I warn you that this post, though based on rational argumentation, is rather drawn from accumulated anger. I’ve been called a hipster way too many times, and it’s time to do something about it.
So why does it bother me so much to be called such a thing? “Duh, because that means you really are one of them, hipsters never admit they’re hipsters, bla bla bla”. NO. NO. NO. Contrary to popular belief, when I try to distance myself from this definition, I’m not doing it out of modern irony or contradictory behavior. Surprisingly enough, I’m trying to say that I’m not… a fucking hipster.
(take a song for the road, kids)
Hipster is defined by the Urban Dictionary as “a composite of individuals with a certain bohemian life situation and lifestyle. He or she rejects “mainstream” culture and embraces and contributes to independent culture, and prides him/herself on this”. On other words, it also defines it as being “someone who listens to bands you’ve never heard of, wears ironic t-shirts, and believes they are better than you”. The question that stubbornly arises is: when did enjoying less commonly praised culture become paired with such an annoying attitude?
I don’t like Lady Gaga, Rihanna or whatever. I’ll probably dance to their songs on a drunk night out, but won’t willingly enjoy their music on full conscience. It’s just not my thing, and it amazes me how it’s now seeming to be a general rule to assume that this personal taste is an act of arrogance, an exercise of snobbism… a hipster move. Liking ‘alternative stuff’ – which now, ironically, appears to be the norm – is now instatagged with a stereotype for people who prefer culture that takes a bit more effort to appreciate and, by association, to find. For this I give the example of Tom Waits, an artist I like since I am 16, but that now is set to being of mandatory taste for anyone claiming to be a fashionable, cultured young adult.
There is a standard to uphold if you wanna be with the cool kids, and in order to do that, one must sacrifice something: their identity and individuality. People who aim to be trendy and, if you like, hipsterish, have stopped respecting their own taste. They go with the flow, with the fashionable, and not with what is necessarily more appealing to their personal preferences. It’s a preoccupying case of the ‘sheep effect’ – only this time, the sheep come dressed with American Apparel garments and home-practiced ironic remarks. As Steven Kurutz from the The New York Times explains, “hipsterification is a fast-moving, all-encompassing beast that goes far beyond urban fashion. Has there ever been a subculture this broadly defined?”
In October 2010, the New York Magazine wrote an article about the hipster culture (?), quoting sociologist Richard Lloyd, who “documented how what he called “neo-bohemia” unwittingly turned into something else: the indie bohemians. (…) They encountered the flannel-clad proto-businessmen and dot-com paper millionaires (denigrated as yuppies), and something unanticipated came of this friction (…): the seedbed for post-1999 hipsterism”. Way before this event, hipsterism was already a concept close to one hundred years old. Coined during the Jazz Age of the 1920s, hipster was a way to describe the aficionados of this effervescent music scene, who usually were middle-class youths wishing to copy the style of the black musicians they appreciated. With the arrival of the 40s, the subculture rapidly expanded, with hipsters becoming associated with the Beatnik scene, which gave their life purpose a definition through literature.
Though there is a struggle to keep up the idea that hipsters are people who don’t fit in the system, this notion has been largely put down by consumerism and poor education (or can I say Generation Y syndrome?). Getting a way-too-expensive-for-a-fucking-second-hand-store shirt has become more relevant than showing civic action; it is more important to say ‘fuck the government’ in a t-shirt than in real life. As Shealy Molpus from “The Reflector” considers, “it seems that a portion of our young, intelligent, talented and capable generation is more concerned with the correct pronunciation of band names, Instagram filters and flannel collections than the unity of mankind. We’ve lost our focus”.
The twist of the concept of hipster from the original concept to today’s view feels to me like someone using the word ‘synergy’ wrong. It’s public knowledge proving that the world is full of idiots with too much money on their wallets and very little real motivation on their heads. And I don’t feel a part of this at all.
My problem with the thing exponentiates when everything I happen to actually like has already been taken hostage by the modern definition of hipster. “Hipsters have the market cornered on vintage and irony”, affirms Mr. Kurutz. This is sourly true. However, and though I must admit to often falling victim of fashion trends, there is yet a sacred thing left untouched by waves of taste – and this is the core point of my argument: culture. I seldom allow current trends to dictate what I read, what I watch or what I listen to. I like what I like, despite many Facebook posts telling me I should do otherwise. This, for sure, will sound like a true hipster remark to those who perceive this post as a blasé attempt to discard the hipster tag that I call upon myself. To those, I have nothing to say but this.
Bottom line, no matter how well things are explained, one is guilty of hipsterizing for the most superficial of reasons. As soon as a piece of clothing seems more kitsch or vintage, a book or a newspaper is actually read on paper, a song is heard on a vinyl, or irony and sarcasm are blabbed as regular forms of expression, you’re doomed. There is no way around it, until a new trend comes along and we’re all let be. However, for now, be careful, boys and girls: the hipster boogie is out to get you – and he brings his Ray Ban shades along.