What is a hipster? The term is thrown around often to describe 20-something individuals in urban areas, but what does it mean? The word is so commonly misinterpreted that it’s time for an examination of what defines a hipster.
What is a hipster: Simple definition
In simplest terms, a hipster is someone who is cool, wears cool clothes, listens to cool music, eschews the mainstream, and so on. But there is substantial disagreement about how one obtains hipster status.
Even the “hipster” page on Wikipedia is all over the place – read it and see if you can make any sense out of it.
What is a hipster: Common traits
The following list is very much a stereotype, and not all of these traits applies to every member of the subculture, but here goes.
Hipsters often: Travel by bike or public transportation; Buy their clothes at thrift and vintage stores (current styles include flannel shirts, knit hats, ironic t-shirts and skinny jeans, though that last one is on its way out); Listen to indie rock or underground music rather than anything played on the radio; Hang out in dive bars and drink PBR or whatever is the cheapest beer; Have a full beard or scruffy facial hair (the hipster moustache has died off, thankfully); Listen to vinyl records instead of CDs or digital music; Smoke cigarettes and other recreational substances; Are environmentally and socially active and a high percentage are vegetarian or vegan.
What is a hipster: Neighborhoods
The hipster neighborhood in a big city is simply the area where most of the cool indie kids hang out. Often they are areas that used to be crime-ridden but are now gentrifying after artsy types with limited disposable income began moving in.
Williamsburg in Brooklyn is the hipster Mecca, the most famous such neighborhood in the country. Other hoods where you’ll find a significant percentage of cool indie types include Silver Lake in Los Angeles, Hillcrest in San Diego, the Lower East Side in Manhattan, Logan Square in Chicago (not Wicker Park, as is often assumed), the Mission District in San Francisco and Little Five Points in Atlanta.
What is a hipster: Criticisms
Some people see hipsters as arrogant and full of themselves for trying to be cool, but that might just be a projecting of the person’s own insecurities. A main criticism of hipsters is that their non-conformity is so cliché that it’s actually a type of conforming.
Publications think they can score cool points by taking shots at hipsters, so they often do, like the 2007 Time Out New York article “Why the hipster must die.” But such articles usually just reveal the publication’s lack of understanding of the subculture.
Some websites mocking hipsters have become quite popular, such as Look at This F**king Hipster.
What is a hipster: Misconceptions
Some writers and commentators seem to link fashionable clothing stores like American Apparel and Urban Outfitters to hipster culture, but that’s mostly incorrect. People who shop at American Apparel, generally speaking, are too wealthy to be true hipsters. They may be trying to look the part, but actual hipsters cannot afford $75 jeans and $15 underwear, so they spend hours combing thrift stores for hidden treasures instead.
The Wikipedia article claims that hipsters are middle-class, which is something I’ve never heard and which is largely incorrect. It just shows how hard it is to neatly define the term.
What is a hipster: Summary
The whole debate may be pointless because most hipsters don’t refer to themselves as such. They see the term as a perjorative, probably because of all the criticism of the subculture. Often they claim to reject labels, but they’re really just afraid of the hipster label.
Occasionally writers pen articles about “the death of the hipster,” but that’s crazy. It’s like writing about “the death of rock ‘n roll.” It’s never going to happen. Twenty years from now, though they may not look the same way they do today, hipsters will still be here, telling the rest of society what is cool.