When was the last time you had a girl put a curse on you that worked? Or when did you last hear a screech in the woods and turned around to find that it was not a peacock but, in fact, a banshee? Have you ever been chased across the cemetery yards by a goblin?
Have you met one single person this year, in 2012, whom when you asked what they were doing with their lives, said, ‘Oh, I’m a hipster.’ One simply doesn’t hear this, at least not without irony. Why? Because, like witches, banshees and goblins, hipsters don’t exist.
Now, I know many will want to say, ‘Oh, but on the contrary. I see hipsters everywhere.’ In the McCarthy era, people saw communists everywhere too. What you are seeing is not a member of a definable, objective counter culture. What you are seeing is a boy with a striped shirt. A girl with large glasses. A fellow in a fedora. But sadly, these are not the signifiers of what it means to be (allegedly) a ‘hipster.’ They are only the symptoms, and yet, not very useful symptoms, for they’re so broad and far reaching that anyone who happens to deviate from a polo-shirt and jeans might fit the part to your standard. But what causes these symptoms—or rather, what do we strongly associate with these trite generalizations? Pretention, the-will-to-have-done-it-first, music you don’t happen to yourself like, books you’ve never heard of, the excesses you don’t happen to favor.
It is my contention that a ‘hipster,’ in the broad sense of the word today, is merely an annoying person who doesn’t share any of your tastes.
I am not their apologist just as I am not an apologist for evil hexes, unicorns or dragons. I simply wish to warn people that they mustn’t feel so threatened by them in the first.
Now, none of us like things that are annoying and pretentious, but I hardly think it fair that a guy in a club should be ostracized because he happens to wear a bowler hat or because he happens to be reading a biography about Che Guevara while wearing loud colors just because someone who happened to annoy you carried a similar book and wore a similar shirt on an infrequent visit to a coffee shop that wasn't Starbucks.
You may say to me, ‘Sounds like the words of someone who’s angry about being called a hipster at some recent point.’ On the contrary! This blogger has not been accused. There are a series of sayings that broaden the terms of hipsterism beyond its metaphysical range. Surely you’ve heard them: ‘No one hates hipsters more than hipsters,’ which would cancel out the one who accuses you of being one with no real problem. My personal favorite, ‘If you know what a hipster is, you’re probably a hipster,’—as if their mere mention is some kind of self-reflective threat that could turn back in on you unless you’re one step ahead (in hipster fashion) by knowing that mentioning them makes you one of them: an attitude that is so reminiscent of the ‘hipster mentality’ that it would, in a technical way, still make you a hipster.
All over the world, there are douche-bags. You might meet them in the street or on the bus, or you might work with them. ‘Hello, my name is David and I am a douche-bag.’ You don’t hear this either. But the difference between a douche-bag and a hipster: we don’t identify a douche-bag as having any kind of identifiable subculture. But yet the one important thing they both have in common is that nobody would identify themselves as either. If no one is willing to admit that they belong to a certain group, one then has to wonder if the title is a very useful way of categorizing people.
As I said before, there were once real hipsters, which probably means little beyond the fact that the real hipsters considered themselves such. The movement started in the 1940’s and is linked symbiotically to jazz, which cannot be so readily said of ‘hipster’ sensibilities today. The original term ‘hipster’ replaced ‘hepcat,’ for some odd reason—I’m not sure if there was a bebop council that voted on it or not.
This is not to say that they were necessarily better for being the originals. Depending on your taste, you might have found them just as annoying and just as pretentious. The movement was described as white middle-class kids trying to be black—which probably says less about the movement and more about insecurity to do with cultural integration among the generation before. But if they are correct in any way, it could then be said, in regard to the history of hipsters, that white folks have failed our African American friends once again by being second hand racist toward these other white folks who wanted to do what one African American subculture were doing.
Now, I must eat some of my words for a moment. Maybe some of you know people that refer to themselves as hipsters without irony. However, I suspect, that if you gathered all of these people together in one room, they would (similar to the Punks) try to out-hipster each other, which would ultimately trace their contradistinction to one another, thus making them nothing like a real culture of any kind once again—which proves my point.
The automobile has provided us with an easier way to move from place to place. The television provided us with hours of easy entertainment. The internet provided us with an easier access to knowledge and Facebook provided us with an easier means to keep in contact with old friends. But there’s a dark side to easier. Dismissing certain attitudes, fashions and tastes as that of a ‘hipster’ is an easy way for us to cope with our own embarrassment over the cultural fashion follies, philosophy follies and awkward tastes of yesteryear. Anything can be dismissed as outdated, but the great thing about hipster-phobia is that you can dismiss anything that is considered ‘freshly retro,’ or new, or more unknown, as something that a culturally unattractive person would admire. And this will to stay ahead of the hipsters is, by its current definitional nature concerning hipsterism, a hipster attitude which would make anti-hipsters the biggest hipsters of all.
Once again, I’m not defending hipsters because I have shown that they don’t actually exist. If they did exist in the form that people claim they do, perhaps I would be talking about how much I dislike them the way people want to. But I’ll say this, even if they do exist, are they that big of a cultural threat that we have to keep hearing about them everywhere we go?
More importantly, before you decide that someone is objectionable, perhaps you should actually speak to them. If they’re a threat, then you can deal with it.
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