Friday, December 7, 2012

In Defense of the Hipster

To begin, I should say that I'm not a hipster. Or at least I don't think I am. It's true that I have a tumblr, an Instagram, love the Vaccines and I think hand-me-downs are cool. But I'm also a massive fan of cheesy boybands (my proudest twitter accomplishment is that the Backstreet Boys follow me), I see nothing wrong in buying clothes from major shopping outlets and I think Rihanna is everything. So I'm really not a hipster. I mean, I like One Direction in a non-ironic way. But anyway, I tend to champion the underdog, and I really have a problem when a subculture is put down the way hipsterdom is.
 You don't have to go much farther than wikipedia definition of hipster to see that hipsterdom is a very hated subculture. No, I mean its REALLY hated. As in the wrath it stirs up in people would make you think hipsters regularly commit genocide. Even on their own wikipedia page which should seek to explore the subculture and be fairly objective, their are more anti-hipster quotes than those which support them. In preparation for this blog post, I read a ton of anti-hipster material, mainly written by bitter, cynical old male journalists who are actually hipsters themselves but just don't know it and the loathing this subculture attracts is astounding.
First off, there is nothing more annoying than a journalist who clearly disdains the subject he is writing about and therefore resorts to cruelly insulting his topic without attempting to understand the phenomena he is attempting to describe. This is lazy journalism. But let's move onto why I'll defend hipsters.
I have a lot of respect for hipsters because they resist the consumer-driven outlook of the twenty-first century. Instead of buying the pre-packaged cigarettes, they roll their own. Instead of getting a case of Corona they produce home-made beer. Instead of buying from H&M they hunt through countless piles in little-known thrift stores and at Goodwill.
Plus you have to give it to hipsters: they have the best sense of irony around. While some think the word hipster is pejorative, others embrace it to the point that they call themselves the "hippest hipster" and endlessly make fun of themselves. The twitter accounts @HippestHipster and @Hipstermermaid thrive on this.
Another great thing about hipsters is that they at least try to be individual. In a world of mass-produced clothing made in sweatshops in China and pre-packaged mass-appeal pop music, you gotta give them some respect for trying to do life a little differently from the masses. I know the hipster culture has become so popular that people now say that the individuality aspect of the hipster is now void but as far as I know Nicki Minaj has sold a lot more records than Mumford and Sons so I think hipster subculture is still a much smaller subculture than people actually think. The problem seems to be that we all think that everyone who buys from Urban Outfitters or American Apparel where they mass produce hipster clothing are indeed hipsters. Nope. Wrong. True hipsters are not gonna pay exorbitant prices on pre-washed jeans when they could get them for $5 with the perfect natural fade of having been worn previously.
I have a feeling the real reason so many ppl hate hipsters is because there is a sense that they are not playing by the rules of the capitalist society that rule us in the West. I don't want to go all conspiracy-theorist on you, but for the powers that be, people who are not the mindless consumer-driven sheep must be the WORST nightmare for those who rule us (Maybe Step 1 is hipster. Step 2 is leftist. Step 3 is full-blown anarchist) I mean, sheep are not supposed to think for themselves; they are supposed to follow the shepherd without complaint. Perhaps the reason hipsters are ridiculed the way they are is because the people in control realized the danger of a sheep getting away from the pack and before it gets too far wants to hook it back using insults and condescension.

There is however one problem I have with hipsterdom: re-gentrification. Re-gentrification may be described as the process where a low class (usually urban) area is taken over by a higher class of people. So take Harlem for example. If you know anything about the Harlem Renaissance which took place in the early twentieth century you will know it was a predominantly poor, black area. And it remained so for much of the rest of that century (can I just interject here and point out how cool it is that we can finally talk about the 20C in a cold dispassionate tone as if we haven't lived through it. 21C ROCKS). But coming on to the end of the twentieth century lots of upwardly mobile middle class people started moving into Harlem again. This on paper should be great. More wealth in the community could only be good. But what it also does is make property prices a lot higher than they used to be so that it might be difficult for poor people who have grown up in that area to buy/rent somewhere to live in that area. Basically, a lot of poor people are starting to feel the squeeze because of hipsters moving into what they consider their territory.
There is one really, really good spoken word performance that speaks of this regentrification and also of the appropriation of other cultural symbols/clothing/jewellery that some hipsters unwittingly think they can get away with (these include appropriation of Dreamcatchers, Native head pieces, Adinkra tattoos, bindi decoration are a few I can think of.)

On the basis of re-gentrification and appropriation of cultures you don't understand and have no right to, yes, hipsters can be problematic. But please don't tell me that there is something wrong with hipsters because they don't like mainstream shit. That's just lazy. And lbr, most of the mainstream shit like a lot of pop music (looking at you Ke$ha) and movies (Twilight, anyone?) are quite frankly really terrible. I salute hipsters for not buying into the capitalist regime, for thinking for themselves and being all DIY-ish, even if its just with homemade beer and rolled cigarettes, or whether its going underground to search for what they consider to be good music themselves, instead of just downloading whatever they hear on the radio. Instead of all the "Death to Hipsters" articles, what we need is MORE hipsters to topple the consumer-driven regime, they just need to be more culturally respectful.

Anyway, that's my rant, on the worth of hipsters and shitty journalism in general. I just needed to get that off my chest.


  1. wow, I never thought about it in this way. Thanks for your honest look into this sub-culture. Maybe I'll check out a thrift store instead of the mall? :)

  2. can your next post be on the rainbow family of living light? my brother recently attended a gathering in Mexico. not joking.

    1. i'd love to do that but the fact is I don't think I know enough about that organization to write about it. from what i read on wikipedia and what i saw on youtube they sound awesome tho.


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