The Very Last Thing You’ll Ever Need to Read About Hipsters

Gladiator download.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/12/misshapes.jpg”>This AdBusters article from July—signifying hipsters as “the dead end of Western civilization”—apparently still resonates with The Youth of Today, because college kids keep writing about it. Like this Smith College student who entitled her piece “Pop Rocks and Coke,” which is either an allusion to the explosive fashions at Urban Outfitters or, you know, a reference to cocaine. Because that’s what hipsters do! Cocaine and fashion.

I’m not picking on the author, and I agree that it’s time for all of us to officially retire the keffiyeh (except for Justin Timberlake, who inexplicably pulls it off really well). What I am arguing is that condemning “hipsters” and their lifestyle choices is just as big an oversimplification that ignores the subtleties of the culture as, say, wearing a symbol of Palestinian solidarity as a fashion accessory.

Because just what about American Apparel is “hipster” anymore? For that matter, when exactly did riding your bike or eating vegetarian food become as iconographic of “hipster subculture” as PBR and these guys? I went to Misshapes (more than a couple times), and I don’t ride a bike or drink PBR especially. Do I still count? Ms. Smith Student says that “trends cycle through hipsterdom like wildfire on acid,” which actually doesn’t make much sense, but I think I see her point. And I’d like to take it one step further—there are so many facets to “the modern hipster” that there is no such thing as hipster anymore.

Seriously. Maybe at one point, only a select few could pull off the American Apparel hoodie, but at this point it’s become so ubiquitous that it doesn’t mean anything at all. Sorry, Dov Charney, but your brand lost its “hipness” around the same time you could fake your own Polaroid online. Which isn’t a bad thing!

But I think, with artists like M.I.A. and the widespread resurgence of the Converse sneaker show, “hipsterdom” is no longer a subculture. It’s a style. And confusing the two undercuts whatever otherwise acute insight you may have into the matter. Nobody can seem to define what a “hipster” is anymore besides what s/he typically wears—but when everyone else is wearing, say, that same pair of leggings from Urban Outfitters, it’s safe to say the style has gone past that of a mere subculture.

Even our friend from Smith College doesn’t quite know what a true hipster is. “To clarify, when I say hipster, I don’t necessarily mean the 70 percent or so of Smith students who have an affinity for the aforementioned look. I too sport American Apparel. I mean people who truly subscribe to the subculture as a full-on lifestyle,” she says, which is the only time in the article she attempts to define “the subculture” any further. But the author doesn’t explain what that “full-on lifestyle” entails, and I’d challenge anyone to offer an adequate explanation that doesn’t involve reciting the Hipster Bingo board.

What I’m saying is that, yes, I do think we have witnessed the death of hipster subculture. Its oft-derided superficiality has, like most trends, crossed over into the mainstream. There’s nothing left to brandish, either fashionably or ironically. The clothing is the same, but there’s nothing uniquely “hip” about American Apparel anymore. To wit: the company is now in the news for exchanging lawsuits instead of style tips.

Or am I still a dirty hipster because I like The Knife?

Originally posted at Jess and Josh Talk About Stuff

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    9 Comments

  1. says

    I think it’s become hipper to unironically embrace mainstream culture than to sign on to some speciously subterranean trend. Going to the Michael Buble concert at MSG is more subversive than seeing Deerhunter at the Music Hall of Williamsburg. Talking about how the new Taylor Swift album has some really earnest, wonderful pop songs is edgier than heaping masturbatory praise on the new Black Lips or Bon Iver album.

    Like David Brooks writes in his book, Bobos in Paradise, the diametric opposition and the division between bourgeois, conservatives ideas and bohemian, freethinking culture has been erased. Twenty years ago you never could have worn a SST records pin next to a Hall and Oates pin on a Members Only jacket, now it’s really damn cool to do as such. I think the tedious and vaguely post-modern argument over the authenticity or signification of various ephemera hipster culture is idiotic. Hipster has always been about some kind of cultural appropriation, such as the Beatniks and African American jazz culture (see Norman Mailer’s 1950s essay about “The White Negro”).

    During the height of Hippie culture in this country there was discussion of who were the real hippies and who were merely the plastic ones. Likewise, I think there’s still a discernible difference between those who danced to Justice’s “Phantom” during the Misshapes era and those who heard that song and immediately knew it sampled 70s Italian art rockers Goblin and loved the Argento film Suspiria it appears in.

  2. em are vee says

    ::eye roll::

    adbusters was late enough as it was on the hipsterdom is over bandwagon.

    can we start the backlash to the backlash now?

    I AM A HIPSTER AND I’M PROUD.

  3. Joe Coscarelli says

    @ Nicole: That would be its own post on this website if you went to NYU. You are the hippest person I don’t know.

  4. Josh Becker says

    @ Nicole: “I think the tedious and vaguely post-modern argument over the authenticity or signification of various ephemera hipster culture is idiotic.”

    I agree! That’s kind of what I was getting at. Things like the Internet (I feel like I talk about “the Internet” changing major aspects of society all the damn time) have brought the underground and the fringe aspects of our culture into the spotlight, and broadened that spotlight so it can be more inclusive.

    I do not, however, enjoy Taylor Swift’s music.

  5. Linda Leseman says

    Amen, amen, and amen!! I have never heard the word “hipster” so much before I moved up here. Actually, I take that back. I started hearing it more often right before I moved to New York, when I was dating a New Yorker in Houston. I don’t know why “hipster” is such a buzzword here. I thought it went out of vogue about five years ago, back when I lived in Austin, where vegan bike-riding people were using it as a joke and phasing it out of the lexicon in 2003. From where I’m sitting, NYC is behind the times!

  6. Cody Brown says

    I just wish the idea of the Hamster wouldn’t be such a catch all. Trust fund grungy to ballerina jean noise rocking, there is a spectrum of people that need to be identified and more precisely insulted.

    @Joe:

    That piece is fucking on the money.

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