Morocco: Not a Country for hipsters (Yet)

Article published on June 22, 2014
Article published on June 22, 2014

What hap­pens when a mass phe­nom­e­non spreads to a coun­try with dif­fer­ent cul­tural tra­di­tions? Ex­plore the world of Mo­roc­can hip­sters in Casablanca, a youth much more com­pli­cated and di­verse than its West­ern cousin. A picture is worth a thousand words....

The quest to lo­cate the hip­sters of Casablanca began from afar. In Eu­rope, it’s a real ob­ses­sion: hip­sters are al­ready hated. Some peo­ple are so fright­ened of being la­belled a hip­ster that if they are caught wear­ing a tar­tan shirt or a pair of All­stars, they im­me­di­ately dis­as­so­ci­ate them­selves from the mous­ta­chioed fash­ion­istas. Some time ago the cru­sade began in Berlin, Paris and Lon­don against the mas­sive in­va­sion of a style that has quickly mush­roomed from a few fol­low­ers to the dom­i­nant fash­ion phe­nom­e­non in major Eu­ro­pean and Amer­i­can cities.

If this style is al­ready part of main­stream fash­ion in the West, what hap­pens in coun­tries who main­tain strong tra­di­tional val­ues such as Mo­rocco? Is it dif­fi­cult to dress in West­ern in­flu­enced garb? Has the world of huge glasses, of fixed-gear bikes and high-waist trousers ar­rived even here? On the In­ter­net, it would ap­pear so, at first glance. Trip Ad­vi­sor even rec­om­mends a bar, the Art Club, as being renowned as the meet­ing place for Mo­roc­can hip­sters. In Casablanca, hip­ster youth sport cloth­ing that is more colour­ful and di­verse than the reg­i­mented con­for­mity among hip­ster ranks in the West. Long mous­taches are still worn by cir­cus en­thu­si­asts, tar­tan shirts are still nerdy and fash­ion is as di­verse as in coun­tries like Italy, France or Spain. But let’s take a closer look.

Peo­ple of all kinds roam Casablanca at night. Saad @B-rock, one of the trendi­est clubs in the city 

Way­far­ers re­main an ac­ces­sory char­ac­ter­is­tic of old school style

Cir­cus per­form­ers still don big mous­taches. Snoopy chill­ing at the cir­cus school @l’aba­toir

DEFin­ing Your Own Style

Over the past 15 years, Mo­rocco has pro­gressed in the right for free­dom of ex­pres­sion, es­pe­cially since Mo­hammed VI as­cended to the royal throne in 1999. For this rea­son, it has ap­par­ently be­come eas­ier to dress in cloth­ing that dif­fers greatly from tra­di­tion or to de­fine your own per­sonal style, de­spite the dif­fi­cul­ties that exist in a de­vel­op­ing coun­try. Pur­chas­ing gar­ments isn’t an easy task in a coun­try where the av­er­age salary is around 200 Euros while the cost of liv­ing is com­pa­ra­ble to Spain. So far as re­li­gious at­tire, long gone is the time when the law obliged women to wear the veil. Those who do so wear it out of con­vic­tion, not by force. 

Dani works in TV and radio. There aren’t many sta­tions that play West­ern music, but the few that do are very pop­u­lar

The United States has a strong in­flu­ence in Mo­rocco. It ap­pears the Amer­i­can dream is alive and well here

Taha: “I am not a hip­ster, even if I like to dress like them once in awhile. Every day I change styles, some­times the neigh­bours look at me as if I am weird” 

Strolling down the street, you dis­cover some ex­trav­a­gant styles

Be­yond ni­hilism

In Eu­rope, hip­sters are con­sid­ered the new squat­ters, but with­out the po­lit­i­cal in­cli­na­tion. While in Casablanca, in­ter­est in pol­i­tics and be­lief in civic re­spon­si­bil­ity abound. “There is a lot to be done here in Mo­rocco,” ex­plains Ali, who grad­u­ated with a de­gree in lan­guages and dons reg­gae-in­flu­enced at­tire. “There are places [like l’Aba­toir] and more peo­ple at­tend­ing con­certs and choos­ing the music they like thanks to the in­ter­net. Music fes­ti­vals are full of peo­ple of all kinds, from hip­pies to hip­sters, from head bangers to rap­pers from dif­fer­ent so­cial back­grounds. This youth is hun­gry to build and cre­ate the new Mo­rocco.” Such a state­ment leaves lit­tle room for the ni­hilism and self-loathing of hip­sters.

Is­mael, a young pho­tog­ra­pher: “If you wear a tar­tan shirt and big glasses at uni­ver­sity, you will be mis­taken for a nerd” 

This retro look is a throw­back to the 70s

Women are very re­served and dif­fi­cult to pho­to­graph even if they dress in West­ern clothes. Here, Mary is at uni­ver­sity

Ali lis­tens to rock and reg­gae. He tells me that dif­fer­ent types of free music fes­ti­vals have sprung up in the past few years and the or­gan­is­ers of such events have mul­ti­plied. There’s a big de­mand for cul­tural and mu­si­cal events; the offer is slowly cater­ing to the grow­ing de­mand. 

So, if you are look­ing for a place to take a va­ca­tion, away from fixed-gear bikes, mous­taches and greased self-talk, you've found the right des­ti­na­tion. Casablanca is not the place for hip­sters.

This REPORTAGE IS PART OF A SERIES OF ARTICLES IN THE EUROMED Project, an initiative by cafébabel, the anna lindh foundation, i-watch and Sear­ch For Com­mon Ground.