By Jeremy Azevedo at 4:51 PM Tuesday, November 4th 2008
You may have noticed, while perusing the interwebs of late, that much is being made of this whole “hipster” fad that is sweeping the nation.
To some, this is a shocking revelation. To others, it’s old news. But for young people on either side of that fence, one glaring question rears it’s stylishly keffiyah’d head: Am I a hipster?
Fact: To a hipster, the actual word “hipster” is as offensive as the “N-word” is to a black person (though like black people, they are allowed to use the word as a reference to one another). This makes it difficult to identify hipsters, as they are about as likely to self-identify as they are to wear a Members Only jacket without the requisite irony that comes along with it. So in order to know whether or not you are a hipster, you must first try and understand what a hipster actually is.
In a recent article in AdBusters, Douglas Haddow (who I suspect is himself a closet hipster; he writes on anti-consumerist blog after all. Hipsters love to pretend to hate corporations!) described hipsters as:
“An artificial appropriation of different styles from different eras, the hipster represents the end of Western civilization – a culture lost in the superficiality of its past and unable to create any new meaning. Not only is it unsustainable, it is suicidal. While previous youth movements have challenged the dysfunction and decadence of their elders, today we have the “hipster” – a youth subculture that mirrors the doomed shallowness of mainstream society.”
Essentially, what Doug is saying is that hipsters are the cancer that is killing “Cool”… That they are cannibals of fashion and culture with no discernible socio-political agenda, and that they are incapable or giving birth to anything new or original. But how did they get this way, and how does this help us to identify them?
Haddow goes on to say:
“Hipsterdom is the first “counterculture” to be born under the advertising industry’s microscope, leaving it open to constant manipulation but also forcing its participants to continually shift their interests and affiliations. Less a subculture, the hipster is a consumer group – using their capital to purchase empty authenticity and rebellion. But the moment a trend, band, sound, style or feeling gains too much exposure, it is suddenly looked upon with disdain. Hipsters cannot afford to maintain any cultural loyalties or affiliations for fear they will lose relevance.”
Ok. So basically, a hipster is an agent of the man, an unwitting accomplice of a runaway capitalist system that sells them the very things that they believe make them a part of the “counterculture”, an enemy of the “faceless corporate empires” that are enslaving the rest of humanity (Like Apple, a hipster favorite). This would explain how they are duped into buying Pabst Blue Ribbon and V-neck shirts, longtime symbols of the working class. The working class enjoys these things because a 6-pack of Pabst generally costs around five dollars, and V-neck shirts, the less popular cousin to the crew-neck shirt, are sold in packs of 4 or 5 for around 13-25 dollars. This fact will be used for our first litmus test:
True or False:
“I would pay around 5-7 dollars for a Pabst at a purposefully shitty bar in a trendy neighborhood.”
“I am willing to spend 30-40 dollars for a single V-neck shirt at American Apparel or some more boutiquey (but still identical) shop, especially if it comes in neon.”
If you answered “False” to both of these questions, then congratulations! You are not a hipster. If you answered yes to one or both, I have unfortunate new for you: You might be a hipster.
This raises a very important question, and one that we should most definitely explore. Is the whole hipster thing merely a fashion deal and nothing more? The answer is yes and no. I think we can all agree that the fashion staples of the hipster community, tight jeans, neon, V-neck shirts, fedora hats, fake eyeglasses, converse, keffiyahs, ironic mustaches and/or beards and Venetian blind shades are pretty much omnipresent. The strange thing about this is that most people who adopt a “uniform” style of dress in this manner tend to have a unifying force that brings them together to drink, do drugs, listen to music and have sex with each other. For the hipster, this unifying force is not required, as the sex and drugs is a means to it’s own end. Now you might well ask: “How is this different than it was with kids in the 80s?”
If your answer to this question was, “It’s not”, then you are a hipster.
The answer to this is actually quite simple. In the 1980s, kids were rebelling against Reaganomics, the Cold War, corporate rock, the war on drugs, and their hippy-turn-yuppie parents. The hipster has nothing to rebel against. Most hipsters have parents or boyfriends/girlfriends with real jobs or trust funds that are more than willing to pay their rent because they are “artists” (meaning they project weird jpegs that they found online on the wall while a “DJ” plays songs off his MacBook at some warehouse party once a week). They are happy to settle for creating “awareness” or wearing an Obama T-shirt (printed by Shepard Fairey, of course). Their adoption of 80s fashion and drug culture is a result of watching 90210 reruns in college and maybe reading Bret Easton Ellis’ Less Than Zero on the crapper.
Take a look at the clothes you are wearing right now. How tight are your pants? Can you fit your hand into your pocket without a great deal of struggle? If not, you may be either a woman or a hipster or both. Are you wearing a scarf in the summer? Do the glasses you are wearing have clear plastic lenses or no lenses at all? Do you even need those glasses to read the latest Chuck Palahniuk novel you’ve got there? Are you reading a Chuck Palahniuk novel? Have you ever stopped to wonder when it stopped being funny and/or gross to have a mustache and show off your chest hair? If you are exhibiting any of the symptoms that I have just described, than you, my friend, are a hipster.
If one were to look past the unmotivated fashion and cultural vacancy of the hipster, there are a few key identifiers that may exist beside the obvious. Lets try a few multiple-choice questions:
Question 1: How often do you have your picture taken?
A.) I dunno, every once in awhile, I guess.
B.) Enough to fill up 20 different albums on MySpace.
C.) Enough to fill up 20 different albums on FaceBook (MySpace is so last year).
D.) Enough that if placed end to end, they would make a stop motion movie of my life that lasts several hours.
Fact: Hipsters like having their picture taken. More like they fucking love it. Award yourself zero hipster points for choosing A, one for B, two for C, and three for D.
Question 2: A song by some band no one has ever heard of comes on the radio. Do you:
A.) Give it a listen and decide for yourself whether or not you like it.
B.) Look it up on Pitchfork to see if you are allowed to like it or not.
C.) Turn to your friend and exclaim: “I was really into this band before they got big. They’re so played out now.”
D.) Trick question: You haven’t listened to the radio in years since you got your iPod.
Fact: Your music tastes as a hipster are like an arms race to always be into a band before they become popular so that you can act “over it” when they do. The only exceptions to this rule are Radiohead, Arcade Fire and possibly the Beatles. Award yourself zero hipster points for choosing A, one for B, two for C, and three for D.
Question 3: Complete the following sentence: I am thinking of joining a co-ed _______ team this summer.
D.) Badminton (kickball is so last year)
Fact: Hipsters love playing team sports ironically. It gives them an excuse to drink Pabst Blue Ribbons during the day. If you chose A, you are probably a manbot, not a hipster. Award yourself one hipster point for choosing B, two for C, and three for D.
Question 4: Who do you think would make the best President?
A.) John McCain
B.) Barack Obama
C.) Steve Jobs
D.) Dov Charney
Fact: If there are three things hipsters cannot live without, it’s Obama, Apple products, and American Apparel, in that order. If you chose John McCain, you are definitely not a hipster in any way, shape or form, as it would go against party lines. Award yourself one hipster point for choosing B, two for C, and three for D.
Question 5: After the party, I am going:
A.) To bed. I have shit to do tomorrow.
B.) To IHOP, where I will ironically eat food that would make a billy goat puke and generally make an ass of myself.
C.) To the after party of course.
D.) To a late night café with Wi-Fi so I can be the first to upload my pictures and blog about it.
Fact: The more committed you are to being a hipster, the more being “scene” will outweigh “having gainful employment”. (Special circumstances exist in which advanced hipsters are employed in the creative class as designers, record company talent agents, web journalists and marketers. This does not in any way change the order of priority for the above question.) Award yourself zero hipster points for choosing A, one for B, two for C, and three for D.
Tally up your points!
If you answered mostly A: Rest easy, you are not a hipster. But be on your guard, because as we have discussed previously, hipsterism is a cancerous and amorphous thing that may change its appearance at any time. You may not even know that it has its hooks in you until it’s too late.
If you answered mostly B: You are on a very slippery slope, my friend. However, with therapy and loosened pants, you may yet have a chance at a normal life.
If you answered mostly C: You are a hipster. This may come as a surprise to you, but not to anyone that has ever met you, talked to you, or even just seen you in passing. You are probably beyond help at this point, and will probably die at a young age in a fixed-gear bicycle accident in Silverlake or Williamsburg.
If you answered mostly D: Holy crap, you are a super hipster through and through. You probably have a secret knowledge of this already, though you most likely haven’t come out to your parents about it yet. Your record collection (you have a record collection) is positively dripping with irony, as is your carefully collected wardrobe of vintage scene wear. Your hair hangs limply over your eyes, threatening to catch fire in the embers of your Parliament cigarette. You are sexually ambiguous, yet probably not bisexual. You have hundreds of acquaintances but no actual friends, as your personality is an ever-changing Frankenstein’s monster made of Vice ads, NPR quotes and indie music blog reviews. Dov Charney is your JFK. Right now, you are reading this on your iPhone while drinking vodka from a clear plastic water bottle at a Justice concert.
What do I do if I am a hipster?
If you discover that you are, in fact, afflicted with the Hipster Immunodeficiency Virus, the first thing to remember is not to panic. You may feel tempted to tell your parents right away, but if you are the recipient of a monthly trust fund stipend (there is a 50% chance of this if you are a hipster) then it is probably in your best interest not to until you first receive treatment.
Some popular methods of deprogramming hipsters range from listening to classic rock without a sense of irony, pants stretching, drinking whiskey instead of Sparks and watching television (hipsters all claim to not own a television, which we all know is a lie because they all own a Wii). Also recommended is shaving your beard/mustache/vagina and getting a job.
How do I avoid becoming a victim of the hipster apocalypse in the future?
Reading this article is a good first step. Also, you should avoid any place of business in which there are ten or more visible fedora caps or any other strange type of hat (bowler, newsie, top hat, etc). Free vodka bars should also be avoided (it’s bottom shelf anyway, you’re not missing anything). Definitely stay away from any gathering of people that is wearing enough neon to be visible from space, as well as any concert in Silverlake or Echo Park that involves “old school hip-hop” where there is not a single ethnic minority within a ten block radius.
If all else fails, move to the midwest.