Hipsters are people too. I think.

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.

Misunderstanding “hipster”

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.”

Yuppie.
1980s James Spade

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.

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29 thoughts on “Hipsters are people too. I think.

  1. Great post Rachel. I hope this gets Freshly Pressed because it’s that good of a read (and no I’m not just saying that because you quoted me).

    I think hipster-hating has gone to far in one specific sense, no one really defines what they hate when they say it. But that’s why I was very specific about concentrating on gentrification, because to me this is always what grouped all hipsters together in my mind. It’s the person that takes a “socially conscious” stand against injustice somewhere else, while being completely oblivious to the injustice they themselves perpetuate in the neighborhoods they move to.

    I think another definition works, which I’ll just quote directly from your piece: “This hipster ideology is not cool. It gives nothing back. It mocks everything.”

    It mocks everything…I think that’s a huge reason for why there is so much hipster hate. It’s disinterest (or feigned disinterest); an endless loop of critiquing the critiquer (as you say the “critical thinking skills of a garbage disposal”), while never putting any skin in the game themselves.

    • Yep, I agree. When people say “hipster” it’s like we are all thinking, what do you mean by that?

      Sometimes people say “hipster” to mean “I hate that you’re more interesting than me right now!” Or like the first section, “hipster” can be used for fairly normal things.

      But I think you’re right about why hipster-hate arises. It’s like a 1984 double-think tactic where hipsters stand for everything, and nothing at the same time.

      Thx for letting me use your quote!

  2. Oh, I suppose I do not like hipsters. This post was pretty relevant. Great thoughts. I guess I am not fond of them because they try to not conform, but by not conforming, they’re all conforming to something else that’s not “mainstream”.

  3. I honestly don’t really get why hipsters get so much hate. I’m in support of a cheaper lifestyle, supporting local communities and helping out with causes. And good for them it they want to dress funky and be different.

    • I think the word “hipster” is a bit of a rorschach test, which I tried to sort through here. I think there is “sincere hipsters” who do all the things you just mentioned, but there are also less-than-sincere ones as well that fuel hipster-hate. The answer IMO, is to get to know people 🙂 They usually show you who they really are for good or for bad.

  4. Rachel this piece is really well done. I read the graphic, wondering what highlights from the 2010 and beyond Hipster would be.

    And I have to admit the term hipster has only been applied in a negative way for me. Why? Because it describes a mentality of needing to be first to discover or mention something. It’s a badge rather than a lifestyle.

    In my experience, one can stand for a cause and present whatever image happens. No need to make it into a costume or a uniqueness competition. This person would be called driven, frugal, resourceful….But to earn the hipster badge, you canteen just be principled and driven. You have to be edgy. You have to start a trend that makes it to television.

    This is why being hipster means striving for superiority rather than individualism. Your piece is really well dine because it gives a deeper understanding of the motivations that sparked the sincere hipster movement. The ones whose style DID just come together through being thrifty minus the shame. And I appreciate that you’ve uncovered that for me.

    I’ve found my benefit of the doubt and plan to extend it more often, looking for that sincere spark of something deeper.

    • Thanks for your thoughts, and your quote! I think you’re right, “hipster” brings up different things to different people. There is a dark side and a innocent side as well I think. I think your quote sums up the bad side of it: superiority over individuality.

  5. Nice piece. Hipster is such an elusive term that people have seem to have so much trouble pinning down, and you manage to get a handle on it. Love the comment about mason jars. I have a friend who adamantly equates hipsters with mason jars and dubbed my boyfriend one because he uses mason jars for glasses. But we have to stop calling anything “slightly creative” hipster, like it’s a dirty word!

    • I love mason jars! I thought I was just being a grandma, like I said… True, different sides to “hipster” some are legitimately innocent, some legitimately obnoxious! U be the judge. 🙂 thanks for sharing ur thoughts!

  6. Great post, Rachel! You do a really good job of exploring hipsters from all angles. I think this term has become overused to the point where I’m not even sure what it means anymore. As you say, everything slightly creative or different is labeled as hipster, which is frustrating. I agree with what you said and with what everyone is saying in regards to hipsters (in the negative sense) needing that badge. If you’re going to thrift stores and farmers markets because you genuinely care, you don’t need to tell the world where you shop. The term “Trustafarian” also comes to mind (people with trust fund who consider themselves Rastafarian) with this post.

    But anyway, I really wanted to comment based off of what Melissa said about hipster being a dirty word. I can definitely see that. If someone makes a comment on something I’m wearing or music I’m listening to by saying, “You’re such a hipster!” I’m slightly offended. I mostly take it as a joke, but it does have a negative connotation. Once my boyfriend and I were riding our bikes and someone rolled down their window and shouted “hipster” at us. My boyfriend was seriously bothered by this. No one wants to be called a hipster; not even hipsters. After all, hipsters have become mainstream 🙂

  7. I like much of what you wrote here, Rachel. Just a month ago another expat (I live outside the US) told me that I was “so hipster” because I was wearing Chucks. My Irish friend was also wearing a pair and she told him the same thing in the seconds that followed. Moments like these definitely make me question what “hipster” means, why people are so keen to label others with it, and how detrimental it may be.

    I never experienced “hipster” as a negative thing, I was always under the impression that it was part of the social scheme outlined in so humorously in the timeline you posted. This may be because I’ve never encountered the “ugly side of hipster.” I’m that you added the “get to know people first” part because it’s not only important to note the “ugly side of hipster” but also those who are self righteous enough to allow themselves the privilege of enduring mass judgement, because as you so wonderfully put — there’s nothing wrong with saving mason jars, and hey, some people truly like indie music. 🙂

  8. I’m definitely with you on the Rorschach test perspective, I mean, I just saw a poll that said 42% of Americans have an unfavorable view of hipsters. You can’t tell me there weren’t hipsters in the survey group.

    The thing is, what really annoys the pants off of people (me included) is someone putting a lot of energy into appearing a certain way without actually having any passion for what they’re doing, saying, thinking, wearing, listening to, etc… Because truthfully, I DO know “hipsters” whom I really dig, some of them are crazy serious about music, urban gardening, and yes, even vintage clothing. I admit I have to catch myself being skeptical sometimes, but the litmus test should be if someone truly loves and is putting time into something, not if they are doing something that’s never been done before.

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  14. Hipster hatred is not directed towards people that like culture and art. It’s the fact that most “hipsters” actually are self aware they just do things not “mainstream” to not fit in because that draws attention. Its a circular concept of not looking like you try hard but really actually trying hard to get attention. You don’t need skinny jeans and some square framed glasses to go to a museum. Trying to not fit into mainstream to fit into a non mainstream group is still mainstream.

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