My old friend Samuel Dupéré sends along a piece from the New York Times (where else!), by Penelope Green, about the latest hot conspicuous authenticity item coming out of haut-hipsterdom: handmade axes. I wish this had come out while I was writing chapter four of the book. The whole thing is deep down the rabbit hole of disguised status-seeking, and it hits all the authenticity plot points.
First, the axes are handmade (ping!) by a Peter Buchanan-Smith, who is a Canadian (ping!) with a Hemingwayesque background (ping!). And unlike the "fake" authentic that is being exhalted from one end of Brooklyn to the other (e.g. "like denim or Prouvé chairs"), these axes are the REAL ANTI-MODERNITY DEAL, the "the ultimate antidote to life on the high-broadband lane.” (ping! ping! ping!).
What comes next in the story? Oh right, the inevitable worry that because the axes are expensive and bought primarily as objets-d'authenticité, they might actually be nothing more than some sort of yuppie status good. After all, "seven of his axes are hanging in the Saatchi Gallery in London. Seth Godin, the entrepreneur and marketing guru, has one, and so do Leonard Lauder, David Lynch and Mike Jones, the president of MySpace."
But no: As attested on the product's website, "Even real woodsmen and -women" apparently use the axes for actual woodchopping. Because you know, it takes a $180 axe to split a log at the KOA campsite. One of these bad boys is just not up to the task.
So where were we? Oh right, the full selling-authenticity business plan:
He’d like to work with a Canadian company to sell its Sou’wester, an oiled-canvas rain hat. He is intrigued by the work of two Brooklyn artists, Gabriel Cohen and Jolie Mae Signorile, who collect tropical bird feathers from aviaries and make arrows out of them. And he has commissioned a designer he met at an art camp in Minnesota to make vintage maps stamped with the Best Made Co. symbol, a bright red cross.
But don't call it a business, because making something for profit is just so... modern. This is all about the purity and innocence of the creative self:
“With the ax, I wanted to do something simple and sweet,” he said. “It was like an invitation to this world I wanted to create. The world of making things where notions of courage and fortitude are associated with it, but also playfulness and levity.”
It's almost like we've heard this story before.