I’ve been listening to a lot of podcasts lately, among them Slate’s Double X Gabfest. In a recent podcast they discussed the concept of the “basic bitch.” Immediately I thought of Kreayshawn’s 2011 hit, “Gucci Gucci” which proclaims “Gucci Gucci Fendi Vendi Prada: basic bitches wear that shit so I don’t even bother.” At one point in the show one of the hosts declared she wanted a remix of that song, and I am here to supply. How can I resist when Party Ben’s remix is so damn good?
The hosts discussed basic bitches as compared to hipsters. They seem to me to be perfect binary opposites. Both groups are lashing out at the presumptions they expect from their counterpart. The basic bitch thinks the hipster is uppity for not following social conventions (I gave a perfect example of this in my first article on hipsters, sourced from Urban Dictionary’s hipster definition). While the hipster thinks the basic bitch is just the sort of girl who made fun of him/her in school for not wearing the right clothes or participating in sports.
If you’ll allow me to further digress, I was having a tangential conversation last night with a Puerto Rican woman I’d just met. We were drunkenly discussing Florida racial politics (a favorite pastime of mine) in particular the ongoing hatred between Cubans and Puerto Ricans.
She felt that Cubans were the ones keeping this going, always accusing Puerto Ricans of selling out, for not revolting against the Yankee oppressor. This parallax view fascinated me. As one raised amongst Cubans, the narrative was similar, but different. My upbringing taught me it was the Puerto Ricans who started it all, with their big flag necklaces and upper-middle-class pride. True, Cubans were proud of their revolutionary status, but the hatred was coming from the Puerto Ricans. They were the ones bragging about their status, thinking the Cubans were lesser, for both their poverty and their questionable legal status.
Now there’s a lot to this conversation, (and much of it that most people wouldn’t be willing to discuss or admit even sober), but the part that is germane here is that in both cases the prejudice towards the other group stemmed from some underlying insecurity. If that Puerto Rican in fifth grade hadn’t gone basic bitch on me for accidentally referring to her as Cuban, I’d not have had prejudices against Puerto Ricans and their pride flags. The prejudice was born out of my own insecurities. And if hipsters weren’t so frequently taunted and bullied as kids, maybe they wouldn’t be so eager to brag about their current elite taste in coffee, music and thrift shopping.
It’s so easy to see one side of that coin, from whatever side a person happens to identify with most closely. What is fascinating to me is that there’s insecurity coming from both sides. That the basic bitches and the Puerto Ricans were hating from a place of insecurity too. It reminds me that deep down there are no bad people, just terribly broken people in search of healing. And that all gets back to the opening of the Gabest episode, where they discuss the gender confidence gap. Nice when things come full circle, isn’t it (discuss!)?
OK I really only meant to start this post as an excuse to share this Kreayshawn remix. This junk will really get you dancing. Seriously one of my favorite remixes of the decade, though Kreayshawn won’t inspire the Oakland hipsters like she used to. And for your patience during my rant, I’ll throw in this cover by suspected-hipster never-to-be-a-basic-bitch Neon Hitch. Neon Hitch drops the “basic bitch” from her version, take from that what you will.
If you like this cover, it’s in my Best Electro of 2011 list. There may be more there to your tastes.
PS, the women of the Double X Gabfest claimed Kreayshawn is now a “mommy blogger.” As a media professional well-acquainted with mommy bloggers, I’m going to challenge that. Having just visited her Tumblr, I’d say that Kreayshawn is not at all a mommy blogger, but simply a public figure how happens to be a mom and have a blog. A distinction a group of feminists should surely acknowledge!
More importantly, as my regular readers may recall, I’ve written two articles about hipsterhating, which were republished in a Kansas City entertainment weekly.
It’s this weird quirk of mine that I’m opposed to threats of violence against strangers, simply because of their fashion, beer and bicycle choices, no matter how strange those choices may be. The post in The Awl chronicles what it’s like to be on the receiving end of such threats, and reminds us that people doing weird things (like God-effing-forbid, taking a typewriter out in public) often do them for perfectly understandable reasons. Personally, I take an even more radical position that I don’t think people should be bullied for weirdness, even if there’s absolutely no rationale for their fashion crimes. If only the people posting their hatred of hipsters could devote that passion to fighting climate change or fixing the economy. But no, those are not issues they feel affect them personally, not in the way a guy with clunky glasses, shorts, and a typewriter does. I mean, WHO GAVE THAT GUY THE RIGHT TO SIT IN A PARK WITH A TYPEWRITER?
Before you call the lynch mob though, I ask that you please read the articles I’ve posted on this. Maybe some reason can be talked into you hipster haters before your pitchfork and torches army burns down the whole village.
Hipsters are the friends who sneer when you cop to liking Coldplay. They’re the people who wear T-shirts silk-screened with quotes from movies you’ve never heard of and the only ones in America who still think Pabst Blue Ribbon is a good beer.
MESSAGE: It is not possible that someone might have legitimately liked a movie that you’ve never heard of. Make fun of them. If you see someone drinking Pabst, make fun of them. Do not bother to ask them about their t-shirt or why they like that particular beer. You have all the information you need to wish that they would get evicted from their homes (no really, that’s how the article ends).
They sport cowboy hats and berets and think Kanye West stole their sunglasses. Everything about them is exactingly constructed to give off the vibe that they just don’t care.
Berets and cowboy hats are not “hipster-ironic” fashionable. They are actually fashionable. As in, featured in regular department stores and sported by regular pop stars. Nothing “hipster” about it. So basically, anyone wearing a stylish hat is a hipster? Already in paragraph one and I’m questioning whether she knows what she is talking about. Nor do I see how wearing a trendy hat is a sign that one “just doesn’t care.”
Annoying, yes, but harmless, right?
Annoying? We should all be annoyed at someone’s choice of sunglasses or hat? No, actually, I don’t find it annoying that someone wears a cowboy hat and drinks inexpensive beer. I find it exceedingly annoying that someone else would make a big deal out of that fact.
Riiiiight. The psuedo-neutral tone of this article is aggravating. SHE’s not passing judgment on these people. She’s just pointing out that some people do. When the author will go on to imply that all hipsters are living off their parents, that they are annoying and shallow, and have no original ideas, she is merely passing on the beliefs of everyone else.
Though the subculture is met with derision in wider society, hipsters have been able to eke out enclaves across the country, chief among them the Brooklyn, N.Y., neighborhood of Williamsburg. But now even that is threatened. The hip have been hit with a double whammy of economic reality (more are struggling to pay rent as parental support dries up) and population changes (the carefully gentrified neighborhood is gradually being infiltrated by squatters inhabiting Williamsburg’s stalled building projects). Hipsterdom’s largest natural habitat, it seems, is under threat.
Note the implicit assumption that people who drink a particular beer and wear a particular hat are all trust-fund babies. Don’t let that assumption slip by you.
Though the irony-sporting, status quo–abhorring, plaid-clad denizens of Williamsburg are a distinctly modern species, the hipster as a genus has its roots in the 1930s and ’40s. The name itself was coined after the jazz age, when hip arose to describe aficionados of the growing scene…
Hipsters were usually middle-class white youths seeking to emulate the lifestyle of the largely-black jazz musicians they followed. But the subculture grew, and after World War II, a burgeoning literary scene attached itself to the movement: Jack Kerouac and poet Allen Ginsberg were early hipsters, but it would be Norman Mailer who would try and give the movement definition. In an essay titled “The White Negro,” Mailer painted hipsters as American existentialists, living a life surrounded by death — annihilated by atomic war or strangled by social conformity — and electing instead to “divorce oneself from society, to exist without roots, to set out on that uncharted journey into the rebellious imperatives of the self.” As the first hipster generation aged, it was replaced by the etymologically diminutive hippies, who appropriated their fears about the Cold War but embraced the community over the individual.
The word would fade for years until it was reborn in the early ’90s, used again to describe a generation of middle-class youths interested in an alternative art and music scene. But instead of creating a culture of their own, hipsters proved content to borrow from trends long past. Take your grandmother’s sweater and Bob Dylan’s Wayfarers, add jean shorts, Converse All-Stars and a can of Pabst and bam — hipster.
Apparently when the flapper-hipsters emulated black music, they were “aficionados.” When the beatnik-hipster emulated black music, they were “existentialists.” When the hippies became the counter-culture, they were anti-Cold War activists. But now that a new generation of youth emulates their past, they are shallow. The double-talk here is astounding.
Nevermind that the flappers, beatniks and hippies were all labeled as shallow in their own time. It is only in hindsight that we see the value of the bohemian artists. But here the author fails to see the chain of history in action, tricked by giving the Bohemian a new name and a new hat. Now she is saying that she respects Bohemians, just not THOSE Bohemians, you know, the ones that are actually relevant at this point in time.
Borrowing from trends long past is neither distinctive nor abhorrent. That’s all that fashion IS. Show me a fashion trend that is not “borrowing” from what came before. Moreover, if they are all borrowing from the same things, that shows value: clearly if a large group of people are all wearing their grandmother’s sweaters, they see a common value in it.
Overall, the people that I see that are commonly described by the H-word do have a common value with their fashion choices in that their thrift store finds are part of a common belief in anti-consumerism. Maybe they don’t feel the need to explain that to every person that walks down the street.
…Some of this ridicule is a bit unfair. As stores like Urban Outfitters have mass-produced hipster chic, hipsterdom has become a part of mainstream culture, overshadowing its originators’ still-strong alternative art and music scene. Those people, of course, no longer identify as hipsters, but they’re not the problem.
Wait, so the author is freely admitting that, like every counterculture, the aesthetic of the “alternative art and music scene” has been co-opted by corporate America, but it is not the phonies who are shopping at Urban Outfitters who are “the problem”? The REAL artists shop at Urban Outfitters and the poor schmucks who can only afford to drink Pabst and shop at Goodwill are the menace to society? WTF?!
And please tell me where in this article it explains why these people are a “problem”? This is the assumption slipping by again: we all agree that hipsters are a problem, but what is a hipster? seems to be the perplexing gist of it. The only annoyance and problem I see here is the continuing desire to ostracize strangers for belonging to a counterculture.
The hipsters who will be the dead end of Western Civilization are the ones who add nothing new or original and simply recycle and reduce old trends into a meaningless meme. It’s for that reason that when Williamsburg’s hipster playland is in crisis, there aren’t many who are concerned.
Right, nothing personal against them, we just all hope that they get evicted and go live somewhere else. But you know, only the Meaningless Meme ones! Those other bohemians, who look just like hipsters, they’re ok!
This is the crux of the matter. It is not socially acceptable to cast aspersions on artists, punks, hippies, ravers or bohemians of any kind. Fake bohemians, on the other hand are open season. But the beginning of this article shows a photo of New Yorkers who, for reasons that are inexplicable to me, are described as “hipsters.” Do we have any evidence that the people here are shallow? That their mothers pay their rent? That they are snobs?
Of course not. But because they have been labeled with the dreaded H-bomb, it is now ok to assume that they are the scum of society, and snobby at that. They are not real human beings enjoying a day in the park, who can now look forward to seeing themselves ridiculed in Time Magazine. They are cartoon villains.
I’ve been told that my logic is circular on this subject because I am defending real bohemians, and the hipsters are the fakes. But it is actually the opposite. Any time I point to someone that fits all of the external descriptions but is neither dependent nor shallow, I am told that those people aren’t really hipsters. My friend who drinks $3 Pabst tall-boys at the Indie nightclub and plays kroquet isn’t a hipster because she’s a feminist lobbyist. My friend who wears leg warmers and mismatched clothes is not a hipster because she is a freelance journalist getting her masters at Columbia. My friend who knows every person that works at the Stork Club in Oakland is not a hipster because she’s just a sweet little school teacher, and besides she listens to Brittany Spears, and I don’t mean ironically. Supposedly, I am not a hipster because I am neither snobby nor mean-spirited and I am (unironically, overbearingly) sincere. One will mistake my vintage Meatloaf t-shirt for some kind of ironic statement. But no—I got the shirt when I saw him in concert as a preteen. Once you get to know them, none of these people are shallow and they all pay their own bills. The list goes on and on: anywhere you point to the hipster, get a little closer and the stereotype evaporates under even the slightest scrutiny. Like all stereotypes, really.
But this is the argument: those people aren’t hipsters! The hipsters are the ones who look exactly like those people that I don’t know personally! The hipsters are “the ones who add nothing new or original and simply recycle and reduce old trends into a meaningless meme”! Fine, ok, you’re not generalizing people by the way they look at all! And when I hear someone describe a “hipster bar” or a “hipster coffee shop” or a “hipster neighborhood,” every single person inside that bar/shop/zip code is worthy of the derision of the masses? No, no, just lots of them. Which ones, then? That one, carrying a messenger bag and wearing a Cloud Cult t-shirt! Then we are back to judging them by the way they look, not based on who they are or their actions.
I suppose we could go into Ritual in the *Mission and ask every man in tight pants why he rides a fixie, drinks Ritual coffee, wears a messenger bag, and how much of his rent is supplied by his parents. But what fun would that be? Where’s the hate—er, fun—in that?
For the record, I have not met a single person that lives in the Mission that has access to any kind of a trust fund. Nor do I know any who sport the hipster look who shop at designer clothing stores. And, yes, I know tons of people that drink Pabst: no one is claiming it’s better than Tetley’s or Boddingtons. But it is much better than any other beer you can get for three bucks. Next time you want to give me shit for it, you best be buying me a Guiness.
My response to this article (and the dozens like it) is, essentially, fuck you. Fuck you for judging people who wear used clothes and support local businesses. Fuck you for judging people because they love art that you’ve never heard of. Fuck you for judging people based on their zip code. These people have done nothing to you and your sense of superiority is mean-spirited, short-sighted and shallow. Yes, shallow. This country is fighting two wars, recession, environmental collapse and cut-backs in all social services and you want to waste paper bitching about Brooklyn kids who wear skinny jeans? FUCK YOU. And the pitchfork-wielding, Polo-wearing mob you rolled in on.
Janet said she wanted to go the Missouri Lounge to make fun of all the hipsters. Everyone agreed that The Missouri Lounge was just crawling with the little buggers.
I was surprised. Not about the Missouri Lounge—though I’d always thought the shack looked like more of a redneck dive—but that Janet wasn’t herself a hipster. She had the chunky, short-cropped hair and the thick black plastic glasses. But no. She was a hipster hater. How could I get them confused?
We ordered drinks and Janet picked out the most egregious violators and made fun of their outfits and drink selections. We did not stay long. Janet made a request from the DJ and there was some misunderstanding, or altercation. So we left.
That incident got me thinking. Did those people deserve to be made fun of? What made them worse people than Janet? What the hell was a hipster, anyway?
Since that day many moons ago, if I hear someone use the word I always ask them what it means. Two things quickly became apparent: 1) no two people seem to have the same definition 2) never have I ever heard the word used in a positive context.
For my money, a hipster is a person with an overly-developed sense of irony. But by that definition, the guy I know who is most likely to be a hipster is a 35-year-old Indian metalhead. He’s also the biggest hipster-hater I know. The “H-word” also seems to be associated with indie rock, though no one seems to know what the fuck that is either.
Here is what some of my research has come up with:
“Hipsters are trust fund babies who go to expensive private art programs.”
“Hipsters are people who wear mismatched, ill-fitting clothes and think they are hot.”
“Hipsters are the shallow types who live in the Williamsburg neighborhood in Brooklyn.”
“Hipsters drink Pabst Blue Ribbon and ride fixie-bikes and make fun of normal people.”
Oh well then, that’s clear. If I am in Williamsburg and I meet someone in an art program I can assume they are shallow and living off daddy’s money. Additionally, if I meet a girl on a fixed-gear bike in Goodwill frocks I can assume she is a snotty bitch who can’t wait to talk about me behind my back. It would do the world a good deed to run off with her inexpensive union-made brew, taunting and laughing.
Much like the yuppies in The Last Days of Disco, “hipster” seems to describe a group of people whom everyone seems to agree is omnipresent and easily identifiable yet no one can find one among their circle of friends.
In case you can’t tell, this whole thing pisses me off. Being cruel to someone based on the way they dress, the music they listen to, their neighborhood or school of choice is discrimination. It may not be based on a thousand years of oppression like the prejudice we all like to think we’re too good for, but it is certainly the opposite of the moral high-ground the hipster-haters think they have.
The American College Dictionary defines Bohemian as “a person with artistic or intellectual tendencies, who lives and acts with no regard for conventional rules of behavior.”
I see very little to distinguish the hipster-hating of today from those who hated the punks and before that the hippies and before that the beatniks and on and on. No one can deny the fact that the hipster is the new bohemian, except the bohemians themselves, who’ve been tricked into thinking that the hipsters are the fake bohemians.
Thus we have an odd scenario where sews-her-own-clothes girl (e.g. hipster) and shops-at-the-Gap girl (eg the anti-hipster) can both commiserate on how much they hate the shops-at-Urban-Outfitters girl (“fake” hipster). SewsHerOwnClothes thinks she is immune because she is more authentic than those people who shop at Urban Outfitters. But you can bet your best pair of Pumas that Gap girl and the Urban Outfitters “fake” hipster would be just as quick to make fun of the freak girl with the weird clothes she she probably made on her grandma’s sewing machine (as if that’s a bad thing).
The whole anti-bohemian attitude strikes me as a backlash against a group of people who feel slighted by those who have a different set of moral standards. An example would serve better than an explanation…
Someone who thinks that they are being “special” and “unique” for liking some underground bullshit no one else cares about. And they pointlessly look down on people who don’t know anything about indie culture, because that’s the only thing they know anything about. They’re quick to call the rest of the world conformists when in reality, they are the ones conforming by partaking in a “too cool for mainstream so i am going to reject it by looking and acting like a grungy asshole” way of life only to seem uber-fashionable. They just end up looking like idiots.
Hipster: I won’t drink at starbucks, it’s too corporate.
Non-Hipster: I want a Louis Vitton purse because they are cool
Hipster: You’re such a conformist, haveing [sic] a Louis Vitton purse is so unoriginal. I like my purse I found in the gutter for $4 dollars.
Non-hipster: but it’s fugly
Hipster: yah, but no one else has it. It’s completely unique.
Non-hipster: that bum over there has something pretty similar though.
Hipster: You’re ignorant because you can’t see the real beauty in life.
I don’t have time for this, I’m gonna go to my cave of an apartment and listen to some indie rock you’ve probably never heard of….
Non hipster: You need to see a therapist
Hipster: I am my own therapist.
So the sad fashion whore who wrote that definition feels as though she is being judged because she doesn’t care where her clothes are made or how her consumption choices affect the local economy. And she’s right! I think the person who wrote the definition above is shallow and ignorant! I expect to be hated and unkindly labeled by anyone who thinks avoiding Starbucks is an example of “some underground bullshit.” That’s totally fine. Fuck that girl, and the guy who runs http://www.latfh.com, we were never meant to be friends!
But when I see the anarchists, punks, queers, ravers and other manner of adorable bohemians bitching about the “H” word, it’s too much. When someone seeks to say cruel things about a nonconformist, hipster is the first word they turn to, even if the nonconformists themselves think a hipster is something entirely different.
The focus on the hipster’s inauthenticity as an outsider, art appreciator, or moral consumer is a defense mechanism based on the labeler’s own insecurities in those same areas. The Louis Vitton-lover in the example above is an extreme example because s/he can’t even conceive that anyone would care about the journey of their designer purse from sweatshop to landfill. Your average anti-bohemian likes to think they appreciate art and philosophy as much or more than any weirdos with their weird music and their weird hair and their weird clothes. The assumption is that any reasons for being different are not better or coming from any set of values, merely contrivances. In this way, anti-hipsterism becomes another extension of the big-city-elitist versus corn-fed-anti-intellectual debate that is the hallmark of the American class system.
When the freaks, geeks, queers and quacks take aim at hipsters they are supporting conformity, regardless of what they think it means when they are around other bohemian-types.
Let us celebrate the hipster. Let us drink inexpensive beer and wear used clothes. Let’s listen to obscure music. Let’s have debates about crap surrealist literature and condone veganism. La vie Boheme, under any name: embrace it.