In Defense of Hipsters
Everyone loves to make fun of hipsters. It’s easy. It’s fun. And nobody ever gets offended because noone actually admits to being a hipster. In fact, the most hipstertastic of hipsters profess to hate hipsters with the utmost volatility, even as they sit there in their women’s skinny jeans, cow sweatshirt and Super Mario mustache. It’s kind of ridiculous.
But as great as it is to diss and makes jokes at the expense of hipsters and their ironic ways, it’s rare that you’ll actually hear anyone defend hipster culture. The closest I ever came was a phenomenal definition on UrbanDictionary.com. But that one thing isn’t enough, so I’m adding my voice to the (near nonexistent) chorus.
The first thing I like about hipsters is that they tend to like good music. The music hipster culture has embraced and/or spawned is, in my opinion, the best music being made today, aka indie rock. Bands like Broken Social Scene, Arcade Fire, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, TV On The Radio, Wolf Parade, Deerhunter, etc. would fit this bill. They rock, don’t compromise their values, and many have even managed to achieve mainstream-encroaching success. And every day, bands are rising from the webpages of unbiased, agenda-less hipster-authored blogs and becoming culturally significant and commercially successful (whatever that means these days). It’s a beautiful thing, and hipster culture has undoubtedly been a boon to this cultural shift due to its strict valuation of art, integrity, and intelligence, with no regard for popular/mainstream opinion.
The second thing I like about hipsters is the fashion. Sure, my buddies and I make fun of hipsters who go overboard and dress like old men from the 40’s, but I respect their right to do so. Jack Nicholson’s character in Easy Rider talks about how when Americans see a truly free individual, they fear and hate them because ‘real freedom scares people’. At the end of that movie, the two hippie protagonists get shot by some drive-by-trucker hicks, thus confirming his statement. If hipster culture is the hippie culture of today, do you want to be one of those hicks calling people with long hair ‘queer’? It’s the same deal, really.
I not only approve of hipsters wearing what they do, I actually really like most hipster fashion. Hipsters just look interesting. They dress in strange colours, wear sizes or styles that accentuate or de-accentuate the human body in new ways, celebrate and reinvent the past to pave the way of the future, and impress with creativity, rather than expense.
And it’s not a crime to care about and want to control the way you are perceived. Clothes are a means of expressing one’s identity. Assuming you reading this are legitimately not a hipster, you probably wouldn’t want to dress like one because people would misinterpret you and think you were something you weren’t. Hipsters simply want people to know that they are the way they are. They’re not ashamed of it, regardless of whether people approve of it or not.
And now the most vicious attack on hipster culture: the irony of asserting one’s individuality by conforming to the styles and attitudes of a large sect of society. Admittedly, a lot of hipsters do seem to brainlessly be following the trends of the culture: skinny jeans, plastic coloured sunglasses, converse shoes, etc. But is this brainless conformity or simply an expression of shared values? One of the reasons Converse became so popular among hipsters could be that the brand doesn’t attempt to connect itself with athleticism or what hipsters may perceive as unintellectual, misogynistic macho culture, the way that Nike or Addidas does. They’re also among the only kinds of shoes made without leather: that’s the reason I started wearing Converse in the first place. Skinny jeans also apparently became a hipster trend due to their anti-machismoness, and the plastic sunglasses can be seen as a parody on traditional or mainstream ideas of cool.
And really, no one is wholly individual, just like no music wholly original, but will always have influences and derivatives. Even if you walk around in a bag covered in dirt, you’d just be conforming to the homeless scene look. To conform to hipster culture is to affirm not so much your individuality as your identity within a sphere by identifying with the values of one sect of society while rejecting those of another.
Whenever any kind of new thought arises in society, it is immediately attacked and ridiculed. This is the way things have always been and the way that human nature is: we’ll only grudgingly accept that which is novel after a gestation period. Think of how geek culture has, within the space of a decade, gone from a ridiculed fringe to simply a bump upon mainstream culture. In 2010, girls play videogames, pop stars play programers without parody, and everyone walks around with a computer in their pocket more powerful than anything we grew up with in the 90’s. Everyone is at least 30% geek these days.
Though hipster culture may have aspects with which you disagree, it likely has aspects with which you do agree, like its encouragement of creativity, personal freedom, social and environmental responsibility, and intelligence. The main reason we attack hipster culture is because it is alien and our first instinct is to attack it for violating the way we’ve always thought things and people should be. When you say, “I fucking hate hipsters”, you’re no different from those who’ve in the past attacked hippie, goth, geek, and queer culture simply because they were different. Ultimately it doesn’t matter how you react to it, hipster culture isn’t going to fade away just yet, no matter how many hilarious Youtube videos make fun of it. But simply realize why it is you and the rest of society attack hipster culture, rather than being the brainless one just going along with the impulsive sway of the crowd.