“Too bad child labour is no longer allowed,” Ben said sadly, as he hung up the merchandise on the wire wall.
“What are you talking about, you mad man?” Ken retorted as he counted out bank notes in his hand.
There were multiple children running around the market, and Ben felt it would be easy to grab any one of them and pay them a minimal amount of money to help him with the set up for the day.
“Mr and Mrs Chang of stall 45 take full advantage of doing that!” Ben exclaimed.
“But that’s their own children, you wanker,” Ken reminded him as they prepared to open shop.
It was an early Sunday morning, and the Old Spitalfields Market was opening for its biggest day of the week. Shopkeepers milled about, unpacking their bulk-purchased scarves and dresses (made in Indonesia, of course).
Identical twins, Ben and Ken, had hit it big a few months ago when they posted their sketches on Tumblr. They went viral overnight. The next morning they awoke to one thousand messages from pre-teen girls asking if they sold shirts with the designs. Seeing an opportunity to actually make their own money for once, they went through an online retailer to produce their drawings for wear.
But online was not enough. They decided to sell them in-person at Old Spitalfields Market; London’s biggest hipster market. With Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium and the Cereal Killer Café just around the corner, there was no better niche location to place their pompous artwork, taught to them exclusively at some unaccredited art college they attended two years ago.
In their lacklustre research, they found that Brick Lane and Petticoat Lane’s audience was not nearly big enough for their egos. They needed to go all out and sell like mad to all the pretentious tourists too scared to deviate too far from Liverpool Street Station. If their plain white t-shirts, with an etching of a deer with massive antlers, couldn’t sell here, then where would they sell?
A young, 20-something female approached their stall and looked highly intrigued at their walls of stonewashed tees. Her apparent hipster-ness was made clear by her ironic use of horn-rimmed glasses that were probably not even filled with a prescription.
“How much is that shirt?” she asked, pointing to a black V-neck with “Don’t talk to me before my morning coffee” written in a fancy font.
“£25,” Ken answered quickly, anxious to make a sale.
“Cool,” she muttered as she reached into her faded leather messenger bag.
The money was exchanged and she left seemingly happy with her purchase.
“I’m gonna grab a coffee, mate. Can you hold down the fort?” Ben asked as he grabbed his coat and turned to leave.
Ken nodded, but then added, “Get me one, same as you.”
“Rice milk latte with lavender flavour?”
“No, just a flat white for me.”
Ben scoffed at Ken’s choice of boring brew, left the stall and walked out from under the covered market to his favourite cafe down the street. He loved this part of London. It was the perfect little spot of gentrified heaven that he thrived in. The only place cool enough for him to get his caffeine fix.
The buildings still looked vintage and old, with their crumbling structure and washed-out signs, but everything inside them was new and overpriced; a hipster asshole hive of inspiration!
He walked into A. Gold Shop, which carried his favourite Monmoth coffee brand. “Why wait in line at the real Monmoth shops for five hours when he could get it in two minutes from somewhere else?” he thought to himself.
Ben ordered his pretentious rice milk latte with lavender flavour, picked up Ken’s pathetic flat white, flirted with the Zooey Deschanel look-a-like barista, and went back to the market where Ken had revealed he’d sold another 15 shirts.
Throughout the day, their business continued to boom, and by 5 o’clock in the afternoon, they realized they were almost out of merchandise.
A young man came up just as they were closing and asked if they had any more of the deer with antlers shirt, since he’d seen it online and wanted to buy it.
“Naw, sorry, mate. We sold out,” Ken said as he packed the remaining shirts into a box.
“How many did you sell?” the man asked.
“About 50, I think,” Ben estimated.
“So wait, there are 50 other dudes out there with the same unique shirt I wanted?”
“Yeah, we print them in bulk.”
The young man looked sick as he backed away and screamed, “You guys are just another part of the system! I can’t believe I thought you were ORIGINAL!”
He left, leaving Ben and Ken astonished. They looked at their gentrified, fake-vintage surroundings and suddenly it hit them how idiotic they’d been.
“So hipster-ism is mainstream now?” Ben asked sincerely.
“Apparently…” Ken replied, scrunching up his face into a frown.
They stood in silence for a good minute, pondering their life choices and whether or not how they decided to live their lives was a product of society or their actual wishes to live against the grain. Ben, the slightly more intelligent of the twins, suddenly burst out with laughter.
“What?” Ken was confused.
“Good riddance! I hated those damn lavender rice lattes. So disgusting!” Ben admitted as he threw his empty cup into the bin.
“And we don’t have to make these faux, handmade, screen-printed shirts anymore?” Ken asked.
“Let’s sell our designs to a major corporation that put them in Urban Outfitters. What’s more hipster than selling out?”
“By not being hipster, we in turn become hipster…” Ken revelled in this sudden realization.
It was settled, their path was paved, and their souls restored. Ben and Ken then walked off into the London sunset together, leaving Spitalfields and all of mainstream hipster life behind to move into a loft in Soho, funded entirely by their selling-out (and their parents, who could never turn down an opportunity to give their perfect sons one or two hundred pounds to make sure they were well taken care of).
Samantha O’Brochta was raised in the Pacific Northwest of America, and is currently working on her Creative Writing MA at the University of Westminster. She completed her undergrad degree in Public Relations and Theatre Arts at Western Washington University in 2013, and has since lived in Los Angeles and London, following her passion of doing publicity for arts and entertainment. She is currently in the midst of moving to New York City to continue her career path.