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.