The Hipster Culture The coolness of New York is at a dangerous risk. What’s the danger? The answer is simple, Hipsters. Often referred to as bored, slacker trust-fund kids, the Hipster is a noticeably present subculture in New York City. Before coming to New York from a small college town in Texas, I had never even heard of these “hipsters. ” From my first impression, they seemed to try so hard to be unique and “cool” by their own definition, which, for the most part, was an accurate assumption.
I see now, after observing them for quite some time, that the hipster’s look and lifestyle is a backlash to the mainstream and, for partially that reason, mainstream doesn’t like them (causing what seems to be a war that the hipster will eventually lose). The hipster culture looks like a combination of a counter-culture and a mixture of different cultures at the same time. By setting themselves apart from everyone else as a result of looking cool, or “deck” as they would say, they also seem to inherit a more snobbish and obnoxious demeanor as a group from the most subjective topics, like clothing and music.
This, along with the hipsters need to exemplify irony and apathy towards everything they do, seems to cause many people outside of this culture to despise them. Though they ironically have the term, hip, in their subculture name, they have become anything but that; this is a telltale sign that they won’t be around much longer, and the people of New York won’t miss them but, in fact, will welcome their downfall. Surprisingly, the hipster, or at least the term, was founded in the early 1940’s.
According to Dan Fletcher, who wrote the Time magazine article, “Brief History of Hipsters,” the term came “after the jazz age, when hip arose to describe aficionados of the growing scene. ” Gradually, the people who fit the description were called hipsters. This explains a lot about the hipsters’ affiliation with music because they’ve always been affiliated with music since their emergence early on. Gradually, they would grow to emulate other subcultures of the time periods that they thought were ‘hip. ’ At the early stages of the hipster subculture, the war was ending, or about to end.
Fletcher adds that this had an effect the on hipster movement. Because they had a lack of a definition, the hipsters sought other art forms to fulfill that need. They turned to literary poets of the time to help them. Norman Mailer, the eventual co-founder of The Village Voice, was a big influence, painting the hipsters as “American existentialists, living a life surrounded by death – annihilated by atomic war or strangled by conformity – and electing instead to ‘divorce oneself from society, to exist without roots, to set out on that uncharted journey into the rebellious imperatives of the self’” (Fletcher).
With the current exception of the atomic war event, this creed describes the current hipster subculture well. The hipsters were, at first, incredibly interesting because they didn’t seem to realize or even care what they look like or what other people think. After reading this creed, it explains that the hipsters have a fascination and an affinity to be “unique” and the anything “Indy” scene. By engulfing themselves with independent genres in various facets of different cultures, one could essentially assume as to their distaste for the popular and the general attitude they have towards everything.
They wanted to be separate from everyone else and they wanted individuality; they would not be able to achieve this by being attached to things that were popular to the mainstream. Now, this ideology seems to slowly being dying out. They seem somewhat contradictory too because the hipsters could be classified as a group, which was previously not possible before, and it was what they were completely against. They are also starting to have a closer relationship to the mainstream by being more noticeable than ever before, which was also something they didn’t want previously.
Regardless of their efforts, they seem to be more attracting the mainstream whether they want it to or not. If I were to have read this quote in middle school, (I would have first looked up existentialist because I didn’t know what that meant) I would think that this described the Emo kids perfectly (with the exception of the atomic bomb part of course). As early as middle school, I knew of kids who were into the emo scene. They tried to portray their life as dominated by their music, feelings, and the black clothing they wore every day.
They were easily noticed, always sitting with each other in the cafeteria, sneaking headphones in their ears and just tuning out, not even caring what people thought of them. No one tried to pay any attention to them; everyone just left them alone for the most part. I noticed though that, when I came into high school, other kids who were not emos by heart, started dressing like them and listening to their music. The emo, at least the style, became popular. By the time I was a senior in high school, there wasn’t one emo kid to be found.
The emo subculture seemed to be based off of the idea of rejecting social norms to become unique through the music they listened to and what they wore to distinguish themselves against the mainstream. Based off what I could see, this subculture died out because of the surge in popularity; the emo became something that it tried so hard not to be. Because the emo’s loved their culture, they tried to stop the natural progression of the mainstream clinging onto their culture by trying to look unnaturally unique and “out there,” hoping that the mainstream will not glance over them.
However, if the culture looks intriguing enough, the culture will eventually make its way into the mainstream. This is one reason why I believe the hipster will eventually die out; they are essentially facing the same problems the emo’s did. Fletcher goes on to say that after the first group of hipsters came and went, it did not really emerge again until the word “was reborn in the early ‘90’s, used again to describe a generation of middle-class youths interested in an alternative art and music scene. This time, just as the early hipster of the ‘40s borrowed styles from other subcultures of the period, they borrowed the current trends (but this time, they tried to do so before they become popular), but also added on to their style by adopting other popular trends from the past. This style congestion is what the modern hipster looks more like now. How is it possible to spot a hipster? The hipster is one of those subcultures that are hard to nail down. It could refer to any number of bands, people or situations.
According to Robert Lanham’s satirical guide, The Hipster Handbook, a hipster is defined as “One who possesses tastes, social attitudes, and opinions deemed cool by the cool…The hipster walks among the masses in daily life but is not a part of them and shuns or reduces to kitsch anything held dear by the mainstream” (Lanham 1). By this definition, a hipster could be almost anyone. In terms of looks, it’s hard to give an exact answer. Also, forget about asking someone if they are a hipster; that’s the one rule in the hipster culture, never admitting to being one.
Thankfully, Lanham gives eleven signs to look for when identifying a hipster. Among them are attending (or having attended) a liberal arts school with no focus on sports, using the term “postmodern”, carrying a shoulder-strap messenger bag, wearing horn-rimmed glasses, not washing hair/emphasizing cowlicks, and having only one Republican friend (who is always referred to as your “one Republican friend”). Hipster used to be a term to describe how cool someone was, but it now has a negative connotation, so that is a reason why one will never admit to being a hipster.
Julia Pelvin, a writer for The Huffington Post, also mentions in an article, titled “Who’s a Hipster,” that the “whole point of hipsters is that they avoid labels and being labeled. However, they all dress the same and act the same and conform in their non-conformity” to an “iconic carefully created sloppy vintage look” (Pelvin). To paraphrase the former Supreme Court Justice Potter Roberts quote on pornography to fit more for the hipster culture, “[hipsters are] hard to define, but I know [one] when I see [one]. A lot of what hipsters are all about is what they look like.
One thing I see that hipsters tend to have in common is their uniqueness, clothing wise, by taking other trends and styles (old and present) and fusing them together to form their own type of fashion. This means that they can (and they will) wear anything. As an example, they will wear an entire vintage wardrobe from thrift stores, but they’ll also be wearing something obscenely expensive, like a $400 pair of sunglasses or shoes. Oftentimes, even though they may have money, they also sometimes choose to look like hobos or mountain men (i. . flanel). They seem to choose to wear a combination of these different styles for the sake of being ironic. Irony seems to be something that most hipsters want to portray in their style, as a result wanting to accentuate their coolness and separating themselves from the mainstream even more. For example, if a hipster wore a t-shirt featuring his favorite TV show as a kid, even though it would seem embarrassing to do this now, they are in essence saying, “Man, isn’t it so ironic that I, a cool person, would wear such a geeky shirt? Let’s say that the tv-show was Thundercats, a popular show in the 80’s. If a child of the 80’s wore a vintage t-shirt of this show today, the show would have enough obscurity enough that wearing it would be ironic and hence, cool. Another example could be the hipster who wears a pink shirt. Obviously, a straight hipster is comfortable enough in their sexuality to wear it, even though it is a feminine color. So by expressing their ability to be comfortable with the shirt, their actual aim is to exude their manliness.
It is through irony that the hipster portrays their manliness, through a feminine colored t-shirt. Therefore, the hipsters use irony as a way to get away with wearing and participating in things that are considered un-cool and still be cool. This self-aware irony makes this person cooler, or in effect, makes the item cooler, or at least the hipster thinks. Doing this was dangerous though because by separating themselves more from the mainstream, the more the mainstream has begun to take notice and bring this hipster subculture to the spotlight.
They have lit the flame to their own demise. The hipster “uniqueness” is what gives them commonality amongst themselves. Though they may claim to have originality, especially in looks, their style is a combination of other styles. Christian Lorentzen, a columnist for Time Out New York who wrote “Why the Hipster Must Die” notes that “hipsterism fetishizes the authentic and regurgitates it with a winking inauthenticity. Basically, the hipsters leeches out the significant elements about each culture’s style, their authenticity, and wear it as a fashion statement, in effect popularizing the fashion instead of representing the culture or its possible movement it may have represented in any significant way; again, usually the hipster does this just to be ironic and, by doing so, they take away its coolness. Lorentzen has noticed, as have I, that the hipsters are not prejudiced against any style from previous movements; they have taken everything from “fringe movements of the postwar era–Beat, hippie, punk, even grunge. Not just musical style, they borrow even from other, bizarre subculture trends, like vaudeville, pirates, and the gay culture (Lorentzen). From this, it’s seems that the hipsters want to assimilate every style they possibly can into something they can call their own. This so-called style is an over reactive attempt to maintain the “unique” factor. This collage effect borders the ridiculous; it’s not something that comes natural, it looks consistently forced, and it becomes harder to appreciate.
Also not uncommon among male hipsters is the tendency to sport unusual bushy facial hair in forms that the general population would typically never do, also for the sake of irony. The hairstyles also vary, depending on what other style or subculture or music they want to emulate. Everything they construct in their appearance is meant to feed off the coolness of others while having an ‘I don’t care’ attitude, so they can look even cooler, like the bad boy types in TV shows, much like the Fonz in Happy Days.
Though these characters may be loved on a TV show, they are only liked because they were written in the show with that intention. In real life, most people do not like this person who constantly tries to look cool while also pretending not to care if he looks cool or not. Also, with the bad boy dress comes the bad boy attitude. The hipster has developed their attitude to reflect what they are doing, usually acting as pretentious snobs who feel like they know more than you about a certain subjective topic (music and style especially) while you just stand there in awe of how much of a jerk they are.
Thomas H. Fick explains this phenomenon by literary historical transformation. In his article “The Hipster, the Hero and the Psychic Frontier In One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest”, Fick examines literary examples of hipsters and how they have changed over time. He writes, “The modern [hipster] invests his energy in disruption rather than flight: he must be a fighter, not for the sake of violence or of winning permanent victories but for the clearer distinctions and hence greater freedom that conflict engenders” (Fick 19).
He explains hipsters as feeling as though they are stuck in a particular situation; a former generation of hipsters in literature tried to physically leave these situations while the new generation, having realized the lack of success with the previous one, tries to escape by means of conflict. This shows a parallel to actual (nonliterary) hipsters which can explain their tendencies to always argue, as well as their somewhat pompous nature (which is probably a direct result of having won many of these arguments).
For far too long, these hipsters have been scrutinizing everyone else’s styles and tastes. However, it all eventually comes full circle with the death of this subculture. Areas with a great amount of hipsters will be thankful when they all disappear because they’ll be glad once these arrogant jerks and their fad are gone. A problem with this hipster “style” is that, because they are so “unique,” people will eventually imitate and parody the hipster culture.
The hipster will become a big joke, everyone will know who they are (because they’ll become mainstream) and eventually they will lose their uniqueness when others join in; they will lose the whole purpose of being hipsters if other people want to act like hipsters. They are in this sense, whether they like it or not, trendsetters. Because they liked something, anything at all, before it was cool, eventually more people will know about it until it becomes cooler and consequently part of the mainstream; but when it gets into the mainstream, hipsters won’t think it’s cool.
One notable thing that hipster had, style wise, were the shutter glasses, but they argue that Kanye West stole them and used them as part of his style. Regardless of this though, the hipster has already been facing harsh criticisms and ridicule from the media whether it comes from blogs, news networks, magazines or TV shows like the popular Colbert Report. These outlets have all begun showing how ridiculous this subculture is, from looks to attitude to philosophy to everything else about it.
These vessels are propelling the hipster faster into the mainstream. From there, people will quickly become intrigued with them, then eventually bored by it, and they’ll move onto the next thing. Dan Fletcher, a writer for Time magazine, says that “Urban Outfitters have mass produced hipster chic. ” Urban Outfitters specifically took many elements of the hipster culture, such as the vintage style, old t-shirts, ironic and pointless t-shirts, v-necks shirts, the wide rimmed glasses, and a number of accessories that hipsters would love.
Urban Outfitters have infused the hipster style with more popular trends too, lifting hipsters, or at least their style, up more into the mainstream as well. This is troubling for hipsters. They are starting to become a mainstream subculture, which is what they are completely against, much like what the emo culture was in my middle school. Additionally, it’s a known fact that when magazines like Time write about you, you’re no longer cool. These are the magazines that sit in front of Doctor’s offices where old ladies and little kids can read them.
The original hipsters are then in big trouble; how can they be any more “unique” than what they already are? Because they do not add anything new creatively, hipsters simply strive to stay ahead of everyone else by being involved in trends and attaching to its cool aspect. It’s a relentless consuming on their part; this results in no end. The hipster then is just a subculture that continuously cycles through obscure indy bands and congested fashion statements to the next until they all become part of the mainstream.
By basing their ‘likes’ off of avoiding the mainstream, they are in fact, guided by the mainstream. That’s what I find so intriguing about the hipster culture; it’s dependent on being against something. Rather than creating something new, they are going down a ridiculous path by scrambling to attach themselves to the next big Indy thing. The group has basically set itself up for imitation that cannot be avoided. It is impossible to become more “unique,” and with the influx of imitators coming in, the subculture will eventually become meaningless.
Other people will emulate the hipster and take the coolness of every style like them and in the long run, there will be a backlash by both the original hipster and the fake hipsters, causing their eventual decline and the return of happiness for New Yorkers and every other area that house hipsters. In New York City, at any time of day, but especially night, the Hipsters have been seen most prominently around the East Village, the Lower East Side, and especially Williamsburg. Living in East Village and frequently travelling to Williamsburg to meet family friends, I have seen my fair share of hipsters.
I’ve mostly seen them around bars and party places friendly to them in Brooklyn, one example being a place called Royal Oak on Union Avenue and Richardson Street. Walking by, I could easily see the hipsters stumbling outside drunk with Indy music playing from the inside. From experience, it looks as though Williamsburg is the Mecca for the hipster; it’s their hive, their enclave. Williamsburg is a place famous for its art scene and influential Indy rock scene, mainly because it has more affordable rent for the people in those relatively unsure professions.
The hipsters, having little money themselves because they are lazy and refuse to get jobs, tend to gravitate towards this art and especially the music. I believe that they are attracted to this because it’s something new; they are interested in the new, and because they are interested in the new, they help take the coolness from it and spur the innovation in the arts, music and nightlife by supporting it so religiously. I recently interviewed someone who knows a lot about hipsters, because his band catered to them on a nightly basis. His name was Matt Fritzkrieg and he’s in a band that regularly plays in bars around Brooklyn.
I sat down with him to get his input on the people he regularly entertains. I inquired first about what he thought of them. “They were the weirdest f***ing people I’ve ever seen. I see them every show I play. ” Why are they so weird? As if I already didn’t know. Well, they f***ing look weird, they wear the weirdest s***. I wish that I could have some normal people at my shows, they at least look like they’re entertained. ” Why are hipsters coming to your shows if they’re not entertained? I asked. “I don’t know. F***. Me and my band are new, I guess we’re something they’ve never heard of so they check us out.
They probably got nothing else better to do. That’s probably why they’re the only ones that show up. ” Why do you think they have nothing better to do than watch concerts of bands that they’ve never heard of? “I don’t know man. They pay my bills and that’s all I care about. I’m just getting by with my music […] I just want to play my music and hope that I can get a record deal or something. I wanna do s***. I don’t know who pays their bills or what they do with their life, and I don’t really care. ” As long they keep paying, right? “Hell, like me or not, they’ll probably talk about my band, then maybe people will see and judge for themselves.
One thing those fucking hipsters actually do is help getting Indy bands noticed. I’ll use them if I can, maybe they can actually help my band. ” It’s strange that the hipster can protrude this style of living lavishly with not a care in the world, especially because they tend to neglect getting jobs. This lack of a work ethic emanates the stereotype that they acquire a steady supply of money from their trust fund and their parents so that they can live in comfortable apartments around the city and Williamsburg. Hipsters are notorious for not wanting to get jobs, usually ecause of a time commitment and less time away from their own personal lives (and of course pure apathy and laziness, the list goes on). This is why kids who just come out of college, usually a liberal arts college for hipsters, rely heavily on parental support to help them pay for wherever they live. Not surprisingly, hipsters have moved to the relatively inexpensive Williamsburg, in Brooklyn, mainly for the music, nightlife and the art scene that flourishes there. Recently, because of the large influx of people, from these twenty-something hipsters, they have made the housing prices go up.
In a New York Magazine article, by Mikki Halpin, titled “Beyond Hipsters: Williamsburg’s Tough Economic Realities,” it read that Williamsburg “is a community of people mostly struggling to get by, with a few wealthy residents grabbing headlines – the way New York has always been” (Halpin) The rise in price caused by these hipsters is making these struggling families struggle even more. This would typically be fine for the kids who mooch off their parents because they’d be unaffected, but because of the added recession, it’s becoming more and more difficult for even the richer families to support their deadbeat kids.
Christine Haughney, who wrote an article titled “Parental Lifelines, Frayed to Breaking” in the New York Times, noted that “the parents [have been] pulling back financial help [since June 2009]” and that the “parents whose money helped fuel one of the city’s most radical gentrification in recent years have stopped buying their children new luxury condos, subsidizing rents and providing cash to spend at Bedford Avenue’s boutiques and coffee houses” (Haughney).
This means that hipsters must leave Williamsburg, or actually get a job as well as relinquish much of what their culture is to actually live there, such as buying expensive clothes just to be ironic and other relentless consuming purposes. Either way, the hipster subculture will suffer in this aspect and will further lead to their downfall. In short, the hipster is a subculture that’s going to eventually go away.
From their early beginnings, the hipster actually stood for something; now its all about consumerism and being part of the next Indy thing before it gets big, while also being ironic, apathetic and giving the impression that they don’t care about anything but themselves. They’ve been following the same lines as other subcultures like the Emo and they’ll probably suffer the same fate as they did.
They’ve already begun being associated with the mainstream by being the trendsetters, and this will lead to them becoming the latest fad for awhile, but eventually they will suffer the same fate as every fad and die out when the population is completely sick of them (many people already are). They have already stuck themselves in a corner, they’re going to be mocked, ridiculed and copied because though they strive to be unique, they way they did it allows for people to easily imitate them.
Finally, because of them making the housing markets in the places they live less affordable concurrently with the recession, they’re actually running out of financial support from their parents, making them give up aspects of the culture they’ve associated themselves to get by like everyone else. Works Cited Fick, Thomas H. “The Hipster, the Hero, and the Psychic Frontier in ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’” Rocky Mountain Review of Language and Literature. Vol. 43. No. ? (1989): 19. JSTOR. Web. 2 May 2010. Fletcher, Dan. “Brief History of Hipsters. ” TIME. 29 July 2009. Web. 13 April 2010. . Fritzkrieg, Matt. Interview on Hipsters. ” Personal Interview. 27 Apr. 2010. Halpin, Mikki. “Beyond Hipsters: Williamsburg’s Tough Economic Realities. ” New York Magazine. 22 June 2009. Web. 2 May 2010. . Haughney, Christine. “Parental Lifelines, Frayed to Breaking. ” The New York Times. 7 June 2009. Web. 30 April 2010. . Lanham, Robert. The Hipster Handbook. New York: Anchor, 2003. Print. pp. 1. Lorentzen, Christian. “Why the Hipster Must Die. ” Time Out New York. 30 May 2007. Web. 13 Apr. 2010. . Plevin, Julia. “Who’s a Hipster? ” Breaking News and Opinion on The Huffington Post. 08 Aug. 2008. Web. 2 May 2010. .