I don’t think I’m the only one who cringes a bit when they hear the word “hipster.” No one quite wants to define it, mostly because they fear they will be categorized as one. No doubt though it is a cultural phenomenon that has evolved throughout the coming-of-age of millennials.
I love The Evolution of Hipster chart above because in the years 2000-2009 I was ages 16-25 so I totally remember all of this, including the “emo” stage in high school. In college I remember everyone buying up trucker hats from thrift stores. I even remember people on mopeds & scooters, guys with beards, everyone on bikes, lots of plaid, and that one guy who smoked a pipe. I also remember in about 2009 when everyone swapped their Chucks for TOMS.
Another reason we cringe at the term hipster is that it’s sometimes applied to things that are really mainstream, and “normal.” Like: Tribal-print leggings instead of khakis? Hipster! The Lumineers over Michael Buble? Hipster! An “independent” coffeehouse over Starbucks? Hipster! A thrifted piece of furniture over something from Target? HIP-STER!
It’s like anything slightly creative or “outside” of the mainstream (but really not- hence the quotations) is deemed as a pretentious social statement. Apparently even mason jars are a bit hipster? I thought saving glass jars was my Pinterest shenanigans at work. Or my latent grandma sensibilities. I didn’t mean to school anyone in environmental-conscienceness, and/or organic living. You know, because organic living and environmental responsibility are so annoying.
Alright enough sarcasm, I’m annoying myself. Seriously though, I like mason jars because they are functional, versatile, and by keeping them you get more bang for your buck when you buy a jar of marinara sauce. I also looooove Thai food which I hear “hipsters” like. I also like loose-leaf tea, but since I get my tea from Teavana it is disqualified from hipsterdom by default for being at a mall. So leave me and my Wild Orange Blossom and Youthberry loose-leaf tea alone.
Basically, sometimes “hipster” things are just regular things.
Hipster with a Cause (many actually have one)
Many of you probably already know about the TOMS shoes “One for One” movement. When you buy a pair of TOMS shoes, a child in need receives a pair as well. Young people buy trendy shoes already, so why not provide them with an option that gives back? Really, it’s a great idea.
This breed of “hipster” isn’t trying to shame you into buying a socially responsible product. They probably just like the idea of helping out in a small way, and spending money on a quality product. I have a hard time finding anything to criticize about this? How about you?
Hipster racism & Too much irony
“Hipsters = people who strain for superiority above individuality.” –Tweet from Jillian.
Along with the evolution of hipster has been the continuing history of what Racilicious.com has dubbed hipster racism (or ironic racism as Lindy West of Jezebel puts it). Some readers may see the term hipster racism as an oxymoron. Some may be glad to see that there is indeed a term for this. Either way, I would say most millennials know about the ugly side of “hipster.”
First of all, I think the fuel behind “hipster-hate” is a resentment of having to appreciate the originality and independence of an idea that encompasses neither. All people see is mass-conformity, and the nuanced critical thinking skills of a garbage disposal. This hipster ideology is not cool. It gives nothing back. It mocks everything.
Think of it this way: It’s like how yuppies in the 1980’s thought of themselves as successful go-getters, when in actuality their Yuppie-ideology was full greed and self-absorption. While a hipster can aim for an illusion of progress, creativity and independence they can instead be destructive, and useless.
This particular hipster ideology is an attempt of people who grew up with wealth and privilege decidedly rejecting, and attempting to earn an ongoing list of “street cred.” Unfortunately what it really leads to is a lax approach to taboo issues (like race) because they deem themselves above it. Or since “they so get it,” they are “obviously joking.” After all they grew up with wealth and privilege so they would know about these things. Also their Rush Limbaugh-obsessed father called them a communist for wearing skinny jeans, so they know for sure they’re on “the right side.” *wink wink* Sorry, enough sarcasm.
Another hipster criticism from a fellow blogger Mark-Anthony Smith (EntitledMillennial.com): “I see most hipsters as unapologetic gentrifiers. I think gentrification is horrible. Its ‘urban renewal’ by displacing those we deem ‘unworthy’ instead of by helping communities. It’s a tough thing to witness because it unfolds so slowly, over the course of many years. Would be one thing if hipsters organically came out of those neighborhoods, but they are often outsiders that attract developers.”
Displacing the “unworthy” as in minorities and the poor. Ironic, since those are supposedly hipster causes. Hipster irony achieved!
I’m not too worried though. I think the continued “browning” of America will shift the focus of millennials away from this sort of empty ideology. I also think that these hipsters will continue to burn bridges with actual causes. And in the process give hipsters what they apparently seem to be looking for: oblivion. If the burden of wealth and privilege is too much to bear, the goal of losing it is quite doable. It will also leave open opportunities for the underprivileged who are working hard to better their lives. So maybe these hipsters are good for something!
So are hipsters people too?
No, I think “hipster” is an idea. Or rather, several ideas. It can encompass an idea that young people enjoy art and culture, and why not? It can mean that young people want to spend their money on something that gives back.
Or it can mean that young people don’t feel a need to give back, as long as they cut the strings from a
life image of privilege that many other people would love to have.
So whether you love or hate the elusive “hipster,” I encourage readers to do the dirty work of actually getting to know people (gross!). And not treat people as stereotypes or walking billboards. Even if they choose act like one.