We’re All Hipsters Now! (right?…)

After seeing a Dan Deacon concert, I thought I knew everything there was to know about hipsters.

The easiest hipsters to spot

They are generally younger than me, near-anorexia thin, wear v-necks, skinny black jeans and black-rimmed glasses, don’t shower, and are annoying as hell.

But to my surprise, after a brief web-search, I found many other definitions – some which seem to include myself.  You see, there are apparently many different types of hipsters (including an evolutionary hierarchy according to some).  The annoying ones I had encountered were only brand of hipster, albeit the most ubiquitous and obnoxious type – the scenester.

Scenesters – These are the hipsters draw the immediate and universal reaction, “f*cking hipster”, and deservedly so.  They are the most vacuous variety of “hip” – the fashion-music-culture trendy; those who will wear anything, listen to anything, go to any “scene”, as long as it is new and cool and they can be seen there.  These are the truly culture-less hipsters, lacking a shred of authenticity (and unconcerned about it), floating from scene to scene, indie vogue to indie vogue, hip band to hipper band.  They are also the easiest prey for advertisers, merchandisers, and critics in the mainstream.

Taxonomy of the Hipsters – Browse this article to get a feel for just some of the other types of hipsters classified so far.

But she's a hipster

Among all these descriptions of hipsters are the obvious: fixed-gear bikes, veganism, indie rock, big glasses, etc.  But other hipster characteristics were surprising (to me) but not demonstrably wrong.  For example, definitions of hipster musical tastes spanned from Animal Collective (obviously) to Ziggy Marley.

“Flower-child” hipsters listen to Phish; “Artsy” hipsters Bjork.  Chopin, 1960s West Coast Jazz, Johnny Cash, Sufjan Stevens, 1920’s blues, Mars Volta, Kanye West, the Beatles and Bob Dylan all pop up in hipster descriptions too.

All manner of dress (other than American Apparel) make it into hipster categories and descriptions too, as long as its acquired or worn in a way alternative to what is “mainstream” (I guess anything not bought at A&F in the mall, at full price, is hipster).

Yes, another Hipster

Yes hipsters come in all shapes and sizes:  There are Euro hipsters with their non-Starbucks gourmet coffee, Urban hipsters that listen to rap, Ironic hipsters that love Monty-Python, Post-emo hipsters, Post-punk hipsters, Intellectual hipsters, Nerd and Nerdcore hipsters.

A Definition?

What I find most interesting about all classifications is that there seems to be very little holding this “group” together.  This is partly by design – one of the most astute observations I read on the Hipster phenomenon is that it is a merging of counter-cultures, so diffuse and ambiguous that it can blend in and mutate other cultural movements into its amalgam.

The closest to an umbrella definition for hipsters I could come up with to describe what “hipster” is

Ex-suburbanites between 18 and 30 who reject mainstream culture, instead appropriating their fashion, music, art, and other lifestyle choices from a mishmash of past cultural/counter-cultural and/or contemporary independent or counter-culture sources.  Hipster culture tends, therefore, to vary from hipster to hipster, scene to scene, depending on the predominant social memes in that particular hipster-culture stew.

Hipsters, All Hipsters!

Oh yea, and a hipster is “one who expresses distaste for hipsters and denies being one”.

It seems that anyone who isn’t thoroughly in the mainstream might be at least a bit hipster – I’ve been called a hipster, and I’m starting to accept it, to some degree.  That is, I don’t get my culture from the contemporary mainstream but from many eclectic sources (both historic and current).  So while I’m certainly not an obnoxious scenester, I might have some culturally “hipster” characteristics.

The biggest criticism of the hipster phenomenon is that, in looting many different cultural sources (e.g. the beats, 70s disco, hippies, 80s pop, punk, mod, working class…) and blending them into an amorphous contemporary counter-culture, hipsters strip them of their original meanings.  The end product is a synthesis of many styles, minus any substance – much like the music of Girl Talk.

Douglass Haddow’s article (appropriately named “Hipster: The Dead End of Western Civilization“) puts it perfectly:

We are a lost generation, desperately clinging to anything that feels real, but too afraid to become it ourselves. We are a defeated generation, resigned to the hypocrisy of those before us, who once sang songs of rebellion and now sell them back to us. We are the last generation, a culmination of all previous things, destroyed by the vapidity that surrounds us. The hipster represents the end of Western civilization – a culture so detached and disconnected that it has stopped giving birth to anything new.

Hate hipsters?  Are you sure you aren’t one?  You might be – maybe not a “scenester” – but some other type of hipster…. Let me ask you one question:  When’s the last time you watched a first-run sit-com on CBS (or even a rerun of King of Queens) with full enthusiasm?

Be sure to catch Part 2:  Possible Explanations to the Origin of Hipsterdom, or “Should we Blame the Hipster?”

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