Skip

a hipster by any other name
December 19, 2011 9:39 AM   Subscribe


 
Is this where I can brag being called a hipster by people who don't actually know the term, nor most (if not all) of the connotation? I grew up and live in a cloistered, old-school Italian neighborhood in Brooklyn. More than once someone whose family goes back considerably more generations than mine have told me, completely sans insult, that my friends and I look way out of place, like we should be in "Downtown Brooklyn or Park Slope or somethin'." No references to Williamsburg or Bushwick or indie rock and the last time they've probably encountered the word "hipster" was from someone who lived through World War II tried to describe Maynard G. Krebs.
posted by griphus at 9:57 AM on December 19, 2011


Hipsters have beards. Or mustaches. Or neither. They wear skinny jeans. Or maybe they don’t. They’ve got thick-rimmed glasses.

All three in combination is usuallty a good sign.
posted by jonmc at 10:05 AM on December 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


See and my understanding for the longest time was that 'hipster' referred to a demographic group, i.e. 20-30somethings in an urban environment with leftist leanings and interest in niche cultures such as DIY crafting and homebrewing and outsider artists. Under that rubric, I'm clearly a hipster, and most of the people my age that I know are also hipsters (and the vast majority of MetaFilter, as far as I can tell). In the last couple years, however, I've noticed that the term is used as pejorative, and suddenly everyone gets defensive and invective when it comes up, and then people posit that there's no such thing as a hipster, and I get all confused: What do you call the self-similar people in my neighborhood of Chicago who drink session beers and buy organic shampoo? Mostly I'm upset because, from my perspective, 'hipster' seemed like an entirely useful and non-hostile term that has somehow been corrupted by people who for whatever reason wanted it to be used unkindly.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:06 AM on December 19, 2011 [10 favorites]


a hipster can only exist in comparison

Called it 3 years ago
posted by DU at 10:08 AM on December 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


I don't think identifying hipsters is as difficult as everyone thinks it is. Two words: post-modernist consumerism.

It's less about appearance than attitude. I like clothes that fit, blazers, and the occasional trilby -- but I don't dress like that to be "cool" or to show anybody up. I wear what I wear because I've gotta wear something other than sack-cloth and I figure that may as well be it.

The bedrock foundation of contemporary hipster culture is consumerism. Other subcultures adopt political stances or focus on creating something, but hipsterism is all about buying shit. Conspicuous consumption. The post-modern aspect sets them apart from more mainstream consumerists because, unlike aficionados of Manolo Blahnik or Brooks Brothers, there is no gold standard of aesthetic. The girl wearing a Pocahontas outfit to a house party in July isn't aspiring to some ideal "look": it's post-modern, so therefore nobody can say what is or isn't aesthetically successful, so everybody can wear whatever the fuck they want as long as it's "original" or "ironic" even if it looks objectively ridiculous.

That's my two bits, anyway.
posted by Misunderestimated at 10:12 AM on December 19, 2011 [7 favorites]


shakespeherian: for others the term has come to mean: trendy, snobbish, pretentious, disdainful idler/'artist.' It's two different shorthands, that's all.
posted by jonmc at 10:12 AM on December 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


Hahaha... in this pic, the 6th dude in line (next to the TV on the Radio guy) looks exactly like a cartoon version of my roommate. Right down to the gin mixology!
posted by FatherDagon at 10:13 AM on December 19, 2011


> The bedrock foundation of contemporary hipster culture is consumerism

Funny, the people I hear getting labeled hipster are typically the ones doing stuff on the cheap... clothes/furniture from thrift stores, cheap beer, second-hand bikes, guitars, records.
posted by scelerat at 10:17 AM on December 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


Other subcultures adopt political stances or focus on creating something, but hipsterism is all about buying shit. Conspicuous consumption.

No, yuppies are all about conspicuous consumption. You will never hear a so-called stereotypical hipster brag about the specs of his new expensive car or make a point about how he managed to get a reservation into the most exclusive restaurant in the city because of the people he knows. The stereotypical hipster is young and most likely broke. She doesn't shop at high-end designer boutiques, she puts together an outfit from discarded pieces of thrift store clothing. He doesn't drink the most expensive wine in the place, he prefers the cheapest $1 beer in the dive that has the jukebox with Leonard Cohen on it. This doesn't look like conspicuous consumption by my or any definition of the term.
posted by naju at 10:18 AM on December 19, 2011 [4 favorites]


I like clothes that fit, blazers, and the occasional trilby -- but I don't dress like that to be "cool" or to show anybody up.

What do you imagine that someone you identify as a "hipster" would say about why they're wearing the clothes they wear?
posted by yoink at 10:19 AM on December 19, 2011 [17 favorites]


I've never gotten a clear definition of "hipster" but I'm pretty sure any practical one is going to include:

a) stupid hats
b) knowing the technical name for said hats
posted by DU at 10:20 AM on December 19, 2011 [7 favorites]


Man, I went to this Neutral Milk Hotel show at a Vegan Farm recently and there were so many hipsters there.

Of which I was one.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:21 AM on December 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


What do you imagine that someone you identify as a "hipster" would say about why they're wearing the clothes they wear?

I think that's the point, or at least a point. If usage has brought the term 'hipster' to mean, roughly, 'someone who claims to like something but does so for the wrong reason,' as more and more seems to be the case, then deployment of the term in its pejorative form necessarily involves a lot of projection. Which means that such usage is idiotic.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:25 AM on December 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


My hipster test: are you wearing a shirt that is made to look like it was made before you were born? That is, the 18 year old girl wearing the fake faded Fry Guy shirt - hipster. The guy younger than 40 wearing the polyester tan and white plaid shirt with fake mother of pearl snap buttons - hipster.
posted by strixus at 10:31 AM on December 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


Mefister. I am just throwing that up here.
posted by srboisvert at 10:31 AM on December 19, 2011


voink: I don't know, but I'd love to hear the explanation for skin-tight neon leggings and enormous '80s glasses.

scelerat, naju: Isn't that still consumerism/conspicuous consumption? Just because it's cheap, doesn't mean there isn't a (sub)cultural significance to getting and owning something and displaying that you have it. Hipsters aren't just people who shop at thrift stores: Hipsters are people who really want you know that they have Gregorian chants on vinyl or the most ironic t-shirt that came from a lumber yard in Boise in 1979. Same idea, different standards.
posted by Misunderestimated at 10:34 AM on December 19, 2011 [4 favorites]


I got a reservation at Dorsia. I want someone to love me.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 10:35 AM on December 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


I think that's the point, or at least a point. If usage has brought the term 'hipster' to mean, roughly, 'someone who claims to like something but does so for the wrong reason,' as more and more seems to be the case, then deployment of the term in its pejorative form necessarily involves a lot of projection. Which means that such usage is idiotic.

I think a lot of reflexive denial of hipsterdom does simultaneously involve an attitude that one's choices aren't influenced by, say, fashion or media. Despite the fact that these trends--wearing trilbies, say--are just as cultivated and created as any other. It's an attempt to reiterate authenticity where none especially exists--"I just play the ukulele and wear these big glasses because I like them"--when you know what? It's okay to be subject to trends.

I mean, look, Justine Bieber did a steampunk video and there's an Urban Outfitters selling "thrifted" finds in nearly every mall in America, and plenty of the kids drinking PBR and shopping at the Salvo have the money to do otherwise anyway. It happened to our parents and grandparents, too. Hippie subculture was co-opted and mass marketed. By the 70s those counter culture adults could buy their kids Sunshine Family dolls made by Mattel. I understand the defensiveness. I used to do the same thing--back in 2004, when I was into cheap plastic cameras (get off my lawn, hipstamatic hipsters!) I tried to pretend that it wasn't because hotter girls than me were cultivating artsy identities on livejournal and I wanted in. But now, you know what? I'm just like, fuck it. I'm a poseur, I don't care, I like to make people stare. Et cetera.

It's not the usage that's idiotic. It's the denial. It's like insisting you're not a trekkie but a trekker. When you know, a geek is a geek any way you slice it. Or hipster a hipster, as it were.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:37 AM on December 19, 2011 [4 favorites]


What does PBR mean to you? To me it's Professional Bull Riders, but I assume that's not it.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 10:40 AM on December 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Perhaps if you'd replace "conspicuous consumption" with "an obsession with taste," then I'd be on your side. Two very different ideas. But all young people have an obsession with taste, even those charming people on Jersey Shore (just using that as seemingly the opposite of hipster fashion). Look at the facebook/whatever profile of ANY twenty-something and see how very particular and obsessive they are about listing their favorite things. You don't even need to buy and display something anymore, you just list it or talk about it. That isn't nearly the same as the conspicuous consumption of, I don't know - the law firm partner who moves to the gated community in Palo Alto and lords his expensive new home and sports cars over his friends with a self-satisfied smile. That's conspicuous consumption.
posted by naju at 10:41 AM on December 19, 2011


She doesn't shop at high-end designer boutiques, she puts together an outfit from discarded pieces of thrift store clothing.

This is not necessarily true. Many so-called hipsters put a lot of time and effort (and money) into looking poor. Sure, the girl may look like she just rolled out of bed and into a thrift store window-display, but her outfit actually cost her about $400.

In many cases, the look is more important than the price point or where the clothes actually came from, though. So you can have rich hipsters and poor hipsters, and they'll all fit into the same social category (though not necessarily the same social group).

Also, as Misunderestimated said, just because the things aren't expensive doesn't mean that the subculture doesn't find its centre in consumerism. It just means that it doesn't find it in high-end consumerism.

Hipsterism, at least in its most cliche form, is definitely about buying stuff and showing it off. A trip to Urban Outfitters will illustrate this.
posted by asnider at 10:42 AM on December 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


Justin Bieber, too.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:42 AM on December 19, 2011


If usage has brought the term 'hipster' to mean, roughly, 'someone who claims to like something but does so for the wrong reason,'

Well, that seems to be part of what it means, but not the whole thing. I mean, "hipster" doesn't just mean "phony." Nor does it just mean "wannabe." I think the cartoon in the first link of the FPP has it pretty much right that "hipster" means someone who is "cooler than you" (DU's "called it" post from three years ago is exactly on point here, too). The suggestion is "they are cooler than me, but the things they do to mark their coolness are not things they actually enjoy, or are things that people in general shouldn't enjoy."

Of course, this kind of policing of the boundaries of acceptable "cool" is as old as the hills: I'm sure Thag and Ugbok sat around snickering at Grok's slightly-too-lumpy thumping-rock back in the day, while agreeing they'd never be caught dead with one of those perfectly smooth thumping-rocks that their dads used to use. Squares!
posted by yoink at 10:43 AM on December 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Hipsterism, at least in its most cliche form, is definitely about buying stuff and showing it off

Well, in that it's identified with things-the-person-has: which means they either buy them or steal them. But one of the complaints I most often hear about hipsters is that they do things working-class people do even though they could afford to do otherwise (thrift shop clothing, cheap beer). So there's also a kind of hipster-rage that's all about them refusing to consume more conspicuously.
posted by yoink at 10:45 AM on December 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


Called it 3 years ago

Before it was cool?
posted by Hoopo at 10:45 AM on December 19, 2011 [17 favorites]


I don't think "hipster is about appropriation" is sufficient - while there are certainly people wearing "Indian" costumes to house parties while drinking Pabst, there are plenty of culturally-appropriating groups (New Age folks with dreamcatchers, frat bros appropriating what they think is "black" culture, etc etc).

And there's plenty of snobbism and misogyny in non-hipster subcultures too - bike assholes, for instance, are a cultural universal from hipster bike repair place to mainstream frat row one.

Honestly, I think the allure of calling people hipsters is this:

1. The rhetoric of misery - in the US, we're all supposed to be nose-grindstone-shoulder-wheel, I'm-going-to-need-you-to-work-this-Saturday, pensions-are-for-the-overpaid, etc etc. And if we see folks who aren't working, or seem to do fun work, we assume that this is because they have trust funds or because their work is stupid. This is true in the activist scene - people who are frugal or work seasonally or whose work is harder than it looks get slagged off a lot and rumors get started about how their parents must be supporting them.

2. Prurience. There's a whole creepy genre of "pictures of so-called hipsters in revealing clothing" that people cluck over with barely-disguised prurient interest. Hipster girls ZOMG wear leggings instead of pants!! Hipster guys sometimes wear effeminate clothes to parties!!! How whorish!

3. Unease about gender. If you go to "look at this fucking hipster", which I can't link because I'm at work, you'll find a kind of funny ear-worm of a song about how terrible hipsters are. And several lines and slides are basically "hipsters are terrible because sometimes you can't tell their gender or sexual preference from their clothes!"

4. Hatred of art and non-conformity; ressentiment; fear that you're missing something. You know what? A lot of hipster stuff is kind of cool. And even more of it is kind of cool to at least a few people. Fancy vegan cooking? Silk-screened patches? Fun haircuts? Bikes? What the hell is so bad about that? Americans are miserable and unfree, and we're terrified that someone somewhere is having a good time that doesn't necessarily involve being rich or having a fancy job....because what that means is that maybe we could be happier too if we took a few minor social risks, loosened up a little and stopped accepting the normal narrative about American life.

5. Hatred of youth. I'm no longer young, so I can say this - Americans hate, envy and fear youth in a way that is truly fucked up. Youth sexuality, youth subcultures, just the mere fact that young people have young bodies - that really flips everyone the fuck out. So naturally, any young people who seem to be having fun being young and irresponsible must be terrible human beings, and young people should be rushed into stodgy middle aged consumer patterns as soon as possible.

6. Belief that everything fun costs lots of money. So obviously, hipsters must be spending tons of cash (ill-gotten, undeserved) on their pursuits, and regular Americans can't afford to be happy because they don't have that kind of (ill-gotten, undeserved) money.

Now, that's not to say that there aren't young artist types who are big ol' jerks. But I would hate for Patti Smith, Sarah Schulman, Jello Biafra and Shane McGowan to have skipped youthful artistic rebellion for a civil service job and a mortgage.
posted by Frowner at 10:46 AM on December 19, 2011 [55 favorites]


It's not the usage that's idiotic. It's the denial. It's like insisting you're not a trekkie but a trekker. When you know, a geek is a geek any way you slice it. Or hipster a hipster, as it were.

I agree with that to a point, but I think that the accusation 'you like that because it's trendy' is different from 'I like this because I think it's neat, and it first gained my attention because it's trendy.' I don't drink PBR-- because it tastes awful-- but I imagine that the young trust-fund kids who do aren't suffering through every swallow, they actually like the stuff. It seems like a lot of 'grar hipsters!' stuff is an accusation of inauthenticity, when-- just like with anyone, as you said-- it's a lot more complicated than that.

Personal taste and styling is a balancing act between sticking out enough to feel that you're reflecting your own uniqueness and blending in enough not to be a weirdo among the people you closely identify with. That's pretty much true in any demographic I can think of. And while I think there's definitely a fetishization of Uniqueness And Authenticity in hipster culture, such that being told that your personal style is due to your demographic can result in defensiveness, there's still a particular nastiness and projection that seems to infuse pejorative usage of the word.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:46 AM on December 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


I guess these links are OK, but they were better before they showed up on the blue and went all mainstream.
posted by Capt. Renault at 10:46 AM on December 19, 2011


But one of the complaints I most often hear about hipsters is that they do things working-class people do even though they could afford to do otherwise (thrift shop clothing, cheap beer).

Yeah, the whole "co-opting working-class culture" thing is a complaint I hear pretty often, too. And, I think it's at least partially accurate. The fact that it tends to be based on irony means that it's also incredibly condescending and insulting to people who do these things because: a) they can't afford other options, or b) they enjoy doing these things sincerely and without irony.
posted by asnider at 10:48 AM on December 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


Naju: I don't think "an obsession with taste" adequately addresses the cultural significance of having stuff. Conspicuous consumption isn't necessarily about wealth: It's essentially about buying stuff you don't need as a status symbol, regardless of how much that stuff costs. Obviously the word "need" gets tricky, but I think it's safe to say that the people who buy and wear chunky Ray-Ban frames with non-prescription lenses are on the side of conspicuous consumption.
posted by Misunderestimated at 10:51 AM on December 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


It's essentially about buying stuff you don't need as a status symbol, regardless of how much that stuff costs. Obviously the word "need" gets tricky, but I think it's safe to say that the people who buy and wear chunky Ray-Ban frames with non-prescription lenses are on the side of conspicuous consumption.

This just seems to me like you're criticizing the idea of fashion in general. Short of wearing potato sacks, we will all buy clothing and accessories that we don't "need" because it "looks good".

"I think it's safe to say that the people who buy and wear jewelry are on the side of conspicuous consumption."
posted by naju at 10:55 AM on December 19, 2011 [4 favorites]


Yeah, the whole "co-opting working-class culture" thing is a complaint I hear pretty often, too. And, I think it's at least partially accurate. The fact that it tends to be based on irony means that it's also incredibly condescending and insulting to people who do these things because: a) they can't afford other options, or b) they enjoy doing these things sincerely and without irony.

I find it pretty difficult to talk about this aspect of hipsterdom--which is pretty trivial and doesn't matter much to, well, anyone when it comes down to it--without talking about the sister crime which comes along with it, namely gentrification of older working class neighborhoods, often historically neighborhoods where immigrants or people of color have lived, which escalates eventually to the point where the established populations can often no longer afford to live there.

Personal taste and styling is a balancing act between sticking out enough to feel that you're reflecting your own uniqueness and blending in enough not to be a weirdo among the people you closely identify with. That's pretty much true in any demographic I can think of. And while I think there's definitely a fetishization of Uniqueness And Authenticity in hipster culture, such that being told that your personal style is due to your demographic can result in defensiveness, there's still a particular nastiness and projection that seems to infuse pejorative usage of the word.

I still think the best way to deal with any inherent invective nastiness is a shrug, not a defensive spiel about authenticity. An emotional reaction to a name--a name that's accurate, more--just gives the person calling names power.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:57 AM on December 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


asnider: "The fact that it tends to be based on irony means that it's also incredibly condescending and insulting to people who do these things because: a) they can't afford other options, or b) they enjoy doing these things sincerely and without irony."

What makes you convinced that 'hipsters' can afford other options, and that they don't genuinely enjoy doing the things they do?

Every time someone defines a 'hipster' they talk about attitudes in people that I find it hard to believe you'd have access to from the outside.


asnider: "Hipsterism, at least in its most cliche form, is definitely about buying stuff and showing it off. A trip to Urban Outfitters will illustrate this."

You think hipsters shop at Urban Outfitters? Are you confusing 'hipsters' with 'suburban kids age 16-24' ?
posted by danny the boy at 10:57 AM on December 19, 2011 [9 favorites]


...but I think it's safe to say that the people who buy and wear chunky Ray-Ban frames with non-prescription lenses are on the side of conspicuous consumption.

Where does the line get drawn between "conspicuous consumption" and "fashion"? Is it because the glasses are superfluous? By that measure, buying any sort of accessory from bracelets to cufflinks fits under that category.

On preview: what naju said.
posted by griphus at 10:57 AM on December 19, 2011


Oh, and the rhetoric of the hipster also contains some bad ideas about class, and some bad ideas about the ethical life:

1. Bad ideas about class: working class identity is stable over time; back before hipsters, a bar would start out as a working class bar and stay that way forever and ever; working class people are never bohemians and do not create culture except what is obviously proletarian. There are no working class hipsters/artists/radicals, and there can never be. Class mixing is bad, and can only happen in the context of appropriation and exploitation; we should all be very careful, if middle class, not to use or wear anything that a working class person might wear, because there are very clear lines between the classes - and good, moral people keep those lines bright.

2. Bad ideas about the ethical life: to wit, everyone should be as miserable as the most miserable. Which is why, even if you're a hipster radical who, like, does a bunch of volunteer work and political work and whose paid work is either worthwhile or supports your unpaid work, you are still a terrible person because you have this existence with artistic frivolity in it instead of being as soberly miserable as the most exploited working class person or heavily-mortgaged suburbanite. (I mean, I know plenty of hipster radical kids doing good work.) Also, if you have the nerve to be a student - especially if you're not studying to be a CPA or an engineer - no matter how much you're working, you are a terrible person if you dress funny.

I remember when I was in college having some dude hassle me as I walked to one of my two jobs about how I clearly didn't have to work, since I had very short hair and weird glasses (this was in the nineties when those things were less acceptable). Actually, I had chosen my two jobs precisely because they didn't require me to wear clothes I hated or to look straight. But I should have taken some horrible office job and worn horrible office clothes, because by dressing like a queer weirdo, I was clearing being an overprivileged hipster. Race you to the bottom, eh?
posted by Frowner at 10:59 AM on December 19, 2011 [22 favorites]


man i dont know maybe im probably a hipster or osmething

i can safely say that having lived in portland for a minute now i am really tired of dudes with big-ass beards and people in general with large, corny tattoos

there is something in the "hip young animalcule" style of clothiery that seems like it is about searching for an "authenticity" that is kind of annoying to witness but hatever
posted by beefetish at 10:59 AM on December 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


I still think the best way to deal with any inherent invective nastiness is a shrug, not a defensive spiel about authenticity. An emotional reaction to a name--a name that's accurate, more--just gives the person calling names power.

Who's giving defensive spiels about authenticity? When hipsters get called hipsters, they (we) tend to say: 'No, hipsters are those other people.'
posted by shakespeherian at 11:00 AM on December 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


What everybody seems to describe as hipsters is actually "people who moved to Williamsburg (esp. the new buildings) after your parents had heard of The Strokes." Which, you know, aren't the real ones, at least in my local Williamsburg understanding, which goes back to when North Six was the only thing on North 6th.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 11:01 AM on December 19, 2011


Remember talking about what makes someone a hipster makes you a hipster.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 11:01 AM on December 19, 2011 [4 favorites]


Who's giving defensive spiels about authenticity? When hipsters get called hipsters, they (we) tend to say: 'No, hipsters are those other people.'

Sounds pretty defensive to me.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 11:02 AM on December 19, 2011


It's not a spiel, I mean.
posted by shakespeherian at 11:02 AM on December 19, 2011


The original articles would qualify: "My argument echoes the one joked about in both of the above comics. The hipster only exists in comparison. This is why nobody is willing to call themselves a hipster – there is no absolute meaning of the word. Hipster is a label used on somebody who’s trying harder to be cool than you are. That’s it. Whether they’re actually trying or whether they just happen to like that particular pair of skinny jeans is a completely different matter. We use the word hipster to dismiss others who may then turn around and judge us as not being cool enough. By dismissing them and all their thoughts immediately, we protect ourselves from their judgment. Yes, there are prototypical hipster assholes out there who can and will judge you based on what you wear, but let’s be realistic and realize that those assholes are the minority. Most people wearing thick-rimmed glasses just happen to like how they look. Most who drink PBR are too broke to afford anything else. Most who liked Animal Collective’s first album better are telling the truth."
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 11:05 AM on December 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


Frowner, you are nailing it.

I stumbled into a thread about hipsters and feel like I learned something. Christmas has truly come early.
posted by Beardman at 11:07 AM on December 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


What makes you convinced that 'hipsters' can afford other options, and that they don't genuinely enjoy doing the things they do?

Both of those things can be true. I was talking about a specific type of hipsterism: where things are done for the sake of irony.

But, on reflection: I think that Frowner has taught me a lesson (as usual).
posted by asnider at 11:11 AM on December 19, 2011


frowner i think i may know more irresponsible rich people than you do?
posted by beefetish at 11:11 AM on December 19, 2011


naju, griphus: Sure. But there's a difference between "fashion as part of a personal identity" and "fashion as a competition."

The closest analogy I can think of is gangsta culture: The status symbols hardly qualify as clothes. It's all about the jewelry and the name brands and who can get their pants to sag the lowest and still be able to walk. At one time the fashions might just have been the outward signs of a larger culture, but it's evolved into its focal point.

Same thing with hipsters.

Are we even talking about the same people? Forget guys with beards and suspenders: I'm talking about the people who purposefully look like the 80s woke up with a hangover and vomited all over them. The ones who are always trying to be the most outrageous, the most ironic, and the most cutting-edge.

That's not just fashion. That's an entirely different animal.
posted by Misunderestimated at 11:12 AM on December 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


Again, those concepts have been around since time immemorial. There have always been people who have wanted to be the ne plus ultra. And it has always been a competition, from the breeches to mohawk. So we're dealing with a much-maligned concept that is much, much older than the current name we give it, and that has been with us since day one.
posted by griphus at 11:16 AM on December 19, 2011 [4 favorites]


The ones who are always trying to be the most outrageous, the most ironic, and the most cutting-edge.

This is projection.
posted by shakespeherian at 11:19 AM on December 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


The ones who are always trying to be the most outrageous, the most ironic, and the most cutting-edge.

That's not just fashion.


What is fashion, then?
posted by Threeway Handshake at 11:19 AM on December 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


I also resent the idea that PBR is a bad beer and the only reason anyone would drink it is because they are more concerned with style than substance. It's almost always the best beer of the cheap beers, and arguably the best example of the american lager style.

They call it 'blue ribbon' because it won a bunch of awards!
posted by danny the boy at 11:19 AM on December 19, 2011 [8 favorites]


I find it pretty difficult to talk about this aspect of hipsterdom--which is pretty trivial and doesn't matter much to, well, anyone when it comes down to it--without talking about the sister crime which comes along with it, namely gentrification of older working class neighborhoods, often historically neighborhoods where immigrants or people of color have lived, which escalates eventually to the point where the established populations can often no longer afford to live there.

The thing is, gentrification doesn't happen because of hipsters, gentrification happens because of the way rental and real estate profit-making is set up and because of the impoverishment of working class communities and POC. Which is why you see plenty of neighborhoods that gentrify without the hipster/punk footsoldiers (especially during the real estate boom). Right now, gentrification has really slowed in my part of South Minneapolis - not because there are fewer white radicals, artists and punks but because there's no real estate capital. The only meaningful way to stop gentrification is to restrict profit-taking, get people better wages and work against racist discrimination.

Neighborhood change doesn't have to be gentrification - immigrant neighborhoods change a lot, for example; and neighborhoods where a lot of youngish people live become neighborhoods where a lot of older people live in the course of time. Neighborhood change could in theory be totally okay and cyclic (like,the soft gentrification that comes when a neighborhood contains more people at the peak of their working years who thus have more money to fix up buildings, etc) if there's a strong safety net and a city-ecosystem such that people have somewhere to move.

Any time you have a group - any group - coming into a rental market as a cohort, that will raise rents. Crappy immigrant neighborhoods with high rates of exploitation see rents rise when new groups of immigrants arrive. I live in a substantially immigrant and POC neighborhood that has been racially mixed in varying degrees for its entire history and which has been under political attack by the city pretty much for that long. It's had its ups and downs...mostly downs lately since there's not much work and since the regular working class jobs that sustained it have changed. Rents here have always been higher than in nicer areas (as I realized after I'd been here a couple of years) because the people here are easier to exploit. Rents are higher, house prices are lower. That's not about hipsters.
posted by Frowner at 11:19 AM on December 19, 2011 [4 favorites]


The ones who are always trying to be the most outrageous, the most ironic, and the most cutting-edge.

That doesn't sound like hipsters, though. That sounds like fashionistas--who are precisely the kind of people hipsters are supposed to be ironically sneering about.
posted by yoink at 11:21 AM on December 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


They call it 'blue ribbon' because it won a bunch of awards!

I won't argue with you about the quality of PBR (though, I personally don't like it), but it won the blue ribbon award more than 100 years ago. I think it's safe to say that the recipe may have changed since then.
posted by asnider at 11:23 AM on December 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's almost always the best beer of the cheap beers

Abso-fuckin-lutely. I have tried a lot of cheap beer over the years, and even cheap "not-beers" like happoshu, and Pabst is completely non-offensive by comparison. I'm a beer snob, too, and I don't get the hate for PBR. If you're going to drink to get your beer buzz on and you don't have a lot of cash then Pabst is th eonly way to go.
posted by Hoopo at 11:25 AM on December 19, 2011


shakespeherian: How is that projection exactly?

Threeway Handshake: I don't know about you, but I don't wear my clothes to be a superlative. I wear them to stay cool in the summer, warm in the winter, and look reasonably good at the same time. I don't care about looking more anything than anybody else.

griphus: Right. But I'm not talking about individuals. I'm talking about (what I see as) a sub-culture that's almost entirely based on the fetishization of consumption in one form or another.

And really, it's useless to talk about what characteristics a certain subculture has when I'm not even sure we can agree on who counts as a member, so I'm going to surrender the field.
posted by Misunderestimated at 11:26 AM on December 19, 2011


I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of people understood to be embraced within that shorthand description [hipsters]; and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know them when I see them.

sort of hamburger
posted by usonian at 11:27 AM on December 19, 2011


Being way too old to distinguish among youthful tribal affiliations, I have no idea what a hipster is other than those I read here (I had to look up "trilby").

In the good old days, it was pretty easy to identify hippies. Then the rednecks started growing their hair long and smoking dope and it was all downhill from there.

I think I must have been a hipster about fifteen years after I was a hippie: playing music, being poor, and doing performance art in the early Eighties. But we didn't get to have a label. I've spent the last 25 years as a civil servant and 1/3 of a nuclear family. So what am I now? Normal? That sounds dull.

Sorry for jumping into this thread: I feel like I do when I go to a club to see a new band: old.
posted by kozad at 11:28 AM on December 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


How is that projection exactly?

You don't know that they're wearing whatever they're wearing for any particular reason unless they've told you so.
posted by shakespeherian at 11:30 AM on December 19, 2011


The thing is, gentrification doesn't happen because of hipsters, gentrification happens because of the way rental and real estate profit-making is set up and because of the impoverishment of working class communities and POC. Which is why you see plenty of neighborhoods that gentrify without the hipster/punk footsoldiers (especially during the real estate boom). Right now, gentrification has really slowed in my part of South Minneapolis - not because there are fewer white radicals, artists and punks but because there's no real estate capital. The only meaningful way to stop gentrification is to restrict profit-taking, get people better wages and work against racist discrimination.

Right--but many of the gentrifying populations very solidly don't care a whit for protecting displaced populations. This is a case where appropriation--in this case, of a place, and the cheap rents typically enjoyed by those living there--has a much stronger impact on the people whose culture is being appropriated than normal, and I find it troubling. That's not to say that you're right--real estate forces and natural neighborhood cycles have something to do with it. But the behavior of the young and the privileged and the white do, too. Landlords wouldn't be able to turn a profit if it weren't for renters taking advantage of it.

I'm not denying that some of the things you say--rejection of intersexuality and youth culture--come into play here. But there's a conspicuous refusal in denials of hipsterdom to look at one's own behavior critically or realistically. These articles seem part of that--it's all about reassuring a (likely hipster!) population that these labels are illusory without talking about real tensions like cultural appropriation or gentrification or the impact of cultural slumming at the root of it.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 11:32 AM on December 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Again, those concepts have been around since time immemorial.

My favorite old-tyme young person fashion craze is how in 5th/6th century Constantinople a bunch of kids started dressing like Huns in mousehide cloaks and carrying around javelins. Plus, they got way into chariots, which I think we all know were the first fixies.
posted by Copronymus at 11:38 AM on December 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


Right--but many of the gentrifying populations very solidly don't care a whit for protecting displaced populations. This is a case where appropriation--in this case, of a place, and the cheap rents typically enjoyed by those living there--has a much stronger impact on the people whose culture is being appropriated than normal, and I find it troubling. That's not to say that you're right--real estate forces and natural neighborhood cycles have something to do with it. But the behavior of the young and the privileged and the white do, too. Landlords wouldn't be able to turn a profit if it weren't for renters taking advantage of it.

I'm not denying that some of the things you say--rejection of intersexuality and youth culture--come into play here. But there's a conspicuous refusal in denials of hipsterdom to look at one's own behavior critically or realistically. These articles seem part of that--it's all about reassuring a (likely hipster!) population that these labels are illusory without talking about real tensions like cultural appropriation or gentrification or the impact of cultural slumming at the root of it.


I don't doubt that at all - my thought is simply that displacement, exploitation and gentrification are committed by a lot of people and need to be called out as the things they are, not projected onto one small subculture (as if only hipsters displace and gentrify - rather than yuppies and investors with capital) and as if stopping the hipster armies would stop gentrification. For one thing, the people I know in my personal life who are contributing the most to gentrification are upper-working-class single mothers who are buying run-down houses or condos in marginal neighborhoods because they want an affordable fixer-upper since dad is out of the picture. (Sadly, I know several women in this situation) These women are displacing poorer people just as surely as if they were fixie-riders with ironic mustaches - maybe more, since they are actually buying - but it feels rather different to call them out. Hipster gentrification is the most visible, but it's just the tip of the iceberg. Honestly, a lot of "gentrifiers" have the perfectly reasonable desire for a decent place to live that they can afford, which is why gentrification is very hard to stop without stabilizing wages and benefits and bringing down profit-taking.
posted by Frowner at 11:39 AM on December 19, 2011 [5 favorites]


I don't doubt that at all - my thought is simply that displacement, exploitation and gentrification are committed by a lot of people and need to be called out as the things they are, not projected onto one small subculture (as if only hipsters displace and gentrify - rather than yuppies and investors with capital) and as if stopping the hipster armies would stop gentrification.

Well, I think this is a potentially much more illuminating and important conversation than, say, when someone calls you a hipster answering that they don't understand because you only wear skinny jeans because they're comfortable.

(Honestly, I would need more time to think and research on the topic before responding appropriately.)
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 11:45 AM on December 19, 2011


displacement, exploitation and gentrification are committed by a lot of people and need to be called out as the things they are, not projected onto one small subculture (as if only hipsters displace and gentrify - rather than yuppies and investors with capital)

THIS
posted by beefetish at 11:45 AM on December 19, 2011


(I mean, there's certainly a lot of self-justification by white folks in artistic subcultures about racism, appropriation and exploitation - I think what happens sometimes is this becomes an intra-artists-and-writers conversation, where writers, artists and intellectuals of color are justifiably pissed off about their white opposite numbers, and that gets taken as if it were the whole conversation on the topic. Just like when activists criticize activist behavior and non-activists use this to be like "see, this problem isn't about me!".)
posted by Frowner at 11:48 AM on December 19, 2011


They aren't the first generation of college kids to think they might increase their chances of getting laid if they affect working class tastes and wear outdated clothes (or expensive facsimiles thereof). God bless 'em.
posted by bonobothegreat at 11:57 AM on December 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


> Mefister. I am just throwing that up here.

Sounds a little kinky. How about Metster?

Hipafilter?
posted by mmrtnt at 11:58 AM on December 19, 2011


i can safely say that having lived in portland for a minute now i am really tired of dudes with big-ass beards and people in general with large, corny tattoos

Why? Why do you care?

I don't understand why so many of you are so angry at hipsters, except that perhaps it comes from a misplaced jealousy, because they have chosen a sort of artistic living type of lifestyle and eschewed the typical soul sucking 9-5 throw away your life on a mortgage situation.

Having lived in Portland and New York for the past 9 years or so, I can say that there is huge diversity within the 'hipster' subculture. You think every hipster has some sort of trust fund? Absolutely not. You find trusties in the hipster culture and in the the stock-investing, suit-wearing culture as well. And there are plenty of poor hipsters who work part-time bar tending jobs or coffee shop jobs and live in houses with a thousand other people. There are also plenty of middle class hipsters who have graphic design jobs or non-profit jobs or do a thousand other things for money. Some hipsters buy their clothes at little boutiques in Williamsburg; a lot of hipsters get their clothes from the Goodwill Bins.

What is wrong with liking a certain fashion trend? Everyone wears something. Everyone chooses some type of fashion or another to buy into. Why do skinny jeans and flannel and old t-shirts get people so worked up?

What is wrong with liking certain types of music? With choosing to live in a different sort of way than to follow the path of the "American suburban dream?"

You think the hipsters are the smug, disdainful, judgmental ones? Look at every hipster related thread that shows up here. Who's looking down on who?

Most hipsters just want to do their thing, to listen to their music, drink some beer, have a good time, party with their friends, get a weird tattoo or twenty, go to shows, make some art, and try to avoid the grind of the American business person. Most hipsters are liberal, accepting, peace-loving, pro-equal rights for everyone types of people. Are these the really the people you want to direct so much ire to?

For a place that generally preaches tolerance and a culture of 'you don't really know what other people are going through,' I am always baffled by how much energy many MeFites put into hating on freaking hipsters.

Let them ride their fixie bikes if they want to, let them shave half their head, let them drink cheap American lager, let them knit their own scarves and make weird crafts and listen to their obscure music. What is wrong with any of those things? A lot about hipster culture is absolutely fantastic. They like to buy local, they like to DIY, the like good coffee, they have a healthy disdain for car travel, they're skeptical if not rejecting of the cultural and societal standards left behind by their parents, they want to make art. Just leave the hipsters in peace.

Also, everything that Frowner has said.
posted by Lutoslawski at 11:59 AM on December 19, 2011 [19 favorites]


To me the word "hipster" has become synonymous with "one who tries too hard". But I am from the 90s, so ymmv.
posted by fshgrl at 11:59 AM on December 19, 2011 [4 favorites]


Also, re: gentrification. This has nothing to do with hipsters. Anyone who has strolled the streets around Mississippi Avenue will come to realize that, while hipsters may be the ones who now enjoy the bars along the strip, they are not the ones who have bought out all the houses and pushed the entire population into North Portland and Gresham.
posted by Lutoslawski at 12:01 PM on December 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


My favorite old-tyme young person fashion craze is how in 5th/6th century Constantinople a bunch of kids started dressing like Huns in mousehide cloaks

I desperately want a mousehide cloak now.
posted by fshgrl at 12:04 PM on December 19, 2011


lutoslawski, im tired of guys with bigass beards and large corny tattoos on everyone because that shit is played, that's pretty much the long and short of it. i'm also tired of comic books in the style of kramers ergot and metal t-shirts.

also im not seeing many ostentatious fixed gears around anymore

i am totally some fuck from hillsboro judging your precious lifestyle bullshit oh no j/k im just tired of boring lame-o trends sorry there bro let me buy you a miller high life at the next doug fir show check it out im a self hating hipstergh
posted by beefetish at 12:08 PM on December 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


VOTE YES ON PROP 75.
posted by griphus at 12:15 PM on December 19, 2011


If hipsters did not exist, it would be necessary to invent them.
posted by FatherDagon at 12:15 PM on December 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Most hipsters just want to do their thing, to listen to their music, drink some beer, have a good time, party with their friends, get a weird tattoo or twenty, go to shows, make some art, and try to avoid the grind of the American business person. Most hipsters are liberal, accepting, peace-loving, pro-equal rights for everyone types of people. Are these the really the people you want to direct so much ire to?

If we're almost entirely a population of well-educated young people, often thanks to the efforts of, say, our parents who lived a more conventional lifestyle to get us there--but we refuse to buy into the same system and instead propose to live to them what looks like a long bohemian adolescence, is it any wonder that people are resentful? That we receive the force of their ire and a lot of eye-rolling?

I mean, seriously, if your lifestyle rejects the working values and sexual values and lifestyle values of another population, don't be surprised if people say, "Hey, kids, get off my lawn."
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 12:15 PM on December 19, 2011 [4 favorites]


If you're going to drink to get your beer buzz on and you don't have a lot of cash then Pabst is th eonly way to go.

I suppose that would depend on where you're drinking it.

I was in a bar in Chelsea, MI yesterday that carried PBR. It was the same price as Bell's Christmas Ale - a far better beer.
posted by MissySedai at 12:18 PM on December 19, 2011


That's a good point, PhoBWanKenobi.

Still, I think it's misplaced.
posted by Lutoslawski at 12:19 PM on December 19, 2011


Still, I think it's misplaced.

Well, yeah, I think our values are better. But I understand the tension there.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 12:21 PM on December 19, 2011


im tired of guys with bigass beards and large corny tattoos on everyone because that shit is played

Yes, because bigass beards are, like, so 2008.
posted by Lutoslawski at 12:25 PM on December 19, 2011


lutoslawski youre really invested in me not thinking that contemporary "subcultural" fashion is dumb, it's kind of bewildering
posted by beefetish at 12:27 PM on December 19, 2011


Misunderestimated, an upvote for actually knowing the difference between a trilby and a fedora.

DU's anti-hat illiteracy be damned.
posted by IAmBroom at 12:28 PM on December 19, 2011


I am always baffled by how much energy many MeFites put into hating on freaking hipsters.

It's the narcissism of small differences. The whole point about the people one calls "hipsters" is that they are just a few degrees different from you. They are like an exaggerated version or a caricature of everything you see as potentially cool about yourself--but somehow rendered false and inauthentic. Consequently, they represent a perpetual threat to your own self-identity (hence all the anger about their superciliousness: "I was into that before it was popular etc."); they threaten to expose your own "coolness" as mere posturing.

It's impossible to divorce the anger from the 'hipster' label because the when you name someone a "hipster" you're identifying a threat to your own sense of identity.
posted by yoink at 12:30 PM on December 19, 2011 [10 favorites]


Nah, yoink, I think it's just hating on the "other".

It's no longer safe to hate blacks, women, jews, and immigrants (especially not on the Blue), so people resort to hating on (your favorite popular musician), (trend X followers), and of course the always-fair-game, (the other political party).
posted by IAmBroom at 12:35 PM on December 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


lutoslawski youre really invested in me not thinking that contemporary "subcultural" fashion is dumb, it's kind of bewildering

Not you specifically, and not that it isn't dumb, just that I don't think it makes sense to make a value judgment about it one way or the other. Fashion never really makes 'sense,' in the way you can make some sort objective critique about it.

It isn't personal, and I'm sorry if it came across this way. My last comment, with the homo habilis and Marx pictures was totally stupid, admittedly. We do this every time something is posted about hipsters here, and it's tiresome how much people want to hate an, at worst, harmless thing.
posted by Lutoslawski at 12:35 PM on December 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'll take hipsters over thugs.
posted by mmrtnt at 12:36 PM on December 19, 2011


This discussion is incomplete without this hipster post-mortem

In my opinion, conversations about hipsters are pretty much irrelevant at this point as what most people think of when they think of the word "hipster" is now just mainstream youth culture.
posted by billyfleetwood at 12:38 PM on December 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


I had to Google trilby. So that's what those stupid fucking hats are called!

I live in downtown Chicago right near Columbia College, so I know hipsters. I saw a shirtless 20-something dude this summer at the beach in swim trunks, horn rimmed glasses and a waxed mustache. They break out the wool hats as soon as the temperature drops below 70. There's always one bearded young chap wearing a Carhart jacket and shorts on the coldest day in January. Fixie bikes with white and green tires and teeny-tiny little handlebars though lately it's rare to see one without at least a front brake.

Hipsters are OK with me but it seems like a lot of work.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 12:38 PM on December 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Hipsters are OK with me but it seems like a lot of work.

jeff-o-matic, they're young males showing off testosterone by dressing against the weather - displaying unwieldy tail feathers, if you will.
posted by IAmBroom at 12:43 PM on December 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


"lutoslawski, im tired of guys with bigass beards and large corny tattoos on everyone because that shit is played, that's pretty much the long and short of it. i'm also tired of comic books in the style of kramers ergot and metal t-shirts."

Wait wait wait, hold on, you're tired of hipsters because... You've out hipster'ed them?
posted by Blasdelb at 12:44 PM on December 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Re: gentrification... Obviously, in the aggregate, it sucks. However, I've never really figured out what else an individual young person is supposed to do if s/he isn't making a massive amount of money but would like to live within a reasonable distance of work/public transportation/some modicum of fun things to do. What would a more socially responsible choice be?
posted by naoko at 12:49 PM on December 19, 2011 [2 favorites]



Is it still OK to be cool?


posted by mmrtnt at 12:53 PM on December 19, 2011


I was day dreaming the other day and tried to invent the ultimate urban Chicago hipster.

I came up with a 25 year old from Michigan who lives in Humboldt Park. He's changed his name to Cyrus, and wears one single pair of genuine German lederhosen year round. He makes artisinal bratwurst from pigs he says come from a family farm in Wisconsin, but everyone expects he just buys pork at grocery store when he goes home to visit his parents. He tried making bird houses but it took up too much room in his apartment.

His mustache is waxed and his parents gave him a Toyota which he hopes his friends think he drives ironically. His taste in 8-track tapes is impeccable.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 12:55 PM on December 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


Was Ducky a hipster?


posted by mmrtnt at 1:01 PM on December 19, 2011


Previously x 106
posted by xod at 1:04 PM on December 19, 2011


Nah, yoink, I think it's just hating on the "other".

But the people who hate on hipsters are rarely very "other" from them. Run your eye down Metafilter "Projects," for example. There's hardly anything on there that I can't easily being dismissed as "typical hipster crap" in a Metafilter thread if it happened to have come from another site of similar demographics. I mean, a quilting bee? How wonderfully post-everything ironic!

I'm sure that actual working class people sneer at "hipsters" occasionally, too--but I doubt there's much passion in it (and the term is just serving as a stand-in for "rich"). But the real passion comes from those who are threatened by the likeness, not the otherness of the people they brand with the term.
posted by yoink at 1:05 PM on December 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think a lot of the hipsters that I know are wasting their time. Everyone wastes their time somehow, but I think that it's constituitive of a hipster to trade income potential for extra time, and then so often they squander it, so they get judged more harshly. I can't trust Steve and Susie Suburbia to vote reasonably on human rights and so, you know, fuck them. But at least the Suburbia family earns a biggish income and therefore contributes to the common good by paying taxes (at least they would if there were a functional government in the USA). And if you have the sorts of positive qualities that Lutoslawski lists, you should also be able to recognize that carefully cultivating the perfect look for your bicycle is a complete waste of time.

I am aware that I waste a lot of time. It keeps me up at night. Too many people sleep too well.
posted by Kwine at 1:11 PM on December 19, 2011


I think a lot of the hipsters that I know are wasting their time. Everyone wastes their time somehow, but I think that it's constituitive of a hipster to trade income potential for extra time, and then so often they squander it, so they get judged more harshly. I can't trust Steve and Susie Suburbia to vote reasonably on human rights and so, you know, fuck them. But at least the Suburbia family earns a biggish income and therefore contributes to the common good by paying taxes (at least they would if there were a functional government in the USA). And if you have the sorts of positive qualities that Lutoslawski lists, you should also be able to recognize that carefully cultivating the perfect look for your bicycle is a complete waste of time.

I am aware that I waste a lot of time. It keeps me up at night. Too many people sleep too well.


I have never read anything that made me want to spend the next 48 hours playing crummy Flash games in my underwear as much as this did.
posted by Copronymus at 1:22 PM on December 19, 2011 [7 favorites]


I think a lot of the hipsters that I know are wasting their time.

You know, I've been a corporate lawyer since I was 25 (whether that's contributing to the common good is up for debate) but if you saw me on the street or at a rock show you might call my friends and I hipsters and decide that we're wasting our time. Looks aren't everything. And beyond that, I can't affirmatively say that my profession is objectively "better" or "more useful" than my friend who's working a retail job but running an influential music blog in his spare time, or my other friend who's touring all over the US and is broke/jobless but on the verge of a record deal, or any of the recent graduates who want to contribute to society but can't find a job. There's a whole lot of assumptions and problems with defining "wasting your time" by how many tax dollars you're not contributing.
posted by naju at 1:22 PM on December 19, 2011 [5 favorites]


Holy shit I'm weary of the whole "hurf durf hipsters, amirite?" hate.
posted by kaiseki at 1:31 PM on December 19, 2011


If we're almost entirely a population of well-educated young people, often thanks to the efforts of, say, our parents who lived a more conventional lifestyle to get us there--but we refuse to buy into the same system and instead propose to live to them what looks like a long bohemian adolescence, is it any wonder that people are resentful? That we receive the force of their ire and a lot of eye-rolling?

Bohemia is different in each generation, and it's always modulated by the current conditions of capitalism. In other words, right now there simply aren't that many non-sucky jobs if you're not from the genuine upper middle class and/or you don't want to go the fancy MBA route. (As much as we all know one person who is the exception - in general, the economy is shitty right now and it's been getting shittier and more precarious since the nineties. Anyone remember that zine Temp Slave?) If you're not going to have health insurance from work anyway, and you're not going to make decent money anyway, and you're going to have to move to an "Edge City" to work for Dreary Industries if you want to make over $25,000 a year, and your possibilities for career advancement are pretty much a lateral move to Awful Widgets, Inc or maybe a master's in Dodgy Financial Transactions...hey, it makes a lot more sense to have a prolonged adolescence. Why not live in the city and have no money and be happy for as long as your health holds out?

And you know, Serious Living Under Capitalism isn't really that great a deal - go to school for something, slog your whole life for some corporation that does something you despise or fear, fit in what you care about in the evenings or on weekends if you're lucky, live somewhere you dislike and have no larger social community because you live in a random subdivision, watch the 1% rack up the money while living in style and comfort that you'll never know, and pray that you die suddenly around 65 because you'll never be able to afford fancy medical care or retirement....And that's the middle class, college-educated option. Screwing around working low-paying jobs and living near your friends, doing art, avoiding the ideological buy-in because you're not emotionally invested in your work at Awful Widgets...that's not so bad.

We as a society are really taught to hate pleasure (unless it's very expensive) and to defer gratification even when it doesn't make sense. We're taught to revere "hard work" even if that hard work is for awful, immiserating, immoral ends. We're taught that Real Americans take their recreation through competition - watching major league sports and Big! Successful! entertainers and the creepiest, meanest kind of porn, and anything else is self-indulgence and waste.

And we're taught that our contribution to society is fucking financial all the time - like Kwine above talking about how hipsters are bad because they don't maximize their income and hence pay the maximum amount of taxes into the public coffers. Artists are useless, eh? Musicians are useless, people who staff community centers and agitate for parks and bike lanes are useless, people who try to hold the cops accountable are useless, people who distribute free food are useless....all fucking useless because we're not adding dollar value to the state.

Jesus, I'd rather have a waxed mustache.

Now, I'm no fan of the beats, but I find myself thinking of this:

"I'm addressing you.
Are you going to let our emotional life be run by Time Magazine?
I'm obsessed by Time Magazine.
I read it every week.
Its cover stares at me every time I slink past the corner candystore.
I read it in the basement of the Berkeley Public Library.
It's always telling me about responsibility. Businessmen are serious. Movie
producers are serious. Everybody's serious but me.
It occurs to me that I am America.
I am talking to myself again. "
posted by Frowner at 1:31 PM on December 19, 2011 [19 favorites]


And I add, Serious Living Under Capitalism changes you - you get emotionally involved with your work in middle management at Dreary Industries, Life Insurance Division, and you find yourself yelling at subordinates because their body piercings go against the dress code or their kid got sick at the last minute, and you really believe that they are being 'unprofessional' and need to shape up. You really believe it, because the places you live and the people you spend time with change you. And you're living out in the middle of nowhere with few friends to provide countervailing norms, no political channels because you have no union and no neighborhood groups that aren't fucked up and your churches are extremely casual connections, so you take your beliefs from work. And work - just like mefites are constantly reminding each other about HR - is never on your side.
posted by Frowner at 1:38 PM on December 19, 2011 [9 favorites]


I'm of the hipster generation so I don't if I'm reaching into an unsourced post-WWII dreamtime to reach this conclusion or what, but I feel like there was this heavily-promoted agreement in the past in North America whereby anyone who wanted to could receive 'security' in exchange for sandpapering off the most inconvenient/flamboyant/absurd contours of their personality. But since it's becoming increasingly apparent with the rise of exploitative mortgages and the growing hostility toward the idea of pensions that the security may not actually be as advertised, many of my peers seem, justifiably, to be asking themselves whether the ante is just too high. Different people value their [flamboyance/fun] in different ways.

There's a lot of factionalism based on which strategy people have pinned their hopes on, and a lot of peacocking about the relative value of life paths going on either side of the hipster divide because it's tenuous and scary for just about everybody and posturing can be sharply reassuring. People who are ostentatious about how they're not hipsters and how they "work for a living", etc., are among the most egregious self-broadcasters I've ever met. You'd almost say it was an affected fashion.

I don't mean specifically to advocate for dropping out, but that's why I try not to do it myself. However, if your only present opportunity for economic participation in society is working at a sandwich counter, and if you've rigged it so you can be temporarily happier working at the sandwich counter with a weird pompadour and a fun bikepolo boozeup to go to in the evening, then... good for you?

on preview, Frowner said it better above.

Also: I always felt like 'irony' in most of its deployments is worn as a mask to lessen the vulnerability that comes from admitting one is sincerely into something. I've been to a handful of parties where everyone has been getting down to Grace Jones or similar on the stereo and through the haze of excitement it sure didn't seem like the dancing was happening because of the wry implications the act would have on the cinematic life-narrative of the participants, but because it's fun music with a good beat that was specifically engineered to be danced to. Same with wearing a ludicrous prop out in public, it's transgressive enough an act to squeeze out a cheap thrill without getting you into any serious trouble or stepping on anybody's toes, and depending on where you're at in your life a cheap thrill can be better than none at all. Claiming these kind of things are done in the name of 'irony' is a bloodless business-English dismissal for a vertex of appreciation that comes from a place of personal joy and fear and experience and identity and culture and blah blah blah, all of which is very complicated and idiosyncratic and most of all very boring to anyone who isn't taking a survey about it. I don't necessarily want to tell a stranger WHY I like listening to the Bob Dylan christmas record, you know, and it's as much for their sake as it is for mine. Want me to tell you about the dream I had last night too? "I like that ironically" is a polite plea to change the subject, probably a lot more frequently than we realize.
posted by metaman livingblog at 1:40 PM on December 19, 2011 [11 favorites]


Oy vey Frowner.

I'm 40 years old but would probably be described as at least a sort-of hipster by many people. Double income no kids, no car for the last 12 years, live downtown in an old converted office building and I work as an art director.

Wearing mustache wax and riding an impractical bike or an anachronistic hat doesn't make one an artist or a pillar of human goodness or a better person than someone who doesn't do these things. Hell, I work in advertising and have seen over-the-top hipsters in tattoos and A-Team t-shirts working on direct mail pieces for Citibank credit cards.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 1:42 PM on December 19, 2011 [5 favorites]


Would it make you happier, jeff-o-matic, if we all just put on some pleated khakis?
posted by Threeway Handshake at 1:46 PM on December 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Pleated khakis would be totally rad at the Wavves show. In an ironic way.

I wear jeans to work, t-shirts in the summer and sweaters in the winter. I don't even own a suit right now. As I said up thread, hipsters are OK with me. I get a kick out of seeing them.

But it just seems like a lot of work.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 1:51 PM on December 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


I have never read anything that made me want to spend the next 48 hours playing crummy Flash games in my underwear as much as this did.

I have been to that place and I recommend against visiting.
posted by Kwine at 1:58 PM on December 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't know what it does to everyone's arguments, but I know a lot of people that self identify as hipsters. And also get identified by other people as hipsters. Are probably close to the prototypical ideal of hipsters, even. At least half of them also work at Microsoft, though.
posted by jacalata at 1:58 PM on December 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


If we're almost entirely a population of well-educated young people, often thanks to the efforts of, say, our parents who lived a more conventional lifestyle to get us there--but we refuse to buy into the same system and instead propose to live to them what looks like a long bohemian adolescence, is it any wonder that people are resentful? That we receive the force of their ire and a lot of eye-rolling?

I mean, seriously, if your lifestyle rejects the working values and sexual values and lifestyle values of another population, don't be surprised if people say, "Hey, kids, get off my lawn."


That explains why old people might hate hipsters, but all the old people I know wouldn't be able to tell the difference between a hipster and non-hipster. Most of the hipster-hate comes from people in the same age bracket, people who by nature of how old they are are just as likely to buy into a long extended adolescence as their hipster counterparts.
posted by 23skidoo at 1:59 PM on December 19, 2011


To me the word "hipster" has become synonymous with "one who tries too hard". But I am from the 90s, so ymmv.


It's the narcissism of small differences. The whole point about the people one calls "hipsters" is that they are just a few degrees different from you. They are like an exaggerated version or a caricature of everything you see as potentially cool about yourself--but somehow rendered false and inauthentic.



The "tries too hard" (and has an obsession with the style rather than the substance of being a hipster, whatever that may be - suffice it to say that said substance is heterogenous, not easily defined) may be the demarcation criterion of a "hipster" as opposed to a hipster. (Just as there once were hippies, which I'm old enough to remember, but now there are "hippies", who ape only the style (and the more fuzz-brained aspects of that era's thought), while the original hippies, at least those who didn't burn out or sell out, have long since moved on to other expressions of their interests and authenticity. Which is why, even as I've long considered myself vaguely a hippie, in sympathy with what I witnessed back then, I often find myself shaking my head, thinking and/or muttering, "fuckin' hippies...") Thus, jeff-o-matic's fictitious exemplar would be a "hipster", not a hipster.

I had a neighbour in San Francisco in the late 90's who, besides having many of the stylistic markers of hipsterdom (the ostentatiously post-modern raid-the-past clothing pastiche being most prominent), had adopted a highly restricted set of catchphrases, equally annoying and amusing, which he applied frequently and indiscriminately to conversational interactions. The one I remember most was "Good call!" as an expression of approval of something someone said. It didn't matter if the thing you'd said didn't involve making a judgement call of any sort - that was his chosen and only means of expressing approval. The first time he used it in response to something I said I didn't realize that this was one of his verbal tics, and so I was puzzled, and racked my brains trying to figure out how "good call" even remotely applied to what I'd said. I eventually became mildly concerned for his future ability to articulate his thoughts should this habit become really entrenched. But these linguistic mannerisms apparently were an essential part of his hipster persona. (Or should I say his "hipster" persona.)

It reminded me of a more extreme example related to me by some friends at Berklee during my time there: They were from the DC area and had been in a band there which had an extremely talented but increasingly unreliable lead singer, this black kid Michael, maybe 15, from the inner city. He had one catchphrase that was truly all-purpose: "Solid, man! You be awright!"

Hey, Michael, nice threads! - "Solid, man! You be awright!"

How about we do this song next? - "Solid, man! You be awright!"

Man, Michael, that's the fifth time you screwed up that chorus! - "Solid, man! You be awright!"

Michael, you were an hour late for rehearsal AGAIN… - "Solid, man! You be awright!"


BTW, blaming hipsters for gentrification is a classic correlation-causation fallacy.
posted by Philofacts at 2:02 PM on December 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


Bohemia is different in each generation, and it's always modulated by the current conditions of capitalism. In other words, right now there simply aren't that many non-sucky jobs if you're not from the genuine upper middle class and/or you don't want to go the fancy MBA route. (As much as we all know one person who is the exception - in general, the economy is shitty right now and it's been getting shittier and more precarious since the nineties. Anyone remember that zine Temp Slave?) If you're not going to have health insurance from work anyway, and you're not going to make decent money anyway, and you're going to have to move to an "Edge City" to work for Dreary Industries if you want to make over $25,000 a year, and your possibilities for career advancement are pretty much a lateral move to Awful Widgets, Inc or maybe a master's in Dodgy Financial Transactions...hey, it makes a lot more sense to have a prolonged adolescence. Why not live in the city and have no money and be happy for as long as your health holds out?

You seem to be arguing under the assumption that I'm not a Bob Blackian-anarchist hipster leftist who works from home in an artistic profession largely so she can dye her hair funny colors.

However, I don't think I'm fundamentally a better person than those of my generation or the generations before me for making those choices--and if I did, I certainly wouldn't be surprised if they were threatened by me. Hell, I'm not surprised when they are, now.

Now give me back my Ginsberg, you hipster.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 2:06 PM on December 19, 2011


man thanks metafilter for making me realize i'm actually an aspirational lower-middle-class guy from the woods who hates everybody no matter whether i'm authentically wondering if i'm going to die 1000ft up a tunnel or hipsterishly working from home for $CORPORATION so i can sell my art at a loss without fear.

im sure that this is not a new concept but the fact that these subcult trappings have no given class or political outlook signifier makes it real hard to talk about "hipsters" in certain senses.

i am trying to Serious Living under Capitalizm so i can afford healthcare stuff and it's not so bad except that it's awful and i think about the insurrection like daily
posted by beefetish at 2:17 PM on December 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


Hipsters are just rebranded Bohemians
posted by jet_manifesto at 3:25 PM on December 19, 2011


I detest PBR, jeez even French bear beats it, well competitively bad anyways.
Anyone ever found a good IPA in England or France? Or anywhere in Europe outside Belgium and the Netherlands? I'm thinking like Stone Ruination IPA good.
posted by jeffburdges at 3:32 PM on December 19, 2011


Hipsters are just rebranded Bohemians

Oh god no, this is not true. Bohemians were fun and carefree.
posted by fshgrl at 3:42 PM on December 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Artists are useless, eh? Musicians are useless, people who staff community centers and agitate for parks and bike lanes are useless, people who try to hold the cops accountable are useless, people who distribute free food are useless....all fucking useless because we're not adding dollar value to the state.

I think that a hipster is someone who sacrifices economic opportunity to maximize time spent on things that aren't valuable. I'm cool with it if you think that's a bad definition of hipster, but those are the people I'm talking about. If you are an awesome artist, then that is valuable, so you aren't a hipster. If you are sort of a crappy artist, then you should think about trying something else, and a nice thing about spending that time maximizing your income is that you then get to fund awesome artists, in addition to other valuable things.

If you want to hold the cops accountable, find a way to make more money and send it to Glenn Greenwald. He's a professional holding-cop-accountable person and he's better at it than you are. And so on and so forth. Every valuable cause, including causes as abstract as creating great art, would rather have your dollar than your time, unless you're really good at something the cause needs, in which case, knock yourself out.

When I write on this site that money tracks value but it isn't value, I'm aiming the 'but it isn't value' at finance. Now I am writing that money tracks value but it isn't value and aiming 'money tracks value' at hipsters.
posted by Kwine at 3:42 PM on December 19, 2011


kwine so basically unless you have the money to fund a whatever you should toil in the bowels of whateverco to fund whomever does? ugggghggghhhhh
posted by beefetish at 4:09 PM on December 19, 2011


i mean seriously thats one step from declaring aesthetic pursuits you don't like/understand useless and wondering about when we'll get BachelorChow(tm) or EatinSlurry(tm) to efficientize the hateful human flesh practice of Eating
posted by beefetish at 4:10 PM on December 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


asnider: "I won't argue with you about the quality of PBR (though, I personally don't like it), but it won the blue ribbon award more than 100 years ago. I think it's safe to say that the recipe may have changed since then."

It won a Gold Medal at the 2006 Great American Beer Festival.

But it is apparently worse than French bear, whatever that is.
posted by danny the boy at 6:06 PM on December 19, 2011



If you want to hold the cops accountable, find a way to make more money and send it to Glenn Greenwald. He's a professional holding-cop-accountable person and he's better at it than you are. And so on and so forth. Every valuable cause, including causes as abstract as creating great art, would rather have your dollar than your time, unless you're really good at something the cause needs, in which case, knock yourself out.


No. This is a fucking terrible statement, because it is fundamentally wrong about how police accountability works. Glenn Greenwald cannot - no matter how much he tries and no matter how much influence he wields - deal with every single police injustice that's happening on the ground right now. He doesn't have the hours in the day. The type of national policy that we'd need to have substantial changes in policing enacted centrally....the mind boggles. And police policy is only as good as watchdog groups make it.

I'm working (in a minor way) to support this young woman, Cece McDonald, who is up on murder charges because someone in her group of friends stabbed the white supremacist who - along with his friends - violently assaulted her while he was drunk. The prosecutor has just this year dropped charges in two cases where someone fatally stabbed their assailant to save their own lives, but he's going after Cece aggressively, probably because she is black, poor, transgender and on disability. This has meant pressuring the court to drop her bail to merely very high from astronomical and disproportionate, then fund-raising to get the bail. It has meant calling and faxing the jail to stop the violent harassment she was experiencing from the guards and get her medical treatment for her injuries from the assault by the white supremacists. It has meant raising money for her court costs and to keep a roof over her head while she is under house arrest. It has meant endless legal and publicity work.

Now, if Glenn Greenwald got interested in this case and publicized it, perhaps something would happen - but does GG want to hang his hat on this difficult case, where you have to explain race and transgender stuff over and over, and where the person involved is everything mainstream America loves to hate on? Probably not, for one thing, and even if he did, is he ready to take on the other parallel cases happening across the country?

If you can get Glenn Greenwald to Minneapolis for Cece's surprise court date tomorrow morning, by all means do so. Hey, I'll give you five dollars - after all, if I give money to GG, he will fix things, right?

Or is it that he will maybe fix things someday, at which point Cece will be in prison suffering god knows what?

("...I'll send all the money you ask for, but don't ask me to come on along", I guess.)
posted by Frowner at 6:16 PM on December 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


Hrmph. It seems like the use of "hipster" has expanded to the point where its overapplication makes certain instances dead easy to defend. Disenfranchised youth? Valuing things other than the economic engine? Earnestly enjoying stuff? None of that rankles anybody (well, ok, some people have a real problem with earnestness).

I thought there was an essential element of thoughtless appropriation hinting at mockery. I bought a new Atari t-shirt and wore it proudly because, goddamn, there was a whole cross-border trip in my childhood centering around picking up that 2600. It's significant to me. Someone wearing the shirt not knowing what it's about, or worse, mocking it, is the issue, is it not? Not just grar, young people having fun. Except that I guess the term is so widely applied, yphf catch the label, too. (FWIW, I don't care if people mock the 2600 -- it's just the example that came to mind)

There are a lot of very angry people out there. People stuck in shitty circumstances. It's pretty easy to see how that sometimes finds as focus others who seem to be having a laugh at everything, including or especially at taking life seriously. As a sometime unicyclist, I get this random anger (directed at me). As a guy who traded in a (big, beautiful, blond) mohawk for a suit (with a very short overlap period) I get the feeling that I could be, should be, having more fun. Maybe if things were shittier I'd be yelling at the kids on my lawn, too. But that's all this seems to be.

Also, on the subject of mustaches, thank you Movember. I can grow any stache I please, including the monster handlebar I sported this year. Waxed? Hells ya. Coming in 2012.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 6:37 PM on December 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


This is an interesting thread. I always thought hipsters were people who intentionally wore stuff today that used to be considered uncool in the 80s. If you saw the glasses I wore, the clothes my mom bought, and what my hair looked like when I was twelve, you'd think I was from now and had somehow travelled back in time.

And frankly, I liked my fake mother-of-pearl snap buttons. Except when it was cold.
posted by 4ster at 7:42 PM on December 19, 2011


right now there simply aren't that many non-sucky jobs if you're not from the genuine upper middle class and/or you don't want to go the fancy MBA route.

Or software. I work for a large American company and we're having a tough time finding people. We pay well and we're not slave drivers. (this is just one man's anecdote)
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 10:34 PM on December 19, 2011


Hipsters, they are the new ethnics - a minority everyone can make fun of!

What do you call a half dozen hipsters buried up to their necks in sand?
Not enough sand.
posted by Xoebe at 8:54 AM on December 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


How many hipsters does it take to screw in a lightbulb?

Fixie Williamsburg moustache wax artisanal cheese yarn art PBR mashup tumblr
posted by Copronymus at 9:21 AM on December 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


How many hipsters does it take to screw in a lightbulb?

Fixie Williamsburg moustache wax artisanal cheese yarn art PBR mashup tumblr


They burned their hands because they tried it before it was cool.
posted by 4ster at 12:05 PM on December 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


No. This is a fucking terrible statement, because it is fundamentally wrong about how police accountability works. Glenn Greenwald cannot - no matter how much he tries and no matter how much influence he wields - deal with every single police injustice that's happening on the ground right now. He doesn't have the hours in the day. The type of national policy that we'd need to have substantial changes in policing enacted centrally....the mind boggles. And police policy is only as good as watchdog groups make it.

Also, I'm glad no one said to Glenn Greenwald, "Stick to your real job and leave that stuff to [whoever the Glenn Greenwald of the time would have been]" - if we always said that, there would be no Glenn Greenwalds.
posted by naoko at 6:37 PM on December 20, 2011


I think the cartoon in the first link of the FPP has it pretty much right that "hipster" means someone who is "cooler than you"

You got that cartoon backwards. The person calling the name is obviously the someone who thinks they are cooler than the person they are calling the name.

And the complaint that they dress in a way that they want to be seen, that's just called fashion. That has been around for a long time, and every single person does it. If you claim that you don't dress the way you want to be sen, I'm sure can clothes for you to wear that you'll refuse, based solely on the fact that you don't want someone to see you wear them.
posted by BurnChao at 8:08 AM on December 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


« Older My sphincter has not yet unclenched.   |   Let it Snow Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



Post