On Hipsterism, Hipsterdom, and the General Hipstocracy

A lot of people hate hipsters: the creative underclass, certain Hasidic Jewish populations, other hipsters. Hatred deep enough to paint a bold “No Hipsters” message upon private stoops in very public places. And yet, they have silently worked their way into the fabric of society. Though fully-fledged depictions of these soldiers of irony are rare in popular culture (Frank from “30 Rock” is the only one that readily comes to mind), parts of their mien have broken out of the gates of hipsterdom and trickled out into the wider world.

Think: Ashton Kutcher’s trucker hat phase mid-decade, the hoardes of “vintage” graphic-Ts that populated Gaps and American Eagles throughout the nation, Death Cab for Cutie playing on the speakers of your neighborhood Borders (and Zooey Deschanel’s elfin face filling up your local movie screens). In a certain sense, the hipster is one the great cultural arbiters of this decade. They are the foils to the Paris Hilton, reality television lifestyle. They are the twenty-somethings who seem to be living interesting lives among interesting people doing interesting things without shameless clawing for fame or notoriety.

So if the hipster is such a huge cultural influence, then why are they so vilified by the few?

To answer that, it becomes necessary to address what hipsters actually are. A brief look at the hivemind hipster-identifying website latfh.com, or Look at This F*cking Hipster, shows a general populace unable to differentiate between the hipster, the indie-kid, the scene-ster, and the emo-kid. The inherent misconception of such a website is that a hipster can be identified based solely on how they look. Though it is true, in a certain sense, that a hipster can sometimes be identified based on appearance, the hipster is far more than just ironic T-shirts, hideous facial hair, and generally unwashed demeanor. Hipsterism, as pretentious as it may sound, is a philosophy, a way of life, that dictates the actions of individuals much like a religion would.

The term “hipster” itself can be disingenuous. The etymology of the word traces its origin to the ‘40s and ‘50s jazz scenes where it coexisted with such outdated slang as “cool cat” and “daddy-o.” A dictionary definition of “hipster” describes an individual who merely follows “trends” and “fashion.” However, this idea clashes with the hipster’s role as the starter of trends and the definer of fashions. Another usage of the term describes denim-wear that sit at hip-level, though this also seems outdated since all modern incarnations of jeans, besides the “mom-jean,” seem to sit at this level (or lower). And you’d probably be more likely to find a hipster in a mom-jean than a non-hipster.

But what do we talk about when we talk about hipsters? The hipster is a product of both affluence and cynicism. It takes a certain level of financial security to be a hipster. A lifestyle of loitering defined by unemployment that is only occasionally peppered by part-time work at a vegan co-op or attempts at the Next Great American Novel (Tao Lin, we’re looking at you) can only be sustained by a cushy trust-fund or parental units willing to shell out for an ironically expensive building in a quickly gentrifying area.The hipster is also a product of (liberal arts) education, or something of the sort. Every hipster needs to be college educated, or partially so, and, if he or she (or Z) did in fact graduate, he/she/Z probably majored in something your parents do not entirely approve of.

So people get annoyed, not just by their privilege, but because they waste privilege. Those who slum because they have to do not take kindly to those who slum by choice.A hipster also will never admit to being a hipster, unless they’re being ironic, in which case they will. And hipsters are always ironic. Unless they are being ironic by not being ironic. Or they are being ironic by not being ironic to be ironic. And so it goes on, annoying others with their constant need to out-do all their hipster brethren. Without admitting to being a hipster.

The hipster is more than their cheap beers, expensive coffees, and facial hair that hasn’t been seen since the Civil War era. The hipster is also a human being. With a really annoying personality.

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