Sunday, 22 June 2014

The Hipster Is Dead, Long Live The Hipster

It's official: being a hipster has peaked, crashed, and is no longer hip - at least according to this research which examines a lot more than facial hair.

As we speak, it's being entombed with other overexposed trends such as cupcakes and Doc Martin's. The thing is, "hipster" never really existed. At least, not in the way we annotate the term. 

                                                          Photo: animalpolitico.com 


Due to combination of society and media, a "hipster" is defined by the following markers:


A deep interest in the geographical origin of their coffee beans 
Lover of any new alcohol trend, particularly if it's an overpriced cocktail in a jam jar 
Excessive amounts of facial hair (men only)
Frequent bike rider because they are so over public transport 
A disdain for anything, no matter how good, that's gone "mainstream"
Owner of several items bought from Urban Outfitters, worn in rotation 
Skinny jeans so tight they choke your reproductive parts 
Ironic eye-wear; anything from clear-lens glasses to OTT shades 
Use of beanie hats, even when one is having a good hair day 


After reading through these points, you get the image of a pretentious bastard who will openly laugh at your music taste while smoking his rollies because they're more 'authentic' than packaged cigarettes. The term "hipster-wanker" was birthed for such creatures. 

But the thing is, these types are not hipsters, they're posers; and in their failed pursuit of originality, they are the counter argument to the very thing they are trying to be. 

The term "hipster" has been around since the 40s, originally appearing in the form "hepcat" - a slang pinned to fans of jazz music. The term didn't only relate to the songs people listened to, being a "hipster" was a lifestyle choice; the hallmarks of which included personal fashion, relaxed morals and recreational drug use. Think Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg

As the term spread, it came to represent a sub-culture of individuals who lived life outside societal norms. They did not care for institutions and disdained hypocrisy and bureaucracy. The purpose of life was to just be; the past and the future were irrelevant concepts, all that mattered was the present. 

In 1957, Norman Mailer published The White Negro, defining the hipster ideology for a wider audience:

with a middle-class background (who) attempt to put down their whiteness and adopt what they believe is the carefree, spontaneous, cool lifestyle of Negro hipsters: their manner of speaking and language, their use of milder narcotics, their appreciation of jazz and the blues, and their supposed concern with the good orgasm."

It was this free-living spirit and sexual freedom which saw the term re-coined as "hippie" for the social revolution of the 60s. 

Then, after a few decades of relative obscurity, the term made a comeback. It's rebirth was in a niche location - Williamsburg, Brooklyn, NYC. In 2003, when The Hipster Handbook was published, hipsters were described as young people:

with "mop-top haircuts, swinging retro pocketbooks, talking on cell phones, smoking European cigarettes... strutting in platform shoes with a biography of Che Guevara sticking out of their bags".

But of course, such people were not confined to the increasingly cool neighborhood of Williamsburg. For every culture, there is a counter-culture, and a continuous cycle of youths, awkwardly transitioning to adulthood, searching to identify who they are. 

Fast forward to 2014 and "hipster", in the colloquial way it is used, bears no resemblance to it's origin or basic ideology. It became a fashion trend, a statement. It got very judgmental; if you didn't know about the latest underground indie group that was "beyond amazing" or liked getting your lunch from the nearest Centra and not the off-the-wall Thai/NY/Korean-style place two miles from where you worked, you weren't really a member of this club. 

These people are not hipsters. They are poesur's. They jumped on a trend the way women in the 90s bought pairs of platform runners because Baby Spice wore them. They sucked the spirit out of the whole thing. They define themselves by what they wear and the music festivals they go to in the Summer, with little if any thought, to the grander ideology the term represents. 

Being a hipster is a movement that is intrinsically inclusive to those that feel excluded. You dislike traditional social convention? You're a free-thinker who blazes your own path? You're politically aware but don't feel an attachment with a singular political party? You don't know anybody who likes the books and movies you love? You were always labelled "the weird one" because you weren't into what everyone else was doing? You've a sense of self that is unshakable? Come with us! It's all these things - and a whole lot more. 

The difficulty of analyzing or condensing groups within society is that they are transient and illusive. While it's complicated to define the spirit of a group, it's easier to classify all the things that a movement isn't. The core of hispterdom is the natural state of being different to those around you, and the personal definition that means for each individual. 

It's not an affected air of being above anything popular and self-righteous proclamations of how you only eat free-range organic eggs. These, my friends, are the cultural version of fashion victims. They are the sheep. They've bought into the idea of being "alternative" in a factory system that mass produces carbon copies. There is nothing individual or expressionist about this. 

Chuck Palahniuk comes to mind at this time; these idiots believe they are unique little snowflakes when in fact, they are cookie-cutter versions of one another. 

As someone who has been aware of their difference and oddness my entire life, it is with joy I react to the death of the hispter. I will personally pour dirt on its grave and wear yellow to the funeral. It is the death of an impostor. The movement, the ideology, the encouragement of personal freedom and individual expression will live on. It's beating heart exists in those who live their lives in a certain way because that's how they want to live it, not because it's the fad of the moment. 

And while they do, the current "hipsters" will be jumping on the next bandwagon and donating their distressed shirts and ridiculous glasses to the local charity shop.

Mucho Love,

Vicky xoxo 


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