The John Minton Experience
Great night with Dudley Sutton last night. Dudley took us on a very funny walk through three of his addictions: onanism, the drink and the drugs. We should have him back every week.
Quentin Crisp and Philip O'Connor

The Wheatsheaf, 25 Rathbone Place, North Soho, W1

Wednesday March 21, 7.30pm

Entrance fee: £5


An illustrated talk by Dr Jan Bondeson

The facts in this case are so bizarre that no novelist would have dared to invent them," said the Philadelphia Inquirer . Indeed. A century before Jack the Ripper haunted the streets of London, another predator held sway: a "vulgar-looking man" who slashed at female pedestrians with a knife while uttering profanities with a "tremulous eagerness",over fifty victims during a two-year crime spree. The city was gripped with fear, outrage, and "Monster mania." The latter was abetted by a £100 reward and by the circulation of bawdy prints that capitalized on the Monster's tendency to slash his victims' buttocks. Armed vigilantes roamed the streets, and fashionable ladies dared not walk outdoors without first strategically placing cooking pots under their dresses. Finally, in June 1790, one Rhynwick Williams was arrested. After two long and ludicrous trials (at one of which he was defended energetically by the eccentric Irish poet Theophilus Swift), Williams was convicted. Was he guilty? Or just unlucky enough to fall into the hands of authorities when they needed someone to pay? Drawing on contemporary evidence and reinterpreting Monster mania in the light of historical and modern instances of mass hysteria, Jan Bondeson recounts with dry wit a tale that occupies a unique place in criminal history and imagination.

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Sohemians added a post from March 12 to their timeline.
March 12

The Sohemian Society proudly presents, at

The Wheatsheaf, 25 Rathbone Place, North Soho, W1

Wednesday March 14, 7.30pm


Entrance fee: £5

With Barry Miles

At the beginning of the sixties Barry Miles was at art school in Cheltenham; at the end he was running the Beatles' Apple label and living in New York's legendary Chelsea Hotel. This is the story of what happened in between. In the Sixties is a memoir by one of the key figures of the British counterculture. A friend of Ginsberg and William Burroughs, Miles helped to organise the 1965 Albert Hall poetry reading. He co-founded and ran the Indica Bookshop, the command centre for the London underground scene, and he published Europe's first underground newspaper, International Times (IT), from Indica's basement. Miles's partners in Indica were John Dunbar, then married to Marianne Faithfull, and Peter Asher. Through Asher, Miles became closely involved with the Beatles, particularly Paul McCartney, and In the Sixties is full of intimate glimpses of the Beatles at work and play. Other musicians who appear include the Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, Leonard Cohen and Frank Zappa. This is the real story of the 1960s, from the inside.

In The Sixties

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We're going all cinematic for our next two events on Thursday February 15th (at The Wheatsheaf) and Friday 23rd (a film showing, Adrift in Soho, at the Sanctum Soho Hotel). On March 14, back at our historic home, Barry Miles will be telling us about the very groovy British Counter Cultural scene of the 1960s (more details to follow).

THURSDAY FEBRUARY 15th, 7.30pm, at

The Wheatsheaf, 25 Rathbone Place, North Soho, W1


Entrance: £5 (to reserve your seat, email:

An Illustrated talk

Charles Barr introduced by David Collard

Ealing films, Ealing comedy, or just Ealing – these are familiar shorthand terms that still have currency si x decades after the studio in West London ceased production. Often the words are used, nostalgically or impatiently, to evoke the image of a certain postwar England, cosy, quirky, self-deprecating, and resistant to change. But that is less than half of the story: Ealing’s time-span was longer, and its output more complex. Charles Barr wrote the first book-length study of Ealing in the late 1970s, going behind the stereotype, and has updated it since in two revised editions. A further revision is now overdue, in response both to new discoveries and to changing times: Ealing films look subtly different, and have different uses, at different historical moments. Charles will in effect be presenting the outline for a new edition of his Ealing Studios appropriate to 2018, with a wealth of visual illustration.

Friday February 23rd, 7.30pm, at

The Sanctum Soho Hotel,

20 Warwick Street, W1B 5NF Google Maps

Google Maps

Entrance: £7 (to reserve your seat, email:


A film by Pablo Berens, based on the novel by Colin Wilson

Music, dreams, realities and desires to change the world in the Soho of the late 1950s. Harry Preston (Owen Drake), a young writer from the provinces, arrives at a surreal nieghbourhood in London inhabited by unconventional characters, loitering with intent. See below for more details:

Adrift in Soho

Adrift in Soho
At a cinema near new in 2017.

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Our first event of 2018 will take place, not, please note, at our historic home on Rathbone Place, The Wheatsheaf, but at the very plush Century Club in southern Soho. This is a joint venture between tour two institutions. We will be returning to our usual venue on Thursday February 15th for an evening with Charles Barr giving us an illustrated talk about the films of Ealing Studios. Then on Wednesday March 14 Barry Miles will speak to us about the British counter-culture and... music scene ....

Tuesday January 23rd, 6.30pm at,

The Century Club,

61-63 Shaftesbury Avenue, W1D 6LQ (see below link for map).

Entrance fee: £5


Roger Burton will be interviewed by novelist and journalist, Cathi Unsworth, about this extraordinary new book.

This recently published Rebel Threads features over 1300 examples of rare vintage clothing (some of which will be shown as images on a screen at the event), from the swing, counterculture and blank generation eras, detailed photographs and factual stories of the clothes origins, alongside many previously unseen fashion and film stills.

The book traces how these distinct street punk styles were originally put together and worn by the predominant teenage sub-cultures that emerged between 1940 - 1980, and set these kids apart from mainstream fashion. With 50 years’ experience collecting vintage street fashion, costume designer, stylist and former mod, the author, supplied original mod clothing for the 1978 cult film Quadrophenia, before establishing the Contemporary Wardrobe Collection, to provide street fashion for TV and Film. He went on to dress literally hundreds of influential bands, from David Bowie to the Rolling Stones. The archive now exceeds some 20 thousand items and serves as a valuable resource for leading fashion and film stylists, designers and important museums around the world. Rebel Threads is prerequisite for all lovers of vintage clothing, collectors, fashion students, designers, costumiers and anyone fascinated by the history of street style.

Cathi Unsworth is the author of six pop-cultural crime novels, the latest of which, That Old Black Magic, is due for release on 8 March 2018. For more information please see

Patrons wishing to reserve seats should email:

The Century Club is situated on the north side of Shaftesbury Avenue, close to the junctions with Wardour and Dean streets.

Google Maps

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The Sohemian Society proudly presents at The Wheatsheaf, 25 Rathbone Place, North Soho, W1, on ...

Wednesday December 13th, 7.30pm



In conversation with Cathi Unsworth

Christopher Fowler is a Londoner who jointly owned and ran the UK’s top film-marketing company, mixing with the likes of Terry-Thomas and the Pythons in service of the legendary Brentford Nylons. He is the author of the Bryant & May mysteries, in which our heroes, octogenarian veterans of the Peculiar Crimes Unit, formed in World War II to tackle cases of a sensitive nature, have taken on everything from a murderous Mr Punch to a vanishing public house, utilising their vast knowledge of the folklore, forbidden zones and Forteana of The Smoke to solve each case. Other novels include Roofworld, Spanky, Psy choville, Nyctophobia, The Sand Men and two volumes of memoirs, the award-winning Paperboy and Fil m Freak. The multiple-awarded author also won the CWA Dagger In The Library and fulfilled several schoolboy fantasies – releasing a terrible Christmas single, writing a stage show, creating a video game with Sir Patrick Stewart, appearing in the Pan Books of Horror and standing in for James Bond. This year alone he has released a new collection of short stories, Frightening, a new Bryant & May, Wild Chamber and The Book of Forgotten Authors, 100 wordsmiths who have fallen from the bookshelves of memory, including many Sohemian faves. His love of the films and literature of the Capital informs his every world and his knowledge of obscure London locations is unrivalled.

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In addition to our event this coming (please note) Thursday, on December 13th (yes, yes, I know, a Wednesday) we will be entertained by the award-winning novelist Christopher Fowler speaking about his Golden Age detective characters, Bryant and May from the 'Peculiar Crimes Unit'.

The Sohemian Society proudly presents ....

THURSDAY, December 7th, 7.30pm, at The Wheatsheaf,


David Bowie Made Me Gay

Darryl W Bullock

From the birth of jazz in the red-light district of New Orleans, through the rock 'n' roll years, Swinging Sixties and all-singing and all dancing disco days of the '70s, to modern pop, electronica and reggae the LGBT community has played a crucial role in modern music.

At the turn of the twentieth century, recording technology for the first time brought the messages of LGBT artists from the cabaret stage into the homes of millions. Their personal struggle and threat of persecution during decades of political and historical turmoil - including two world wars, Stonewall and the AIDS crisis has led to some of the most significant and soul-searching music of the last century.

Through exclusive new interviews and contemporary reports, Bullock pulls back the curtain on the colourful legacy that has shaped our musical and cultural landscape, revealing the inspiring and often heartbreaking stories of internationally renowned LGBT artists from Billie Holiday and Dusty Springfield to Frankie Goes to Hollywood and George Michael and of numerous lesser-known names that have driven the revolution from all corners of the globe.

A treasure-trove of untold history for all music lovers, David Bowie Made Me Gay is a moving, nostalgic and provocative reminder of how far the fight for equality has come, and the battles that are still to be waged.

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The Sohemian Society proudly presents at The Wheatsheaf, 25 Rathbone Place, North Soho, W1 on ...

Wednesday November 29th, 7.30
Entrance fee: £5
Down and Out with the Diarists:


Virginia Ironside and Travis Elborough

Author and anthologist Travis Elborough's latest book, Our History Of The 20th Century: As Told In Diaries, Journals And Letters, has been praised by Craig Brown for offering a 'rare, unexpurgated peep hole to the past'.

Featuring over a hundred different diarists, from the great and the good to the obscure and unknown, and ranging from the likes of Arnold Bennett, W N P Barbellion and Benjamin Britten to Joan Wyndham, Kenneth Williams and Derek Jarman, it also contains previously unpublished extracts from the diaries of Virginia Ironside, author, journalist, agony aunt and Sohemian extraordinaire.

Join them as they embark on an entertaining exploration of the loucher side of last century via the unfiltered personal accounts left behind.


Mark Farrelly's brilliant one man show must not be missed ....

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The Sohemian Society proudly presents at The Wheatsheaf, 25 Rathbone Place, North Soho, W1...

Wednesday November 15, 7.30pm



An illustrated talk by Simon Martin

Simon Martin curated the recent major Pallant House Gallery exhibition on the British artist John Minton (1917 – 1957), marking the centenary of his birth and 60 years since his death. Simon's presentation will explore the artist’s achievements far beyond his reputation as a leading illustrator and influential teacher, spanning: evocative wartime landscapes, including views of London, rooting him firmly in the Neo-Romantic tradition. Exotic subject matter in a new colour palette inspired by travel to Corsica, Jamaica, and Spain, including the newly rediscovered ‘Jamaican Village’ (1951). Figurative work including portraits of young male students and friends that express something of Minton’s experience as a leading gay artist in the 1940s and 1950s. These have added poignancy as 2017 marks 50 years since the decriminalisation of male homosexuality in England and Wales. Book illustrations, posters and lithographs, showing his position as a leading post-war illustrator. Ambitious paintings exploring historic and current events, as he sought a new context for history painting in an increasingly abstract art world.
Minton was a Bohemian figure in London during the 1940s and 50s who counted artists such as Lucian Freud and Keith Vaughan in his circle, and a following of Camberwell School of Art and Royal College of Art students known as ‘Johnny’s Circus’. Often the life and soul of a party but also plagued by self-doubt, his work reflected his complex character. This talk will refer to Minton’s evocative wartime landscapes, including moving depictions of post-war London, which gained him the moniker ‘urban romantic’. Placing him firmly within the context of Neo-Romanticism in Britain, it explores the influence of the 19th century visionary Samuel Palmer as well as that of his contemporaries including the Polish émigré Jankel Adler, and also Keith Vaughan, Michael Ayrton, Robert Colquhoun and Robert MacBryde, all of whom he shared a home with during the 1950s.

In the late 1950s Minton increasingly felt out of step with the rising interest in abstract art. Simon Martin will refer to a group of paintings depicting historic and current events – The Death of Nelson and that of the musician James Dean - in his attempt to find a modern form of history painting, a genre which had become deeply unfashionable. It was perhaps this feeling of being left behind that contributed to his suicide in 1957, aged just 40.

Entrance fee: £5

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Wheatsheaf, 25 Rathbone Place, North Soho, W1 on ...
Wednesday October 25th, 7.30
Entrance fee: £5



Author Nick Triplow in conversation with Cathi Unsworth

Get Carter are two words to bring a smile of fond recollection to all British film lovers of a certain age.

The cinema classic was based on a book called Jack’s Return Home, and many commentators agree contemporary British crime writing began with that novel. The influence of both book and film is strong to this day, reflected in the work of David Peace, Jake Arnott and a host of contemporary crime & noir authors. But what of the man who wrote this seminal work?

Ted Lewis is one of the most important writers you've never heard of. Born in Manchester in 1940, he grew up in the tough environs of post-war Humberside, attending Hull College of Arts and Crafts before heading for London. His life described a cycle of obscurity to glamour and back to obscurity, followed by death at only 42.

He sampled the bright temptations of sixties London while working in advertising, TV and films and he encountered excitement and danger in Soho drinking dens, rubbing shoulders with the ‘East End boys’ in gangland haunts. He wrote for Z Cars and had some nine books published. Alas, unable to repeat the commercial success of Get Carter, Lewis’s life fell apart, his marriage ended and he returned to Humberside and an all too early demise.

Getting Carter is a meticulously researched and riveting account of the career of a doomed genius. Long-time admirer Nick Triplow has fashioned a thorough, sympathetic and unsparing narrative. Required reading for noirists, this book will enthral and move anyone who finds irresistible the old cocktail of rags to riches to rags.

November 15: The Very Talented Mr Minton.
Simon Martin, curator of the recent John Minton show at The Pallant Gallery, will give us an illustrated talk about this seminal post-war artist and Soho character.

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News breaking: on November 15th Simon Martin, curator of the Pallant Gallery, Chichester, will be talking to us about prolific post-war artist, illustrator and hell-raiser John Minton. More details to follow.

Before our forthcoming, highly educational meeting on the Capital's murderous heritage, we have two other excellent events this month:

Oct 18: Prolific publisher and launcher of VIZ magazine, John Brown, in conversation with Cathi Unsworth.


Oct 25: Nick Triplow will be talking about his book Getting Carter: Ted Lewis and the birth of British Noir .

Wednesday October 11th, 7.30pm at

The Wheatsheaf, 25 Rathbone Place, North Soho, W1

an illustrated talk by Jan Bondsman

In that stately Fitzrovia house, the butler was murdered by a disgruntled pantryboy; in that one, a king's housekeeper lost her life. In that Kensington flat, a demented playboy murdered a prostitute for kicks; in that Gloucester Road basement, 'Acid Bath' Haigh was busy dissolving the bodies of his victims. In those two elegant Chelsea houses, located in peaceful garden squares, a clergyman and his housekeeper were brutally done to death in 1870. In that peaceful little house, not far from Camden Road Station, a woman murdered her rival, dismembered the body, and disposed of it using an old-fashioned perambulator. In that peaceful pub near the Thames, the landlady was murdered in 1920, and the killer was never found. In one Islington house, George Joseph Smith disposed of one of his 'Brides in the Bath'; in another, Annie Walters, the notorious baby farmer, was plying her deadly trade; in a third, a brilliant playwright was brutally murdered by his homosexual lover. This book deals with central London's architecture of capital crime: houses inside which celebrated murders have been committed. Pursue Lord Lucan as he escapes from his elegant Belgravia house, leaving the dead nanny in the basement; prowl the Soho streets once haunted by an elusive serial killer; and follow in the murderous footsteps of the Blackout Ripper and the serial killer Patrick Mackay. And read about London's many forgotten murders, where only the murder houses remain to tell a tale.

Oct 18: Prolific publisher and launcher of VIZ magazine, John Brown, in conversation with Cathi Unsworth.
Oct 25: Nick Triplow will be talking about his book Getting Carter: Ted Lewis and the birth of British Noir .

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The Sohemian central committee having returned from their luxurious summer retreats in places such as Capri, Mustique, the Florida Keys and the like, are now ready to get down to some serious cultural work. In addition to our sinister WW2 related event on September 20 (see below), we have three rather exciting quick-fire events in October ...

Oct 11: Murders of the West End; an illustrated talk by Jan Bondeson (author of Murder Houses of London).
Oct 18: Prolific publishe...r and launcher of VIZ magazine, John Brown, in conversation with Cathi Unsworth.
Oct 25: Nick Triplow will be talking about his book Getting Carter: Ted Lewis and the birth of British Noir .

Wednesday September 20th, 7.30pm, at
The Wheatsheaf, 25 Rathbone Place, North Soho, W1


Author, Josh Ireland
September 1939. For years now Britain has been rudderless, divided and grievously unequal. Successive governments have floundered as they struggled to cope with economic misery at home and machinations abroad. Many of the country's citizens are seduced by fascism; others are simply left alienated by leaders who seem unwilling or unable to take the decisive action that is so desperately needed.
When war breaks out the imperiled nation achieves the unity and purpose that has eluded it for more than a decade. It is a time of heroism and sacrifice in which many thousands of soldiers and civilians give their lives. But some Britons choose a different path, renegades who will fight for the Third Reich until its gruesome collapse in 1945. The Traitors tells the stories of four such men: the chaotic, tragic John Amery; the idealistic but hate-filled William Joyce; the cynical, murderous conman Harold Cole; and Eric Pleasants, an iron-willed pacifist and bodybuilder who wants no part in this war.
Drawing on declassified MI5 files, as well as diaries, letters and memoirs, The Traitors is a book about disordered lives in turbulent times; idealism twisted out of shape; of torn consciences and abandoned loyalties; of murder, deceit, temptation and loss. It shows how a man might come to desert his country's cause, and the tragic consequences that treachery brings in its wake.

Admission £5

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Rather topically, perhaps, the Sohemians are going all Bolshie this Wednesday. Plus, scroll right down for details of Mark Farrell's outstanding West End tribute to Quentin Crisp.

Wednesday June 21st, 7.30pm
at The Wheatsheaf, Rathbone Place, North Soho, W1


Art in the Service of the Revolution:
Creation of the Soviet Myth
An illustrated talk by Dr Natalia Murray

Dr Natalia Murray, co-curator of Revolution: Russian Art 1917-32, explores how visual art was used to propagate revolutionary and Communist ideas in the aftermath of the Russian revolution.

The Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 aimed to destroy the old bourgeois society and build a new, homogenous socialist state. Overnight becoming the ruling party in Russia, the Bolsheviks aimed to use the power of mass propaganda to establish their founding mythology and disseminate their ideas to an overwhelmingly rural and illiterate population. The leader of the new Bolshevik state, Vladimir Lenin, proclaimed that culture should support political needs, which effectively meant that all culture was now viewed as propaganda. The Bolshevik regime also believed that culture should not be for a privileged minority, but should be of mass appeal, promoting a so-called “proletarian” art.

In this talk Dr Natalia Murray (The Courtauld Institute of Art) looks at the Bolsheviks’ employment of visual art, such as revolutionary slogans and monumental sculpture, for their propaganda and the first expressions of “proletarian” art after the revolution.


'If there were no praise or blame, who would you be?"

Mark Farrelly's hit solo show returns to the West End for two special performances in support of Pride in London 2017.

Arts Theatre, Sunday 2nd July at 7.30pm
Jermyn Street Theatre, Sunday 9th July at 7.30pm

**** "Brilliant. Farrelly's mastery of his audience is total" Time Out.

Quentin Crisp : Naked Hope at the Arts Theatre

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The Sohemian Society presents two arty events at The Wheatsheaf, 25 Rathbone Place, North Soho, W1 on June 14 and 21st. The entrance fee for both events is £5.

Wednesday June 14, 7.30pm

The Unfinished Palazzo: Life, Love and Art in Venice...

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The Sohemian Society presents at The Wheatsheaf, 25 Rathbone Place, London W1, on ....

Wednesday 24th May, 7.30pm

Entrance fee: £5



Author Henry Hemming in conversation with Paul Willetts

Maxwell Knight was a paradox. A jazz obsessive and nature enthusiast (he is the author of the definitive work on how to look after a gorilla), he is seen today as one of MI5's greatest spymasters, a man who did more than any other to break up British fascism during the Second World War – in spite of having once belonged to the British Fascisti himself. He was known to his agents and colleagues simply as M, and was rumoured to be part of the inspiration for the character M in the James Bond series.

Knight became a legendary spymaster despite an almost total lack of qualifications. What set him apart from his peers was a mercurial ability to transform almost anyone into a fearless secret agent. He was the first in MI5 to grasp the potential of training female agents.

M is about more than just one man however. In its pages, Hemming reveals for the first time in print the names and stories of seven men and women recruited by Knight, on behalf of MI5, and then asked to infiltrate the most dangerous political organizations in Britain at that time. Until now, their identities have been kept secret outside MI5. Drawn from every walk of life, they led double lives―often at great personal cost―in order to protect the country they loved. With the publication of this book, it will be possible at last to celebrate the lives of these courageous, selfless individuals.

Drawing on declassified documents, private family archives and interviews with retired MI5 officers as well as the families of MI5 agents, M reveals not just the shadowy world of espionage but a brilliant, enigmatic man at its centre.

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The Sohemian Society proudly presents at The Wheatsheaf, 25 Rathbone Place, North Soho, W1 ....
Wednesday April 19th, 7.30
Entrance fee: £5
Author Jake Arnott in conversation with Cathi Unsworth...
London, the 1720s. Welcome to 'Romeville', the underworld of that great city. The financial crash caused by the South Sea Bubble sees the rise of Jonathan Wild, self-styled 'Thief-taker General' who purports to keep the peace while brutally controlling organised crime. Only two people truly defy him: Jack Sheppard, apprentice turned house-breaker, and his lover, the notorious whore and pickpocket Edgworth Bess.
From the condemned cell at Newgate, Bess gives her account of how she and Jack formed the most famous criminal partnership of their age: a tale of lost innocence and harsh survival, passion and danger, bold exploits and spectacular gaol-breaks - and of the price they paid for rousing the mob of Romeville against its corrupt master.
Bess dictates her narrative to Billy Archer, a Grub Street hack and aspiring poet who has rubbed shoulders with Defoe and Swift. But he also inhabits that other underworld of 'molly-houses' and 'unnameable sin', and has his own story of subterfuge, treachery and doomed romance to deliver. As the gallows casts its grim shadow, who will live to escape the Fatal Tree?
By the acclaimed author of THE LONG FIRM, this is a tour de force; inventive, atmospheric and rich in the street slang of the era. Drawing on real figures and a true history of crime, punishment and rough justice, it tells a heartbreaking story of love and betrayal.

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The Sohemian Society Presents
Peter York: From Sloanes to Hipsters.
Wednesday 12th April, 7.30
Upstairs at The Wheatsheaf
25 Rathbone Place...
London W1T 1DG
0871 951 1000
£5 on the door

Cathi Unsworth will be hosting what promises to be a most entertaining evening with cultural commentator Peter York, on his recent BBC documentaryThe Hipster's Handbook and the various teen tribes he has previously investigated, from his legendary Sloane Ranger Handbook to the birth of punk and new wave documented in his prescient tome Style Wars. Are hipsters the first youth culture to be based entirely on capitalism? Find out what fashion's foremost anthropologist has to say…

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