Being a hipster is sort of like being grotesquely fat; everybody can see that you are, but it’s considered impolite to actually mention it.
Punks wear their tattered threads and studded leather jackets with honor, priding themselves on their innovative and cheap methods of self-expression and rebellion. B-boys and b-girls announce themselves to anyone within earshot with baggy gear and boomboxes. But it is rare, if not impossible, to find an individual who will proclaim themself a proud hipster. It’s an odd dance of self-identity – adamantly denying your existence while wearing clearly defined symbols that proclaims [sic] it.
Hipsters and indie kids try so hard to fit in, but it’s embarassing to have someone point out that fact. The punks would call them posuers, but punks put a lot of thought into their image, too. I guess fashion is always supposed to appear effortless, but the hypocrisy bothers me.
I thought I was the only one annoyed by the judgmental, hypocritical self-righteousness of hipsters, but Douglas Haddow’s adbuster’s cover story from July (forgive me, Hipsters, I am behind the times) is an anti-hipster manifesto brimming with insightful eviscerations of the hipster lifestyle without being too condescending or preachy.
But after punk was plasticized and hip hop lost its impetus for social change, all of the formerly dominant streams of “counter-culture” have merged together. Now, one mutating, trans-Atlantic melting pot of styles, tastes and behavior has come to define the generally indefinable idea of the “Hipster.”
So basically, hipsterism is the McDonalds of countercultures. It’s unoriginal, manufactured and monolithic. It can’t be reasoned with or defeated because it’s constantly morphing into whatever happens to be cool at the moment — but not too cool:
But the moment a trend, band, sound, style or feeling gains too much exposure, it is suddenly looked upon with disdain. Hipsters cannot afford to maintain any cultural loyalties or affiliations for fear they will lose relevance.
If it’s mainstream, it sucks. But what happens when hipsterdom goes mainstream? Your mom might not be a hipster, but if you’re 15 to 40 it’s likely you or one or more of your friends are a hipster (there should be a 12 step program). Hell, everyone you hang out with might be a hipster.
Not that there’s anything inherently wrong with a herd mentality — it keeps you safe. But there are several annoying things about hipsterdom that really bother me. A list:
- Denying what you are: If somebody calls you a hipster and you angrily deny it; you’re probably a hipster.
- Following trends while pretending to be a trendsetter: Are you consistantly cool and fashionably dressed? Well, trendsetters take risks, make mistakes and often look goofy; it’s part of the deal. If you don’t take the risk of being uncool, you are not a trendsetter.
- High school is over: 15 year-old hipsters notwithstanding, the Coolness Hierachy of hipsterdom is basically High School 2.0 — enough already! I thought you were rebelling against status-obsessed drones who are now working their way up the real power hierarchy.
- Smoking cigarettes is not rebellion: You’re a good little Democrat-Hipster, aren’t you? Then why do you smoke cigarettes? Profits from tobacco fund the right-wing hate machine you claim to oppose. Smoking Parliaments does not make you cool. If you want to be (somewhat) rebellious, smoke weed.
- Claiming to be so open minded, yet only listening to hipster-appoved music: Indie rock is full of great tunes and good bands, but there are tons of bands out there playing excellent music who don’t get love from hipsters because they don’t have skinny jeans, ironic trucker hats or bed-hed haircuts.
- Atheism-chic: As any hipster knows, atheism is “in”. But haven’t you noticed that hardcore atheists are just as annoying as fundamentalist Christians? Most Christians, while misguided, are nice people who respect others’ beliefs. Atheists should remember to do the same.
- Conflicting values: You can’t be both an environmentalist and a shopaholic. You can’t jump into the indie side of consumer culture and think that insulates you from the repercussions of materialism and consumption culture. Not driving an SUV does not make you green. Your fancy, designer shoes were probably made by orphan children in the Phillipines and then shipped over here at great expense to the environment… but not your conscience apparently.
- Loyalty means nothing, only fashion: Hipsters will often hide their love of uncool things, or cloak their love in a vaccinating veil of irony. This only causes more self-loathing and hypocrisy. There’s a whole generation of hipsters out there who love — truly love — AC/DC but would never, ever admit it, except through irony.
- Conformity kills: Okay, so let me get this straight… you’re rebelling against the conformist mainstream in the same manner as everyone else — by joining a subgroup that is undeniably mainstream in your age group. Congrats on being both a hypocrite and a conformist in one fell swoop.
What it really boils down to is hypocrisy and herd mentality. I’m not saying I’m immune to either, but they both bug me and I’m committed to avoiding them wherever possible.
I understand the need to form subgroups. I do. It’s 21st century tribalism and it has its benefits. Countercultures shouldn’t be blamed for going mainstream if it’s a positive force in the world, but I’m afraid hipsterdom has become a regressive force that’s more based on exclusion, ego-driven hypocrisy and ironic apathy than any positive force. What part of hipsterism is positive? Will anyone stand up and defend hipsters… or even admit to being one?
Update: A good friend has challenged me to live in Bismarck, North Dakota with all the “mouth-breathers” with no taste in music. Point made; hipsters are good for something and probably better than many alternatives. Still, I’m sick of being one-upped by him regarding musicians he claims are mind-blowingly awesome and yet doesn’t have on his iPod because he doesn’t actually listen to them. I listen to bands/musicians that I like, not those who have the best technical ability or underground/hipster credibility.