Axes have been used by homesteaders, loggers, folks living with fireplaces or wood burning stoves, and even executioners. The axe has been around for a long time, starting with our early ancestors chipping pieces of flint and fastening an axe head onto a sturdy stick.
Now guess what? There’s a more recent trend of selling axes to (usually, it seems) urban hipsters. I’d kind of noticed the trend on the internet awhile back out of the corner of my eye and was transported back in time. I felt like I did when I was eleven and saw an ad in the back of Esquire magazine for latex dresses. I wondered, “Umm that’s weird… I think… oh, I don’t know what I’m looking at or why someone wants to buy those.” I turned the page. Years later, I realized there were fetishes and latex clothing is one of those, I didn’t really get the “why” of latex, but I could see there’s a market for those people in need.
Several months ago, I was in New York City on vacation and came across a surf shop in SoHo. Being a surfer I went in to see what the big city guys surfed on. I knew there was surfing to be had around New York City on occasion. There’s sometimes surf out at Far Rockaway near Coney Island and at Montauk on the tip of Long Island.
What I saw in the shop were some nice surfboards with strong nostalgic designs. And the prices were surprisingly good too.
I went a bit deeper into the surf shop and there they were: a whole rack of axes! They were colorfully painted and expensive.
Axes in a surf shop who’d have thunk? So now they were definitely on my radar. Sort of the latex dresses of the tool world. As I’ve said before, I’m always fascinated by subcultures. What was this about? And how did it start?
Here’s something similar. Several years ago big city hipsters started riding fixies (track bikes without brakes). Fixies have been ridden by bike messengers for years and so that type of bike was part of the big city environment. Fixes have street cred. But it’s hard for me to get a handle on the big city genesis of an ax fad.
I recently wrote about people striving for a minimal list of 100 or less personal items in A Jockstrap And A Bowie Knife. Someone with a designer axe probably is not a minimalist. Not that minimalism is the standard, but this represents a step in the other direction, towards extravagance. Fetishizing an actual tool.
I’m still not sure how the hipster axe trend began. They’re available at Best Made Company if you’re keen to check them out. Their site is where the photo above comes from. There’s even an elaborate sling for carrying an axe around on your back, if you’re so inclined.
Why this started is a guess too. Is this an overcompensation for some one who lives in a large city and is removed from a rural existence that’s out of reach? I don’t know. Could be that an outlier on the coolness spectrum bought one. And then since an axe is an unusual thing to own in a city and scarce, axes became cool.
Maybe in the ensuing years it’ll become more apparent to me, like the latex folks’ kink. Or maybe you’ll be able to buy a $200 axe at an aging hipster’s garage sale for under $5.