstream I’ve gone off him.

    Andrew Conway is the hipster Munster player, largely by virtue of not being from Munster, but also because he at one point had a mohawk. And because ardent fans can still rave about his unmatched try-scoring record at the JRWC and how he’ll come good one of these days, which is basically the rugby hipster equivalent of “I saw them when they were still in the clubs”.

  16. Toro Toro

     /  September 30, 2014

    Mainstream is relative. At Clontarf we liked Mick McGrath when the rest of you bandwagon-jumpers had probably never heard of him.

  17. D6W

     /  October 1, 2014

    Are we just talking in the professinal era? Otherwise Jean-Pierre Rives has to considered the hipest of them all. 59 Caps for Fance, 34 of them as captain, retiring to becoame a painter and sculptor in Paris.

    • Not just “the hippest of them all”, but a seriously cool dude. Me and some pals playing for Old Belvedere U-19s bumped into him in a promenade bar in Biarritz in 1980. Although one of the top players in the world at the time, on discovering we were visiting rugby heads he showed interest in who we were over playing against, how our tour was going and regaled us minnows with stories about his own visits to Dublin with Les Bleus. He even stood us a round. Having just whacked Bayonne’s U-19s that afternoon we were all just blown completely away: The perfect ending to a perfect day!!!

  18. Peat

     /  October 1, 2014

    I feel like this would be an appropriate place to (re)start the Chris Farrell hype train. Young, ticks a fantastic range of boxes for a centre, plays in France so hardly anyone will be watching him play,hell, plenty won’t know who he actually is… this, gentlemen, is a perfect hipster’s choice for a rugby player. Clearly Jackman is right and he’ll be the dark horse 2015 OC candidate. You heard it here first. Second.

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