ⓘ Hipster (contemporary subculture)


ⓘ Hipster (contemporary subculture)

The 21st century hipster is a subculture that emphasizes style, authenticity and uniqueness. Members of the subculture typically do not self-identify as hipsters, and the word hipster is often used as a pejorative for someone who is pretentious or overly trendy. Stereotypical elements include vintage clothes and other non-mainstream fashion, skinny jeans, checked shirts, an ironic moustache or full beard, and big glasses.

The subculture is broadly associated with indie music and alternative. In America it is associated with the upper-middle-class and comprises of mostly white European-American young adults living in gentrified urban areas.

The term hipster in its present usage first appeared in the 1990s and became particularly prominent in the late 2000s and early 2010s, being derived from the earlier hipster movements of the 1940s.


1. History

In early 2000, both The New York Times and Time Out New York TONY ran profiles of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, referring to "bohemians" and "arty East Village types", respectively. By 2003, when The Hipster Handbook was published by Williamsburg resident Robert Lanham, the term hipster originally referring to the 1940s subculture had come into widespread use in relation to Williamsburg and similar neighborhoods. The Hipster Handbook described hipsters 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". Lanham further describes hipsters: "You graduated from a liberal arts school whose football team hasnt won a game since the Reagan administration" and "you have one Republican friend who you always describe as being your one Republican friend. Mark Greif dates the initial phase of the revival of the term hipster to refer to this subculture from 1999 to 2003. While hipsters usually come from affluent Caucasian families, they can come from a multitude of backgrounds. A running theme of hipsters is having parents who are really into President Ronald Reagan.

A similar phenomenon occurred in the United Kingdom, with young workers in the media and digital industries moving into traditional working class areas of London such as Hoxton, Spitalfields, and, particularly, Shoreditch. The subculture was parodied in the magazine Shoreditch Twat 1999 and the television sitcom Nathan Barley 2005. The series, about a self-described "self-facilitating media node", led to the term "Nathan Barleys" being used pejoratively for the subculture it parodied.

In 2008, Utne Reader magazine writer Jake Mohan described "hipster rap" as "consisting of the most recent crop of MCs and DJs who flout conventional hip-hop fashions, eschewing baggy clothes and gold chains for tight jeans, big sunglasses, the occasional keffiyeh, and other trappings of the hipster lifestyle". He notes that the "old-school hip-hop website Unkut, and Jersey City rapper Mazzi" have criticized mainstream rappers whom they deem to be posers or "fags for copping the metrosexual appearances of hipster fashion". Prefix Mag writer Ethan Stanislawski argues that there are racial elements to the rise of hipster rap. He claims that there "have been a slew of angry retorts to the rise of hipster rap", which he says can be summed up as "white kids want the funky otherness of hip-hop.without all the scary black people".

A 2009 Time magazine article described hipsters thus: "take your grandmothers sweater and Bob Dylans Wayfarers, add jean shorts, Converse All-Stars and a can of Pabst and bam - hipster."

Hipsters are the friends who sneer when you cop to liking Coldplay. Theyre the people who wear t-shirts silk-screened with quotes from movies youve never heard of and the only ones in America who still think Pabst Blue Ribbon is a good beer. They sport cowboy hats and berets and think Kanye West stole their sunglasses. Everything about them is exactingly constructed to give off the vibe that they just dont care.

Slate writer Brandon Stosuy noted that "Heavy metal has recently conquered a new frontier, making an unexpected crossover into the realm of hipsterdom". He argues that the "current revival seems to be a natural mutation from the hipster fascination with post-punk, noise, and no wave", which allowed even the "nerdiest indie kids to dip their toes into jagged, autistic sounds". He argues that a "byproduct" of this development was an "investigation of a musical culture that many had previously feared or fetishized from afar". In his 2011 book HipsterMattic, author Matt Granfield described hipster culture:

While mainstream society of the 2000s decade had been busying itself with reality television, dance music, and locating the whereabouts of Britney Spearss underpants, an uprising was quietly and conscientiously taking place behind the scenes. Long-forgotten styles of clothing, beer, cigarettes and music were becoming popular again. Retro was cool, the environment was precious, and old was the new new. Kids wanted to wear Sylvia Plaths cardigans and Buddy Hollys glasses - they revelled in the irony of making something so nerdy so cool. They wanted to live sustainably and eat organic gluten-free grains. Above all, they wanted to be recognised for being different - to diverge from the mainstream and carve a cultural niche all for themselves. For this new generation, style wasnt something you could buy in a department store, it became something you found in a thrift shop, or, ideally, made yourself. The way to be cool wasnt to look like a television star: it was to look like as though youd never seen television.


1.1. History Accessories

Fixed-gear bicycles are associated with the hipster subculture. Slate calls the bikes an "increasingly common hipster accessory". An association of hipsters with an increasing popularity of full beards dates from before 2010. In 2016, historian Alun Withey remarked that "The hipster beard, or lumberjack beard, is going to be the defining facial hair of this generation". Other hipster trends in the 2010s have included knitting, veganism, certain aspects of postchristian New Age philosophy, urban beekeeping, specialty coffee, taxidermy, fedoras, and printing and bookbinding classes.


2. By region

In 2017, British logistics and marketing firm, MoveHub, published a "Hipster Index" for the United States. This first study drew from five data points: microbreweries, thrift stores, vegan restaurants and tattoo parlors, and they compounded this data with cities rent inflation in the previous year. In the following year, MoveHub came out with a similar study, this time measuring the most Hipster cities in the world. The metrics were slightly different for this study: They measured vegan eateries, coffee shops, tattoo studios, vintage boutiques, and record stores. For the global study, they also limited their search to cities with populations above 150.000 residents. For this reason, many cities which ranked highly on the U.S. study in 2017 were not eligible for the 2018 study. iHeartRadio, a media and entertainment company, then took MoveHub s 2018 study, and narrowed it down to the Canadian cities. All of three of these tables are referenced in the following sections about regions which have large hipster cultures. Top of the world list is Brighton, whose MP Caroline Lucas representing the Brighton Pavilion constituency was the sole Green Party MP voted into parliament in the 2010, 2015 and 2017 general elections.


2.1. By region Pacific Northwest

In the above global index put out by MoveHub, three of the ten most hipster-centric cities around the world were listed as being in either Oregon or Washington state: Portland, Seattle, and Spokane. Of the top twenty hipster cities in the U.S., six of them were in the Pacific Northwest. This includes, in order: Vancouver, Washington; Boise, Idaho; Tacoma, Washington; Spokane, Washington; Portland, Oregon; and Seattle, Washington.

While Canada as a whole is often known for their liberal philosophy and openness towards alternative living, some of the listed hipster cities in Canada are in the Canadian province of British Columbia, which is just north of Washington state, and part of the Pacific Northwest region, and this included three of the five top-ranking cities - Victoria, Kelowna, and Vancouver.


2.2. By region Southwest

There are a growing number of cities throughout the Southwest and Rocky Mountain region which have been increasingly taken over by young adults Millennials, and are gaining a distinctive artsy, alternative atmosphere which is strongly associated with the term "Hipster". Many of these form an oasis for alternative, liberal lifestyles and politics in the midst of a region which normally has a strong association with the GOP and very conservative, traditional values.

One of these cities which is particularly well-known is Austin, Texas. Austin is well known as the home of the South by Southwest Music Festival. Texas is well known for its loyalty to the Republican party, but Austin is one of the few locales in Texas which will reliably vote Democratic on a political map. Austin also is the home to several organic foods and cosmetics companies based out of the city. The neighborhood of East Austin is an especially popular neighborhood for hipster-types to live in.

Another example of a liberal oasis in a conservative state is Salt Lake City. In 2016, only two counties showed a majority voted Democratic on a political map of Utah, both located right around Salt Lake City. On the aforementioned list from MoveHub of the 20 most hipster cities in America, Salt Lake City placed #2 in the whole nation. In a state known for their Mormon faith, Salt Lake City has become a favorite residence of LGBT people, and has sprouted an impressive host of microbreweries. It is awash with vegan stores and hiking trails.

Denver is another often-cited example of a famous pilgrimage destination for Millennials. Denver has a burgeoning reputation for their microbreweries. The city is also well known for their hiking and skiing. The city reportedly has one of the most active and "fit" populations in the U.S. The city is one of the 10 most dog-friendly cities in America, and has the highest number per-capita of dog walkers and pet sitters. In the music industry, one of the most famous venues for concerts, and one which many bands profess as being their favorite to perform at, is Red Rocks Amphitheatre. Bands sometimes have to book popular dates as far as 5 years in advance.

Other locales in the Southwest region which made MoveHubs list of the 20 Most Hipster Cities include Tucson, Arizona; Santa Rosa, California; Reno, Nevada; and Albuquerque, New Mexico.


2.3. By region New York City

As hipsters - "young creatives" priced out of Bohemian urban neighborhoods in Brooklyn such as Williamsburg, Park Slope, and Greenpoint - moved into suburbs near New York City, The New York Times coined the neologism "Hipsturbia" to describe the hip lifestyle as lived in suburbia. Hastings-on-Hudson, Dobbs Ferry, Irvington, and Tarrytown, all in nearby Westchester County, were cited.

A minor trend of cross acculturation of Chabad Hasidism and Hipster subculture appeared within the New York Jewish community, beginning in the late 2000s. A significant number of members of the Chabad Hasidic community, mostly residing Crown Heights, Brooklyn, appear to now have adopted various cultural affinities as the local hipster subculture. These cross-acculturated Hasidim have been dubbed "Chabad hipsters" or "Hasidic hipsters". The Soho Synagogue, established by Chabad emissaries in SoHo, Manhattan, have branded themselves as a "hipster synagogue". The trend of Chabad Hasidic hipsters stands in contrast to the tensions experienced between the Satmar Hasidic community in Williamsburg and local hipsters.

The 2014 song Brooklyn Baby by Lana Del Rey is notable for containing satirical elements targeting the New York hipster subculture: its chorus highlights "a stable of cliches about hipsters, Brooklyn, millennials and other things Del Rey herself is known to idolize". These elements include: having a boyfriend in a band, drug use of amphetamines and hydroponic marijuana, obsession with Lou Reed and Beat Generation poetry, wearing feathers in hair, collecting jazz records, playing different musical instruments, and self-proclaiming coolness.

There has been a parallel movement within the American Muslim community with members termed "mipsters".


2.4. By region Russia

The Soviet equivalent of the hipster or beatnik, known as Stilyagi, first appeared during the mid 1950s and identified with the modern jazz scene. Their outfits were exaggerated caricatures of the costumes worn by western actors and musicians and typically incorporated bright colors, slim fit pants, thick soled shoes, vintage clothing from the 1920s and earlier, brightly colored socks, and plaid sportcoats. Following the release of a cult film in 2008, modern hipsters in Moscow and Saint Petersburg revived some aspects of this subculture.


3. Hipster Racism

Hipster racism is engaging in behaviors typically regarded as racist and defending them as being performed ironically or satirically. Rachel Dubrofsky and Megan W. Wood have described it as being supposedly "too hip and self-aware to actually mean the racist stuff one expresses". This might include wearing blackface and other performances of stereotyped African Americans, use of the word nigger, and appropriating cultural dress. Talia Meer argues that hipster racism is rooted in what she calls "hipster exceptionalism", meaning "the idea that something ordinarily offensive or prejudiced is miraculously transformed into something clever, funny and socially relevant, by the assertion that said ordinarily offensive thing is ironic or satirical." As Leslie A. Hahner and Scott J. Varda described it, "those participating in acts of hipster racism understand those acts as racist when practiced by others, but rationalize their own racist performances through a presumed exceptionalism."


3.1. Hipster Racism History

Carmen Van Kerckhove coined the term hipster racism in the article "The 10 Biggest Race and Pop Culture Trends of 2006", citing "Kill Whitey" Parties and "Blackface Jesus" as examples. "Kill Whitey" parties, as described by The Washington Post, were parties held for hipsters in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, by Jeremy Parker, a disc jockey who goes by the name The Pumpsta, in an attempt to "kill the whiteness inside". These were parties in which white hipsters mocked the black hip-hop industry, and essentially a part of African-American culture, for the sake of irony. Van Kerckhove also regarded the use of blackface by white people and the normalization and acceptance of such use from other individuals as hipster racism. Van Kerckhove contends, quoting Debra Dickerson, that the use of blackface by individuals such as these was an effort to satirize political correctness and racism.

Matt Pearce of the Los Angeles Times characterized the appropriation of cultural artifacts as fashion without recognizing the significance of the article as hipster racism. Examples include wearing Native American headdresses, or more specifically, Urban Outfitters selling clothes with Navajo and other Aboriginal and African tribal prints without giving tribute, acknowledgement, or compensation. Television producer Lena Dunham was described as a hipster racist when Dunham issued a statement defending a male colleague who was accused of rape by a woman of mixed race.


4. Hipster Sexism

Hipster sexism, also known as everyday sexism, or ironic sexism, is defined by Alissa Quart in New York magazines fashion blog The Cut as "the objectification of women but in a manner that uses mockery, quotation marks, and paradox". It is a form of self-aware sexism that is deemed acceptable given that its perpetrators are conscious of the inherent sexism and objectification of women in whatever action or statement is being carried out by them. It is rooted in the idea that sexism is an outdated and archaic institution which people do not engage in anymore, thereby making the demonstration of sexism seem satirical and ironic.

Hipster sexism may be presented with derision and expressed as harmless. Quart posits that hipster sexism "is a distancing gesture, a belief that simply by applying quotations, uncool, questionable, and even offensive material about women can be alchemically transformed". She notes this form of sexism as having a particular public admissibility, saying that it perpetuates sexism in general due to a public tolerance based upon reasoning that instances of hipster sexism are humorous. Distinguishing socially critiquing comedy from hipster sexism, feminist discourse discusses hipster sexism as humor which, rather than offering critique, employs an evasive methodology which maintains stereotypes and prejudice. Psychology professor Octavia Calder-Dawe suggests that due to this, the practice of hipster sexism also unconsciously influences the idea that sexism should not be spoken of. Hipster sexism relates to postfeminism in that it downplays sexism at large by casually normalizing it on the basis that sexism has been eradicated and thus is not appropriate for serious consideration or discussion.

A tenet of hipster sexism is the casual use of derogatory words such as "bitch" and "slut", on the basis that such use is intended as ironic. Jessica Wakeman, a contributor to The Frisky, suggests that the label hipster sexism enables casual sexism as a means of being ironic, and thus being seen as an acceptable form of sexism.

Quart coined the term "hipster sexism" in 2012, partly as a comment on "hipster racism", a term coined by Carmen Van Kerckhove in circa 2007 which had been popularized earlier in 2012. She differentiated it from "classic sexism", which she describes as being "un-ironic, explicit, violent banal".


5. Critical analysis

Christian Lorentzen of Time Out New York argues that "hipsterism fetishizes the authentic" elements of all of the "fringe movements of the postwar era - Beat, hippie, punk, even grunge", and draws on the "cultural stores of every unmelted ethnicity" and "gay style", and then "regurgitates it with a winking inauthenticity". He claims that this group of "18-to-34-year-olds", who are mostly white, "have defanged, skinned and consumed" all of these influences. Lorentzen says hipsters, "in their present undead incarnation", are "essentially people who think of themselves as being cooler than America", also referring to them as "the assassins of cool". He argues that metrosexuality is the hipster appropriation of gay culture, as a trait carried over from their "Emo" phase. He writes that "these aesthetics are assimilated - cannibalized - into a repertoire of meaninglessness, from which the hipster can construct an identity in the manner of a collage, or a shuffled playlist on an iPod". He also criticizes how the subcultures original menace has long been abandoned and has been replaced with "the form of not-quite-passive aggression called snark".

In a Huffington Post article entitled "Whos a Hipster?", Julia Plevin argues that the "definition of hipster remains opaque to anyone outside this self-proclaiming, highly-selective circle". She claims 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".

Rob Horning developed a critique of hipsterism in his April 2009 article "The Death of the Hipster" in PopMatters, exploring several possible definitions for the hipster. He muses that the hipster might be the "embodiment of postmodernism as a spent force, revealing what happens when pastiche and irony exhaust themselves as aesthetics", or might be "a kind of permanent cultural middleman in hypermediated late capitalism, selling out alternative sources of social power developed by outsider groups, just as the original white negros evinced by Norman Mailer did to the original, pre-pejorative hipsters - blacks". Horning also proposed that the role of hipsters may be to "appropriat everything that the style stood for".

Drawing from Pierre Bourdieus work and Thomas Franks theories of co-optation, Zeynep Arsel and Craig Thompson argue that in order to segment and co-opt the indie marketplace, mass media and marketers have engaged in commercial "mythmaking" and contributed to the formation of the contemporary discourse about hipsters. They substantiate this argument using a historical discourse analysis of the term and its use in the popular culture, based on Arsels dissertation that was published in 2007. Their claim is that the contemporary depiction of hipster is generated through mass media narratives with different commercial and ideological interests. In other words, hipster is less of an objective category, and more of a culturally- and ideologically-shaped and mass-mediated modern mythology that appropriates the indie consumption field and eventually turns into a form of stigma. Arsel and Thompson also interview participants of the indie culture to better understand how they feel about being labeled as one. Their findings demonstrate three strategies for dissociation from the hipster stereotype: aesthetic discrimination, symbolic demarcation, and proclaiming sovereignty. These strategies, empowered by ones status in the indie field or their cultural capital enable these individuals to defend their field dependent cultural investments and tastes from devaluing hipster mythology.

Arsel and Thompsons work seeks to explain why people who are ostensibly fitting the hipster stereotype profusely deny being one: they argue that hipster mythology devalues their tastes and interests and thus they have to socially distinguish themselves from this cultural category and defend their tastes from devaluation. To succeed in denying being a hipster, while looking, acting, and consuming like one, Arsel and Thompson suggest that these individuals demythologize their existing consumption practices by engaging in rhetorics and practices that symbolically differentiate their actions from the hipster stigma.

Mark Greif, a founder of n+1 and an Assistant Professor at The New School, in a New York Times editorial, states that "hipster" is often used by youth from disparate economic backgrounds to jockey for social position. He questions the contradictory nature of the label, and the way that no one thinks of themselves as a hipster: "Paradoxically, those who used the insult were themselves often said to resemble hipsters - they wore the skinny jeans and big eyeglasses, gathered in tiny enclaves in big cities, and looked down on mainstream fashions and tourists". He believes the much-cited difficulty in analyzing the term stems from the fact that any attempt to do so provokes universal anxiety, since it "calls everyones bluff". Like Arsel and Thompson, he draws from La Distinction by Pierre Bourdieu to conclude that young, upper-middle-class graduates who move to urban centers are ridiculed as "liberal arts college grads with too much time on their hands"; although "ignored in the urban hierarchy", they have cultural capital. Members of the upper class – ridiculed in turn as "trust fund hipsters" – "convert real capital into cultural capital". At the bottom are the lower middle class young, who "seem most authentic but are also often the most socially precarious". Without the capital of the other groups, they depend on their fashion sense to maintain a sense of superiority.

Greifs efforts puts the term "hipster" into a socioeconomic framework rooted in the petit bourgeois tendencies of a youth generation unsure of their future social status. The cultural trend is indicative of a social structure with heightened economic anxiety and lessened class mobility.