In Defense of Hipsters

hipster-dancingI try to keep this blog original. But frankly, this week is going to be different. I don’t have much to add to the subject, mostly because every other blogger has already weighed in on this topic.

Let’s see, we have the well-researched curmudgeon hating on hipsters, the progressive logophile defending hipsterdom, the self-professed bohemian with anti-hipster notions, the pouty blogger with pro-hipster notions… the list is continuous and ever-growing. Adding my two cents will only inundate the world in germy, unwashed pennies.

So this week, I am at a loss. I didn’t realize blogging about hipsters was so mainstream.

I can't even find funny pictures that haven't been done to death.

I can’t even find funny pictures that haven’t been done to death.

But wait… reading through my hyperlinks, I notice a trend. Curmudgeon, logophile, bohemian, pouty… I am all of those things. I can combine them into one glorious super-opinion, which makes me better than them (somehow). That means that I… can and should write this blog post! Kapow, I’m back.

Despite the millions of virtual words devoted to the subject, hipsterdom is surprisingly difficult to approach. Unlike the subcultures of yesteryear (flappers, punks, angsty teens from the ’90’s, etc.), no one wants to be a member. Few desire to be associated with the culture, crafting vague exceptions to the definition of “hipster” when it veers too close to their personal lifestyle.

A problem for me. You can’t defend something if you can’t define it. So I turn to two people for guidance: the curmudgeon and the logophile.

Adbusters columnist Douglas Haddow (the curmudgeon) argues that hipsters are simply new-age nihilists, believing in nothing but their own worthiness. They sardonically dislike everything in the name of counter-culturalism. Caring, after all, is so yesterday.

"I like your proletarian notion of sharing, but the caring? Eh."

“I like your proletarian notion of sharing, but the caring? Eh.”

Towardfreedom.com writer Dave Monaghan (the logophile) rebuffs Haddow’s kvetching, saying “there are some among (the hipster) ranks who are the worst kind of self-serving, politically apathetic, vapid, pleasure-seeking, pretentious wastoids imaginable… (but hipsters) also like to party and have a good time, to dress so that they look good, to be as sexually liberated as their parents’ generation, to listen to music that makes them happy.  Why hate them for this?”

Hipsters, argues Monaghan, are not the nihilists Haddow claims they are. They employ old-fashioned youthful bohemianism. They are, in essence, bohemians “in a world in which bohemianism among the young is not only tolerated but encouraged.”

"You're so hipster, you live in bygone gypsy stereotypes," people should say.

“You’re so hipster, you live in bygone gypsy stereotypes,” people should say.

This dual analysis leads to the ennui of hipsterism. It is difficult to be counter-culture in a world where counter-culturism is expected. But you can’t admit that you are bored with rebellion. But where is the fun in rebelling when you are encouraged to light fire to an ice cream truck?

Both men agree than hipsters don’t care about anything, which is true to some extent. Hipsters are stereotypically prone to abandon their interests if something “edgier” comes about.

“You listen to Foo Fighters? Ugh. I listen to Arcade Fire.”

“You listen to Arcade Fire? Ugh. I listen to Foxy Shazam.”

“You listen to Foxy Shazam? Ugh. I listen to an obese Nordic princess twerking a Ouija board during a parade. Because it is ironic.”

For some reason, this is the first picture I get when I type that description into Google images.

For some reason, this is the first picture I get when I type that description into Google images.

The Good Men Project’s Noah Brand (the bohemian) agrees with my analysis. “To care about something is to make oneself vulnerable,” he writes. “It’s safer to be sardonically withdrawn from emotional engagement, never showing passion for anything lest it be mocked.”

So three of my writers led me to a hipster core of fear. The one thing I’ve discovered about hipsters is a need to avoid derision at all personal cost. Hmm. Interesting, but not enough.

So finally, I come to Mr. Pouty. In his hilariously hipstery blog, he talks about how he too likes skinny jeans (although not that skinny). He loves the hipster’s folky indie music and “is turned on” by girls in American Apparel clothes as long as they’re not wearing geeky glasses. Just when I was ready to write him off, though…

“Think of how geek culture has, within the space of a decade, gone from a ridiculed fringe to simply a bump upon mainstream culture. In 2010, girls play videogames, pop stars play programers without parody, and everyone walks around with a computer in their pocket more powerful than anything we grew up with in 90′s. Everyone is at least 30% geek these days.”

Ah, good job, Sir Pouty. It’s too bad that you go on to claim that hipsterism is attacked because it is alien and challenges the status quo. Hah, that’s just adorable.

Let me conclude by posing a question, brought up by Sir Pouty. What is the difference between a hipster and a geek?

Jeo-PAR-dy music’s playing, RIGHT now… I can’t play the TUNE, I’ll on-ly write it…

The answer is pride. Think about it. The geek world revolves around a particular interest, they have inside jokes and unique stores, and they enjoy the cutting edge while adhering to some aspect of a bygone era. They are shockingly nostalgic, brag about their passions to people who don’t understand them, and are often jested about on the internet. Comic Book stores and Starbucks cafés represent the same thing.

Sometimes worlds collide in hilarity. And no, I can't get away from cosplayers.

Sometimes worlds collide in hilarity. And no, I can’t get away from cosplayers.

In short, both are niches.

However, geeks have taken the term (once a derision) and made it a source of pride. People are proud to be geeks. The only thing that keeps hipsters from being accepted is their own aversion to being accepted.

“Hipsterism” is not the subculture of yesteryear, because there is no belief set that makes someone a hipster. If there was, people would be proud to be a part of it. There is vast difference between a niche and a subculture.

A subculture has beliefs and a core thought that holds them together. You know, hippies with peace and free love, flappers with breaking female social norms, 90’s teens with self-privilege and whininess. Hipsters have… fedoras? Sure, there are trends like fashion and music, but hipsters are not like hippies or punk rockers or goths. Hipsters are simply people who want to be unique, not change the world.

90's teens wanted the world to revolve around them, thereby changing it.

90’s teens wanted the world to revolve around them, thereby changing it.

Geeks don’t have a central message, yet they have common interests (which are just as important). Likewise, hipsters have no central message between them, yet they have common interests. If you share a passion for skinny jeans and indie music and the incorrect definition of irony, then maybe you are part of this particular category.

It should be said, though, that geeks and hipsters have another thing in common. It has been said that everyone is a partial geek. Similarly, everyone is a partial hipster. You, reader, are a partial hipster, and denying it makes it more true. Everyone wants to be unique and unable to be neatly categorized. Everyone can be cynical and sardonic and “ironic.” Most importantly, everyone is fearful of derision.

So be brave in your hipsterism. Like what you like and know what makes it good. Know what your entertainment says about you. It makes you an interesting person. In the end, “hipsterism” is incredibly mainstream.

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