This article isn’t meant to bash hipsters, a subculture that is seemingly hell-bent on becoming the most-hated social group on the planet. It’s really meant to point out a few quirks that speak louder than the message a lot of these societal misfits are really trying to convey.
Hipster History 101
There is nothing new under the sun, including hipster subculture. The ’30s and ’40s saw the birth of the hipster lifestyle when throngs of mostly white, middle-class kids decided they wanted to embrace the primarily black jazz culture they were following.
The original idea of being a hipster was to “divorce oneself from society, to exist without roots, to set out on that uncharted journey into the rebellious imperatives of the self,” as defined by early hipster guru Norman Mailer in his 1957 essay, “The White Negro: Superficial Reflections on the Hipster.”
The concept struck a chord within a fair amount of people, and the lifestyle lasted for a generation or two. Eventually hipsters were replaced by the “hippie” movement, and the term fell out of our vocabulary until the 1990s when a rebirth of the hipster lifestyle emerged. Why is this little history lesson important? Because what was a hipster, and what is considered to be a hipster today, is worlds apart.
I live in a college town, and it’s rather annoying to see where this movement has gone. I see people mucking about in thrift-store clothes (what you wear is your choice, but I take issue with folks who shop at charity stores in order to look a certain way when there are plenty of poor individuals who shop at charities because they need to), smoking hand-rolled cigarettes outside the clubs and filling coffee shops with pretentious political talk. All the while, they are paying far more attention to just how “non-conformist” they are by their clothes, food and chosen modes of transportation rather than really, truly, separating themselves from mainstream society.
They also pride themselves on their undying support of indie music that is so non-mainstream that only hipsters know if it’s good or not, being as vegan as absolutely possible (while shaming those who still enjoy being an omnivore) and by choosing to forgo modern transportation for biking or simply walking wherever they need to go. While not exactly bad philosophies to pursue, using them to create a level of superiority for yourself over the unwashed masses is not only painfully annoying, it’s down right hypocritical. Your goal is to remove yourself from society, not to keep yourself so thoroughly entrenched in it that you become mainstream, and let’s face it, being a hipster has, in reality, become trendy (when Barbies are being sold with black horn-rimmed glasses, there’s a problem.)
Not all hipsters are smug, pseudo self-effacing pricks in need of constant positive reinforcement from other hipsters to feel confident in life. In fact, a lot of what they do is beneficial to not only the individual, but community as well. I fully support subcultures that are outside of what society thinks is acceptable or normal, but I also support not being annoying in the process. If you want to be left alone to live the way you see fit, drawing this kind of attention to yourself means you either want people to notice you or you want to be a martyr. Neither is very non-mainstream.
Diana Marsh is a contributing journalist for TheBlot Magazine.