Yes, I am harping on this one again. I wouldn’t be, if someone hadn’t sent me a link to this article in Time under the subject heading “Well stated.” Below is my point-by-point response.
Society: Hipster Subculture Ripe for Parody – TIME.
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.
Not to hear their critics tell it. Hipsters manage to attract a loathing unique in its intensity. Critics have described the loosely defined group as smug, full of contradictions and, ultimately, the dead end of Western civilization.
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.
*Ground zero for West Coast hipsters