Defending The Hipster

Hipsters are cool. There, I said it. I’m still on the fringe on this one, I think. I like the subculture. I think hipsters are some of the best poets and playwrights living today (whether they self-identify as hipsters or not). They’re like the Beats of my generation.

So it makes me sad and a little angry that the word “hipster” is so commonly used nowadays as an insult rather than a simple, descriptive categorization.

Hipster? Or human being?I saw an article the other day from Mashable, pointing out what they describe as the hipster-est hipster in history. Here’s the link:

It’s actually worth a read, ‘cause it’s sort of funny. And the picture is rather amusing. But the greater social issue here is that it’s a picture of a person just out enjoying himself, and the picture is put up on display with a slew of rapid-fire assumptions.

This is not a fair trial. Let me just defend this guy for a moment, and I’ll preface it with one of my favorite quotes ever, courtesy of Simon Pegg:

“Being a geek is all about being honest about what you enjoy and not being afraid to demonstrate that affection. It means never having to play it cool about how much you like something. It’s basically a license to proudly emote on a somewhat childish level rather than behave like a supposed adult. Being a geek is extremely liberating.”

Now, I’ve seen people who dress up for the Renaissance Fair mock hipsters. I’ve seen a person make glib, insulting references to hipsters while wearing a Star Wars t-shirt. What’s the difference between these geeks and a hipster? Different style choices? Different musical tastes? Different interests? Surface-level shit.

The hipster in this photograph is there with his lady friend, minding his own business, being himself, freely enjoying things he enjoys. He’s listening to some music, and frankly, he’s being respectful to the rest of the café by wearing headphones instead of subjecting everyone else to his tunes. He likes vinyl records because there’s a sound quality that comes with this medium and presumably he enjoys it enough to put up with the inconvenience of it. His vinyl player is portable, which makes sense, because he’s outside his home, enjoying the lovely weather and some beer. Mashable assumes this is during normal business hours, but really, we don’t know. It could be 6:30 in the summertime, or hell, it could be a fucking weekend. (Anyway, even if it is during normal business hours: since when is day-drinking an uncommon and reprehensible thing?)

And here comes this blogging bully from Mashable assuming his coat is vintage, but that’s not necessarily true, it could be a cheap modern coat from anywhere. He makes a stretch and claims that his goatee qualifies as “micromanaged facial hair.” He even implies that the way the subject crosses his legs is a pretention, taken as a conscious decision to look more European. Point one: maybe he IS European? And point two: it’s not necessarily European; evidently the author has never been to the Eastern half of the United States of America.

The author even claims his lady friend is wearing a “retro” dress, but nothing about her screams “retro.” It all looks very modern and in tune with today’s mainstream fashion. Clearly, the author is reaching for anything to make the title of his post seem legitimate. And it’s cheeky and funny, but the underlying issue is that somehow, somewhere, hipsters became the favorite punch line of the uninformed.

Apparently, elsewhere on the web there is a debate about geeks and hipsters happening. I don’t know anything about it, but PBS has a really great video that sort of sums it all up:

So, without rambling too much more, let me just make a few points for all you hipster-haters out there:

Point one: if you hate them based on looks alone, you are only proving their point – or more specifically, the point of any counter-culture movement. If you hate them because of their clothes, then the hipsters win, and so do the Goths, and so do the rudeboys, the emo kids, the punks, the hippies, the skaters, the surfers, the greasers, the beats, and so on. Their looks are surface-deep.

Point two: if you hate them because you think they are assholes, you are wrong. If you claim to know this from personal experience, please partition your hatred only to the individuals you know. If you label an entire subculture assholes because you think the few assholes within that subculture are indicative of the entire group, you are not only mistaken in a general scientific sense, you are mistaken in this particular case. Hipsters are mostly cool. Every subculture has its assholes, and they are usually more outspoken than the cool ones. This is true with mainstream American culture, urban city culture, country culture, sports culture, Hollywood, and Congress.

In any case: prejudice makes you an asshole. Don’t be an asshole.

I would absolutely love to hear anybody’s well-thought-out treatise on why hipsters deserve to be the cultural punching bag we’ve turned them into. You can leave comments on this page, or you can take it to Facebook or Twitter. I’m all ears.

2 Replies to “Defending The Hipster”

  1. Bravo! I know I’ve made jokes about hipsters before – but it was always to people who were themselves hipsters. Just taking the piss, so to speak, and done out of love. (At least, I really hope that’s how it came across…)

    People like what they like. It’s all good, so long as it’s not hurting anyone else.

    I think what bothers people about the whole hipster culture is two-fold:

    1) Hipsters stereotypically (and yes, this is a stereotype) – and especially at the beginning of the hipster movement – refuse to self-identify as hipsters. hipsterism purports to be – or, at least, is widely understood by non-hipsters to be – a culture of fierce individualism, and yet they all look and act alike. This strikes many as hypocrisy and a willful denial of reality.

    This exact same critique can be leveled at punks, and many other sub-cultures. At least hipsters are more peaceful and less confrontational than most.

    2) Many non-hipsters get tired of hipsters denigrating non-hipster music and cultural touchstones. To many, hipsterism comes across as extremely judgmental. However, as a former metal-head and grunge dude – and as a grown-up punk – I can assert that ALL sub-cultures come with a certain degree of judgmentalism. It’s a defense mechanism. In my experience, this isn’t a fair criticism of most hipsters, just a vocal minority. As is true of most sub-cultures.

    And, again – at least hipsters are far less confrontational than some of the sub-cultures I’ve been a part of.

    I got no beef with hipsters. So long as they don’t mind me listening to their music.

  2. OK I’m going to say I agree with you and John, BUT!

    The but is this, in regards to Simon’s lovely point on geeks this is absolutely true except when a movement exists long enough to not only draw in people from widely different backgrounds but then generate a cachet worthy of hanging on to. Which means this group attaches hanger ons that emphasize the worst of it for the sake of seeming like the the most dedicated. This form of self parody doesn’t endear the individuals, and by extension, the movement as a whole which doesn’t help stop the mocking of this movement. And this is something that is hard to shake off since it does paint the entire group with the same brush.

    Like John said I make light fun of hipsters who are my friends for the sake of giving friendly shit and expecting it in return. And there are aspects to make fun of in that sense but no more than some of the things I do/believe/say. So I don’t believe there are many groups that should be mocked or derided for the the base tenants to the that group but that doesn’t say that there are not individuals who I dislike.

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