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

Josh Becker reacts to Douglas Haddow's polemic on hipsters: "Condemning hipsters and their lifestyle choices is just as big an oversimplification...as, say, wearing a symbol of Palestinian solidarity as a fashion accessory."

Although we've posted dozens of articles on economics, politics and ecology in the past year, the piece that has garnered the most attention is all about hipsters. Here's another take from Josh Becker at nyulocal.com.

This Adbusters article from July, which signifies hipsters as “the dead end of Western civilization,” apparently still resonates with the Youth of Today, because college kids keep writing about it. Like this Smith College student who entitled her piece “Pop Rocks and Coke,” which is either an allusion to the explosive fashions at Urban Outfitters or, you know, a reference to cocaine. Because that’s what hipsters do! Cocaine and fashion.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Originally posted at Jess and Josh Talk About Stuff

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68 comments on the article “The Very Last Thing You’ll Ever Need to Read About Hipsters”

Displaying 31 - 40 of 68

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Anonymous

Hip. One who is overconcerned with being hip is generally overconcerned with other's perceptions of one's status/image... the same is true for the conservative church-goers, though. You see, it's important to label people and get them to brand themselves, so they can be marketed to effectively. The same product goes into a dozen different packages... Advertising IS propaganda - the most obvious kind of propaganda, but also the most saturating. By the way, if you use Mozilla with NoScipt, you can avoid ever viewing online ads again... Sorry, but I do like it. No doubt it will simply lead to more content-embedded advertising, as is the case in product placement in movies and TV shows, but every little bit helps.

Anonymous

Hip. One who is overconcerned with being hip is generally overconcerned with other's perceptions of one's status/image... the same is true for the conservative church-goers, though. You see, it's important to label people and get them to brand themselves, so they can be marketed to effectively. The same product goes into a dozen different packages... Advertising IS propaganda - the most obvious kind of propaganda, but also the most saturating. By the way, if you use Mozilla with NoScipt, you can avoid ever viewing online ads again... Sorry, but I do like it. No doubt it will simply lead to more content-embedded advertising, as is the case in product placement in movies and TV shows, but every little bit helps.

vitor.

there are more important things that could be discussed instead of this silly non sense. you're starting to lose me, adbusters.

vitor.

there are more important things that could be discussed instead of this silly non sense. you're starting to lose me, adbusters.

oneironaught

What gets me about this social commentary is the very act of cultural auto-criticism, (which this is) or continuous self-reflection about status, imagery, and the perceptions of others concerning ourselves. it is so prominent that it forms a phonological loop that parallels hipsterdom or even cool for that matter; its an ironic declaration of unchecked narcissism. Farewell to the nonchalantly unconcerned. I think that Haddow caught on to something important, but he wasn't explicit. When the thing that is 'new' has nothing but referential value, it is hollow, deprived of substance. Perched headlong on the edge of boredom, we feign paroxysms over a meaning we blind ourselves to. Once you label me you negate me. Kierkergaard A witty saying proves nothing. Voltaire Jim

oneironaught

What gets me about this social commentary is the very act of cultural auto-criticism, (which this is) or continuous self-reflection about status, imagery, and the perceptions of others concerning ourselves. it is so prominent that it forms a phonological loop that parallels hipsterdom or even cool for that matter; its an ironic declaration of unchecked narcissism. Farewell to the nonchalantly unconcerned. I think that Haddow caught on to something important, but he wasn't explicit. When the thing that is 'new' has nothing but referential value, it is hollow, deprived of substance. Perched headlong on the edge of boredom, we feign paroxysms over a meaning we blind ourselves to. Once you label me you negate me. Kierkergaard A witty saying proves nothing. Voltaire Jim

Dan Savage

I edit a Seattle magazine "The Stranger" and blog "Slog" that caters to hipsters. We touch all the bases, from skateboarding to gay rights to art and so on. And we do it with lots of snark. I have coined words for eating rectums, made fun of an obese woman who accidentally killed her child, supported the invasion of Iraq by declaring an Iraq war to be good for Iraqi children. All of this behavior, and much more of the same, was applauded by my readers. Antone who criticizes me online is routinely shouted down. My readers have said that "everything and everyone is fair game for entertainment." They are hipsters; they wear hipster uniforms and part of that uniform is an ironic snarky attitude. But this I don't get: The tattoos and the piercing. Styles change. Would anyone want to wear the same shirt every day for their entire life? Yet hipsters get tattoos on their necks and hands and fingers where they can't be hidden by clothing; and as the years pass and the tats fade and the design merges into an ugly blob they must live with it. Didn't they ever notice how ugly old tats were on other people before making that commitment? Are Hipsters stupid? Superficial? I think the original article answers those questions.

Dan Savage

I edit a Seattle magazine "The Stranger" and blog "Slog" that caters to hipsters. We touch all the bases, from skateboarding to gay rights to art and so on. And we do it with lots of snark. I have coined words for eating rectums, made fun of an obese woman who accidentally killed her child, supported the invasion of Iraq by declaring an Iraq war to be good for Iraqi children. All of this behavior, and much more of the same, was applauded by my readers. Antone who criticizes me online is routinely shouted down. My readers have said that "everything and everyone is fair game for entertainment." They are hipsters; they wear hipster uniforms and part of that uniform is an ironic snarky attitude. But this I don't get: The tattoos and the piercing. Styles change. Would anyone want to wear the same shirt every day for their entire life? Yet hipsters get tattoos on their necks and hands and fingers where they can't be hidden by clothing; and as the years pass and the tats fade and the design merges into an ugly blob they must live with it. Didn't they ever notice how ugly old tats were on other people before making that commitment? Are Hipsters stupid? Superficial? I think the original article answers those questions.

Anastasia Silva

Can't just about anything and everything be made into a fashion accessory these days anyway? Isn't it just a simple means of getting attention? What I don't understand is that, with all the maligning of hipsters, did anyone ever question why the Apple logo is on the Brand America T-shirt? Without Apple computers, I doubt that any of these lovely logos and designs--for web, magazine stories, for Blackspot shoes, for the Brand America T-shirt, for television, for film, for anything--could have been produced if not for Apple computers. As easy as it may be to criticize, if we're to look at it objectively...And who among you can honestly say that while you're busy being so perfect by way of making green choices, caring for the planet, buying nothing, consuming less, helping the poor, the list goes on...that you're putting yourselves forward as the next Mother Teresa or Ghandi or whoever else? Wasn't it Ayn Rand who commented to the effect that people usually get involved in acts of altruism so that they can feel good about themselves, first and foremost? That's not to say that's not a good reason to perform acts of altruism, but if you or I or anyone were to look at things in a less subjective way, wouldn't the majority of us come up with the same answer? The high and mighty high road is great for those who like to hide under the self-righteous guise or some other guise--and there are a lot of those out there--but what's really wrong with admitting that you're doing something good because it makes you feel good, or that you're using an Apple computer even though you'd like to think of yourself as a very concerned, non-consumerist, because you want to design cool shit? I mean, honestly, fun isn't reserved for the hipsters and the rich and the self-righteous just because they have access to a plethora of things and because they belong to one or another organization or because they belong to some clique or group or because they have some connection or many connections that can help them.

Anastasia Silva

Can't just about anything and everything be made into a fashion accessory these days anyway? Isn't it just a simple means of getting attention? What I don't understand is that, with all the maligning of hipsters, did anyone ever question why the Apple logo is on the Brand America T-shirt? Without Apple computers, I doubt that any of these lovely logos and designs--for web, magazine stories, for Blackspot shoes, for the Brand America T-shirt, for television, for film, for anything--could have been produced if not for Apple computers. As easy as it may be to criticize, if we're to look at it objectively...And who among you can honestly say that while you're busy being so perfect by way of making green choices, caring for the planet, buying nothing, consuming less, helping the poor, the list goes on...that you're putting yourselves forward as the next Mother Teresa or Ghandi or whoever else? Wasn't it Ayn Rand who commented to the effect that people usually get involved in acts of altruism so that they can feel good about themselves, first and foremost? That's not to say that's not a good reason to perform acts of altruism, but if you or I or anyone were to look at things in a less subjective way, wouldn't the majority of us come up with the same answer? The high and mighty high road is great for those who like to hide under the self-righteous guise or some other guise--and there are a lot of those out there--but what's really wrong with admitting that you're doing something good because it makes you feel good, or that you're using an Apple computer even though you'd like to think of yourself as a very concerned, non-consumerist, because you want to design cool shit? I mean, honestly, fun isn't reserved for the hipsters and the rich and the self-righteous just because they have access to a plethora of things and because they belong to one or another organization or because they belong to some clique or group or because they have some connection or many connections that can help them.

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