Wednesday, October 20th, 2010

Being a Hipster Is an Excellent and Wonderful Thing!

"It took me a little while to understand how much nastiness people generally intended when they used the word hipster. It just sounds sort of attractive to me, a hipster. I thought yeah, I guess that is sort of my culture. Those are my people and I was just about able to go on thinking that it was a perfectly nice thing to be until someone pointed out to me or it finally sank in that it was meant contemptuously and I really I'm not sure I accept the premise that I think it's a self-loathing term and I've come to be very alert to this self-loathing propensity that surrounds certain kinds of cultures of what are essentially connoisseurship, generational affiliation."
—Jonathan Lethem, in answer to the question "Are hipsters ruining Brooklyn?"

The things that hipsters such as Jonathan Lethem value and embody are worthy things—surprisingly so, in view of all the mockery the hipsters come in for. I agree with him that a hipster is "a perfectly nice thing to be." It is a pity that anyone should be made to suffer so much, and so needlessly.

If it were really such a contemptible thing to be a hipster, you'd think that nobody would want to live in Echo Park or Williamsburg or Shoreditch or the Haut Marais; you'd think nobody would want to be caught dead wearing skinny trousers or the colored Ray-Bans or listening to WHY?. And yet people in search of the like-minded flock to those places, to those things. So why this "self-loathing propensity," the doubtless real and widespread thing of which Lethem speaks?

It isn't really self-loathing at all. People don't hate hipsters, and hipsters don't hate themselves. What people hate so much is the faux-hipsters: they hate poseurs. And because it's such an irritating thing to be having to tell the real from the fake (exactly as in the matter of overpriced European handbags), the easiest way out is simply to deny any involvement in the whole business. That is why nobody, not even someone who fervently embraces hipster culture, wants to call himself a hipster.

But there are good reasons to validate the legitimate aspect of hipster culture, the aspect that is fun and has real charm and elegance to it; that tries, the way every social group tries, to form bonds between the like-minded using all these signals like haircuts and cardigans and bicycles and magazines.

It's easy to tell the difference between a hipster and a poseur, because while the former are mainly enjoying, the latter are mainly judging. The poseur is an aesthetic snob without aesthetic discernment; he sneers but has no understanding of standards. So instead of having fun sharing their arcane things together, the poseurs are having zero fun pretending to not like anything. As Nietzsche put it most memorably: The man who despises himself nevertheless esteems himself as one who despises. These two kinds of people really are just worlds apart, even though they may find themselves living in the same neighborhood and going to the same rock show.

The tastes and habits of the world's bohemias are real symbols of a certain way of life and way of thinking; there's fidelity to a certain truth in the underlying reality, and that is how a Tokyo hipster can quickly recognize what might prove to be a kindred spirit in Buenos Aires or Austin. This kind of symbolism has been around since at least the time of Oscar Wilde, when the greenery-yallery aesthetes drifted about carrying "a poppy or a lily" (q.v. Gilbert and Sullivan's Patience.) In the age of the Internet, though, that symbolic force has become just hugely magnified, because new symbols can penetrate the hive mind so quickly, and so deeply.

So today's bohemians get in a big gang and live together, as they have for over a century at least; almost every city of any size in the Western world has at least one such neighborhood, and the big cities have many, each with its own flavor. In effect, though, all these places are the same place, like Solzhenitsyn's "archipelago" (except not a prison camp for political dissidents): a series of far-flung islands but really one place, invisibly linked. In this case, residents of the archipelago value inventiveness, intelligence and taste over wealth and conformity; what Lethem is calling "connoisseurship." There is lots of artwork and music and clothing being made in these places, experiments of all sorts, an atmosphere of discovery. There is generally "more dash than cash." It is fun to have lunch or buy records there, more fun than having lunch in the rich neighborhood; people from "outside" come along to see the foreign movie, to have coffee. The hipsters live there, and the poseurs who follow them do, too.

The widespread vilification of hipsters has entirely failed to distinguish between the hipster and the poseur. Maybe that is the very reason why people never seem to tire of the constant ragging, even though it's all been done to death; the irresistible "Being a Dickhead's Cool" had millions of YouTube views only a matter of weeks ago. But please note that what is being mocked in every case, from "Dickhead" to "Hipster Olympics," is not really hipsters! It is poseurs. Nobody is ever mocking anyone who is having fun. The mockery is reserved for those scowling, affected types who are in such a hurry to be the first to know the New New Thing before anyone else does, not out of real curiosity or scholarship, but just out of anxiety and a cold, sterile competitiveness, a kind of pushing other people out of the way. It's the ignorance and fakery that are being mocked, not the actual hipster culture: "We're puttin' on this rave, and there's a band in the mosque? And all the proceeds are going to that thing that happened in the Middle East or Africa or whatever?"

So what are these alleged good reasons for praising the hipsters? There are two. One is to decrease suffering among the youngs, because there should be no shame ever surrounding the love of or identification with a place, a way of life, a band or a pair of glasses. There could be so much more happiness (and inventiveness, and liberty) if people were just free to just love what they love without having to worry about whether or not they are going to be crucified for being a hipster.

When you are around young people who have ambition and taste, and who long to enter an imagined world full of gloriously attractive and brilliant cognoscenti, it can break your heart to see their fear and insecurity—which is very natural and really, almost inescapable for the young—manifested in distrust and an assumed arrogance, in a pretense at more knowledge than they really have. The way they pretend to know about this or that band, or the way they suddenly up and say that Pitchfork itself is "too mainstream," or they pretend to read a book that they haven't read. They literally twitch with grief and fear. They are suffering! And this suffering stifles their natural curiosity and pleasure, imprisons them in an airless chamber of embarrassment and insecurity. How many lofty, jaded teenagers are out there right now, too bored and cynical to enjoy anything freely? When they should be having fun instead. So that is why it is a good idea to say, go ahead and be a hipster, if you want to! That is very charming and delightful, and please tell us when you find another band as good as WHY?.

An aside: I am one of the ancients, myself, but I can still remember something of that fear; wanting to prove I was smart, fit to participate, things like this. Nervous that I might not really be as worthy as I hoped, no matter how hard I worked. A common paradox, I think: it's a strange thing, but as an ancient I feel far less informed, less well-read than I did at eighteen, when I thought it was such a big deal to have read (a tiny bit of) Dostoevsky (in English.) Maybe this is partly a question of making friends with your own inescapable ignorance? So that you go in the library and can fully, absolutely realize that you're only ever going to absorb the tiniest particle of what there is. I can remember, too, how liberating it was to be able to admit freely and even with pleasure, "I don't know!" and to view saying so as an opportunity to learn something, rather than as an admission of inferiority. Ignorance is Liberty! Haha, God, now I sound like Orwell, whatever.

The other and equally good reason for encouraging the hipsters is that bohemian values of inventiveness and not-so-much-materialism are particularly helpful to have just now in the U.S. Because there has been way too much materialism over the last fifty years, new ways of looking at "success" and so on are badly needed. It would be great if, instead of excoriating the hipsters, people took a serious look at how they like to live, and maybe tried some of the things they like, for example riding a bicycle instead of driving a fancy car, or trying a vegan diet, or learning to play music. If we could broaden the idea of excellence to include more than wealth and power-to include cultural fluency, invention and new experiences—it could be such a good thing.

Maria Bustillos is the author of Dorkismo: The Macho of the Dork and Act Like a Gentleman, Think Like a Woman.

Photo from Flickr by Fred Benenson.

142 Comments / Post A Comment

petejayhawk (#1,249)

Or maybe people should just try being themselves, instead of trying so hard to belong to any certain group or aesthetic? It's always worked pretty well for me.

Tuna Surprise (#573)

Right on, Pete. You keep wearin' those Costco-brand cargo shorts.

Art Yucko (#1,321)

PARTY'S IN KIRKLAND, WASHINGCOSTCO. You little shits are disinvited.

That was the message I got out of the article. The actual hipsters aren't trying to be hipsters, they just are (or at least, aren't trying hard, the trying doesn't envelop them, etc). I'm too far removed to know if that makes sense–I'm inclined to believe it to an extent, just out of familiarity with similar situations, but someone else would have to weigh in. Anyway, enjoyable read Maria.

barnhouse (#1,326)

Well Pete, I'm not saying anyone should behave this or that way; I'm 100% in favor of the personal freedom. It's just that these kids like to live together, and dress like each other, and I don't think that in itself is a bad thing at all–?? It's just the snotty ones that are irritating, but it doesn't seem to me that most of 'em are like that.

petejayhawk (#1,249)

@barn: No, I'm all for that. But as you see from someone in this very thread, there are plenty of people who are obnoxious about it, and can't brook any criticism at all. Those are the annoying hipsters everyone finds so tiresome. Trust me, I have friends who fall squarely in the "hipster" aesthetic but don't come across as trying-too-hard, and we get along because we're all just people looking to have a good time, regardless of one's fashion or music sense. Live and let live, as it were.

egg cream (#4,667)

Makes sense to me. I was just talking to a friend the other day about how when we pick out a shirt we go, "That's a cute shirt," and when we pick out a pair of jeans we go, "That's a nice pair of jeans," and when we go to a shoe store or an eyeglass shop, we're drawn to the boots or the big glasses, and when we're looking for something to do on a Saturday night, we go to a bar we like in Brooklyn. And then we get there, and we instantly feel like assholes, because we're wearing the same shirts and jeans and boots and glasses as everyone else — but we didn't do it on purpose! We just happened to like all those things! And like a place where there are a lot of other people who happened to like all those things!

synchronia (#3,755)

@egg cream: You're saying your preferences aren't influenced by the (sub)culture around you?

petejayhawk (#1,249)

@Tuna: Aww, your judgmental hate is so cute. Keep it up, darling, but you’re not going to get to me – I don’t derive my self-worth from trying as hard as I can to fit in with some sort of corporate anti-establishment look. But if it works for you, then go you!

Tuna Surprise (#573)

Oh no, I meant that non-snarkily! Nobody is a bigger non-hipster (good kind or bad kind) than me. Also, I have purchased clothes at Costco and would again if I could get someone to drive me to the nearest warehouse.

I rolled my eyes at the how-to-date a hipster piece because people may find a great person to date if they can just look past the fact that someone complemented them on their "tats" rather than using the cool-kid sanctioned term of "art".

I'll stand be Tuna on this; She's a total straight shooter not bowing to any hipster conformity. Speaking of which, when is next awl bawl?

Andrew Cha (#7,965)

Can you post a photo of yourself on an average day? I want to know what someone who does not "try so hard to belong to any certain group or aesthetic" looks like. Is it just the lack of dayglo sunglasses? And do you have on some not too tight pants, maybe a collared shirt with the arms rolled up? Some brown shoes maybe? Cause then I'm also at that ideal state of not trying too hard to fit in. And everyone else in my office building is also in that ideal non-hipster state for that matter. FTW! Take that, Hipsters!

saythatscool (#101)

Jonathan Lethem's quote needs a period worse than my girlfriend.

boyofdestiny (#1,243)

I just "Liked" this. I hope it sticks!

saythatscool (#101)

Thank BOD!

Abe Sauer (#148)

+1 (literally)

kneetoe (#1,881)

@stc: I hear your gal wanted to get knocked up. You’re the one lacking in the punctuation department.

nakedfoul (#7,567)

I think a lot of the hatred stems from displacement; in the ’90s, when we were afraid of ‘selling out,’ we hated the gatekeepers, the mainstream corporate culture that assimilated and corrupted the underground. Now that the mainstream has fragmented, we see it as just another tool to get our message across, and our animosity has been forced to move on to another bugbear that is, like mass culture, ultimately a version of ourselves: the fake hipster.

Echo Park is so played, everybody's moving to the West Side now (it's flatter).

saythatscool (#101)

This reads as a nice companion piece to this.

Neopythia (#353)

I've often thought Patience would do well with a contemporary staging. Instead of aesthetes and Dragoon guards it could be hipsters and lawyers or perhaps bankers.

barnhouse (#1,326)

A lot of it, you wouldn't have to change a thing.

scrooge (#2,697)

OK, let's do it!

Sarah Stanek (#8,076)

Our little regional theatre co staged Patience in the 60s a few times, hippie lovesick maidens and army boys. All the maids all turned into little Jackie Kennedys with pillbox hats at the end, which was good for a visual conformity joke but really also sort of a dark-ass statement about the war. The photos, however, are hilari-awesome.

barnhouse (#1,326)

Wow! What did you do about Grosvenor? I was thinking if you had hipster aesthetes and banker Dragoon Guards, Grosvenor could be a country singer.

HiredGoons (#603)

I’m all about letting people do their thing and being nice, and liking what you like.
This was nice to read, Maria, right before I go to see The Drums/WildNothing/Apache Beat at Santos tonight.

I\'m the first to admit it.

Miles Klee (#3,657)

Make sure Wild Nothing plays 'Drifter.'

And 'Golden Haze.'

And 'Chinatown.'

iantenna (#5,160)

at one point in time i would have unabashedly referred to myself as a hipster but going by the fact that i have no fucking clue who any of those bands are i think i might now just be an old.

Art Yucko (#1,321)

"I go for the blue Jell-O, generally."

leilaclaire (#8,074)

Omigawd ME TOO. Do you read the Awl? I read the Awl! We are hipster besties.

Art Yucko (#1,321)

"It is extremely easy to tell the difference between a HESHER and a POSEUR."

Matt (#26)


iantenna (#5,160)

i think you mean "smell" rather than "tell", no?

Art Yucko (#1,321)

"smell my finger." -Gene Simmons

It took leaving New York for me to understand hipsters. (I refuse the attempt to rehabilitate the word, the word is dead) Now I don't hate them as much but I do think they are largely unnecessary. And still quite amusing. What occurred to me was that it was essentially a provincial form. In the far-off cities on the edge (like where I moved), as in high school, it is necessary to don little outfits and markers and things to show that, you know, you're the sort of person who ought to be in New York or London or Tokyo or Paris or Berlin, etc. (but never Chicago, no one ought to be in Chicago for any reason ever). But once in those cities, hey, we're all into weird music, we're all pretty cool, we all live in New York, so there's no more need for this. It's like wearing the shirt of the band to the concert. [Really? You like Stryper, too? I thought I was the only one!] So, yeah, you call them poseurs, I call them hipsters, either way people who know where they are, and like it, don't behave like that.

metoometoo (#230)

But if you are into weird music and are pretty cool and live in New York, you are what Maria is calling a hipster, and you are doing the exact thing that she described.

Right, but the distinction is 1) there is no need to rescue the word, and 2) you can always spot a Hipster but you can't always spot a New Yorker/etc., and that point of differentiation between the actual and the provincial/aspirational interpretation is almost always the fissure at which "posing" happens. That is, where the mean, lazy, unpleasant, unenjoying comes in.

But anyway, like I said, I don't mind them so much anymore. Hell, when I was in Provincial City (I have since moved again), I kind of missed them and was glad to run across scattered pockets here and there. From time to time.

metoometoo (#230)

This is the kind of thing that I always think someone should write, but then sigh and think it wouldn't be worth the effort because of all the shit you would probably get in return. So thanks for writing it, from one self-righteous, overly analytical bohemian to another.

HiredGoons (#603)

*call me

i like weird music but i'm def not cool

OK, well "Edit" is not working for me. That was supposed to go up there. Not sure if the italics are in the right place either, for the particular nuance I was trying to convey.

mimithedog (#1,165)

I don't like hipsters because being a hipster is about agreeing to everybody else's stupid 20 year old ignorance. Plus, my experience is that most hipsters are quietly racist. And often untravelled. And finally, middlebrow. Reminds me of the joke about radicals: give them a toaster and a ranch house and they shut up, or something like that…let's see what happens.


Art Yucko (#1,321)

"They ask for the extra ranch dressing, generally."

Matt (#26)

Dip it in _____.

DoctorDisaster (#1,970)

I consider the term "hipster" basically meaningless in general usage, and somehow you still seem to be stretching its definition.

Craig Brownson (#4,257)

This made me feel alright about my life. So thanks for that.

hugesunglasses (#2,696)

I liked this piece. That said, I’m not sure it’s beneficial to encourage classification of any kind. It goes against what so many Hipsters stand for.

Just be, playa.

Matt (#26)


hugesunglasses (#2,696)

Holy shit – great point. I routinely refer to the Steely Dan Storytellers. A hipster convention before there was such a thing. The Q&A between the audience and the band was a study in people trying to out-cool each other. Great television.

Leon (#6,596)

Herb Caen +1's this comment.


i make mistakes

But your heart always hits the right reply button.

I don't know how to respond to this…

NinetyNine (#98)

These hipsters sound pretty cool. Any tips on scoring with one?

Art Yucko (#1,321)

1. Get a room at the Standard.
2. Invite _____________.

Art Yucko (#1,321)

3. Blurry iPhone pics or it didn't happen.

Matt (#26)

Shave with as many blades as possible.

roboloki (#1,724)

lick your eyebrows.

hungerartist (#7,247)

This article confuses me in the way that it defines "hipster." It seemed to me, in the "good 'ol days", that hipsters were essentially just poseurs — people who moved to Williamsburg and other parts of Brooklyn because it was cool, not out of economic necessity like those who settled there in the 90's to live in commercial spaces with three other people for $900 a month. They were actually anti-bohemian, in that they wanted to appear blasé about nearly everything, especially money, when they needn't. This is where the derision and contempt arose from. "Bohemian" seems like such a malleable concept nowadays anyway — how is someone in this day of technology and gadgetry bohemian enough to be deemed a real hipster and not a poseur?

NinetyNine (#98)

90s? You need to brush up on your Hal Hartley. ARGH! Edit HTML IS UNGOOD.

cinetrix (#47)

@NinetyNine Thank you for that link. I still love the way Elina says, "Gee, Bob."

barnhouse (#1,326)

This 'wanting to be blasé' thing–exactly. What the heck? When the question is just, why are you living like this? Because it's fun, or because you want people to think something or other about you? That's all I'm getting at.

I think it's a certain definition of Authenticity that means "not looking like you're trying." Sincerity is a deadly affectation.

@hungerartist: Only poseurs actually care about this distinction. –proud aging hipster.

hungerartist (#7,247)

@Sharilyn_Neidhardt: ha, this response would indicate otherwise.

beatrixkiddo1 (#2,988)

I agree with the above, mostly because I live in Brooklyn and I'm sick of hearing people complain about their neighborhoods being "taken over by hipsters." I was young, but I remember New York in the 80s. I'll take hipsters over crackheads any day. These people spend their energy hating on things they should be happy about, like bike lanes and young people with disposable income moving in. If you want to wear tight jeans and read about bands all day, go crazy. Why/how could I possibly care?

Miles Klee (#3,657)

I find your indifference intriguing and wish to subscribe to your newsletter.

SourCapote (#4,872)

see i don't care what you like, but i do care if you make sure i know what you like…
'oh hai

City_Dater (#2,500)

Jonathan Lethem is not a hipster — he's a writer. "Hipster" became a slur because of the gigantic subculture of talentless timid young people who confuse dressing oddly and living in a neighborhood where artists once congregated (because it was cheap) with actually being an artist.

Tulletilsynet (#333)

Every (100/100) earnest word uttered by an otherwise smart person about a “generation” or other aesthetic group identity is a wasted attempt to tell the truth about some really empty cliché. From Notes on Camp down to the latest regrettable piece of trend journalism passing as fiction. — If Jonathan Lethem said "Actually, I hate hipsters," it would mean exactly the same thing as "Actually, I am one." Both sentences mean: "Hi, I'm Jonathan Lethem."

(Unless they both mean: "Eat me Bailey!")

SeanP (#4,058)

Yes. I've always been annoyed by these attempts to pigeonhole people. "Oh, you were born in 1956? Then you must love the Beatles and be full of yourself".

barnhouse (#1,326)

I thought it was really interesting how he calls them, "my people."

MikeBarthel (#1,884)

Jonathan Lethem, bless, is a writer who keeps thinking he is something else (a music critic, a hipster), and I do wish he would stop and concentrate on the writer thing, because that's really what he's good at.

joeks (#5,805)

"It took me a little while to understand how much nastiness people generally intended when they used the word hipster."

Here's a fun exercise: every time someone writes or says "hipster", mentally replace it with "faggot" and see if the meaning changes at all.

Charlie (#4,250)

great stuff. i think, as a young, i need to go home and finish reading Nixonland now so I can pretend to know about the 70s.

pocket shelley (#3,339)

I guess where I disagree is that I've known people who were truly hip who were not having any fun with it. Their preference for minimal music and Japanese design, for example, went along with a complete shut down of the affections. Their taste was impeccable, in the sense of the roots of the word: without sin, and therefore not particularly human. They were the real deal, aesthetically, but it all seemed fairly joyless. So I think you can be a true hipster and also a known sourpuss. It's not only the poseurs.

I have this one friend who only likes music that is hip, and he likes it the most when it is hippest. And if the hip band in question goes on to do their greatest work later when they are less hip, he won't like it. And beyond that, everything he likes is kitsch. I've come to the conclusion that he is completely without taste, unless (as I hope) he's secretly listening to old Janis Ian records and weeping over them.

barnhouse (#1,326)

Really interesting point; I don't think we disagree, though. All's I'm saying is that it's a terribly sad thing to be having no fun, whether your taste is exquisite or execrable. Sooner a kid should have perfectly ghastly taste and be loving life, right? I was just remembering, the movie Adaptation articulates the whole thing so perfectly in the "twin brother", Donald.

barnhouse (#1,326)

p.s. I get what you are saying better after thinking about it a bit more, re: 'discernment'. It really is difficult to fathom how/why a very knowledgeable person can still be a sourpuss? Maybe that is just a more generalized misanthropy, not to do with matters of taste, wherein the guy has to feel reasonably at peace?

pocket shelley (#3,339)

We're in complete and absolute agreement that joy and play are the way to go. I partially just wanted to use the phrase "known sourpuss" because it makes me happy. Stuart Murdoch's liner notes to the new Belle & Sebastian record, are a good example of the positive version of hipsterism you present. He's just being himself in the rarefied atmosphere that is his. Makes one feel good.

@pocket shelley: these people you describe are not hipsters, they are haters. Good taste does NOT make you happy, no matter what that shopgirl on Bedford Ave told you.

Why do you hate poseurs?

Abe Sauer (#148)

This sentence: "….the latter are mainly judging. The poseur is an aesthetic snob without aesthetic discernment.." Head splodes.

DoctorDisaster (#1,970)

Snobs without taste are real, and they are among us.

Leon (#6,596)

I moved to Greenpoint (from Park Slope) cuz it's more fun for me – does this make me a poseur, or just someone who wants to be at the bars that I have fun at? I get too passionate about music, but for me it's more classic Stax then xx or Sleigh Bells (though I like that too, just, ya know, Otis way more). And I don't dress like the hipster cartoon (cuz, ya know, I could lose a couple pounds before skinny jeans were a smart option). But I understand the "poseurs" too, because I'd rather be around people who at least wanted to be in the circles I like and try a little too hard than people who hang out at fake irish bars in Midtown.

Plus, I wish I would just adopt 'the look' so adorable girls at Boulevard and Matchless would know that I am one of the guys who will have fun arguing with them about things we both only slightly disagree on.

hungrybee (#2,091)

I'm doing that gesture of pointing at my eyes, then pointing at yours, then mine, then yours…

MikeBarthel (#1,884)

I tend to be suspicious of any classification with a value judgment attached, which is why I think poseurs are indeed hipsters – they are just shitty hipsters. And any social group gets parodied based on its worst and therefore most vulnerable part, so poseurs get targeted when people want to bitch about hipsters, which is fine.

I dunno. The “self-loathing” idea still works for me in that non-hipsters who complain about hipsters probably want to be hipsters in some way. I mean, not everyone complains about hipsters – the vast majority of people go about their day without ever giving the subject a second thought. Those who care enough to know what a hipster is have enough interest in the culture that they probably want to be a part of it. And why not? There are aspects of creative people’s lives that are certainly worth envying, which is after all why we become creative people in the first place. (Also, people think we are cool, for some reason!) But people on a professional career path don’t have the time to mount a gallery show or go on tour or stage a production or whatever, so the aspirational ones make fun of the shitty parts of hipsterdom as a way of making themselves feel better about the compromises they’ve had to make.

Hipsters do this too! They talk about “office drones” and so forth and it drives me fucking batshit but cool, when you are living without health insurance in a shitty apartment, it certainly helps to vilify the people that have the nice things you don’t by reminding yourself of the nice things you have that they don’t. Everyone makes compromises in their life choices, and you need to rationalize those in some way or you’ll keep wondering if you made the right decision long past the point where you could choose anything other than your current path. Hipster-bashing is less self-loathing than ego-tripping, and it serves its purpose pretty well.

SeanP (#4,058)


I dunno. The “self-loathing” idea still works for me in that non-hipsters who complain about hipsters probably want to be hipsters in some way. I mean, not everyone complains about hipsters – the vast majority of people go about their day without ever giving the subject a second thought.

Exactly – living out here in the provinces, there are no hipsters. In fact, I'd never heard of such a subculture until relatively recently. And now, although I wouldn't really share any interests with those folks, I wear different clothes, listen to different music, etc… I'm having trouble understanding the big hate for them.

kneetoe (#1,881)

I'm so olds I'm ready for a hip replacement. Hip spurs, ya know.

I'm a longtime Williamsburgher and this is clearly the most elegant comment on a topic that's dominated the bar chatter along Bedford and Bushwick Aves for at least the last five years. The distinction is as easy as this article suggests: Hipsters think things are cool and want to share their enthusiasms with likeminded individuals. Poseurs are anxious and a little dickish and don't want to share. As an aging Hipster myself, I would add that a lot of Hipster sharing/enthusiasm alludes to a lack of financial resources – that's what led my cohort to cheap/cool things like: bicycles, old vinyl, PBR, vintage clothes, Williamsburg. Paying too much or too conspicuously for any of these things is a sure mark of the Poseur.

djfreshie (#875)

Exactly! There's a massive correlation between the traits defining what a hipster is and the price of the things that create the conditions where those traits flourish. I also think there's a big tie-in to the utility of the fashions and products one wears. You mention bicycles, but the big one for me is glasses. Yo! Did you pay money for glasses you don't need a prescription for? Saddest thing in the world.

And the thing is, I think hipsters, as opposed to poseurs, will have no issues spending money once they get it, and they will probably spend it on nice looking, quality products. Poseurs spend their money to look poor. You can do that for free, guys!

Hamilton (#122)

Poseurs are awesome.

hman (#53)

Who just posted a Magnetic Fields song on his tumblr?

max bread (#5,970)

Hey! I really liked this article, even if I didn't agree with all of it. But, it made me kind of sad, the way people commented on it, by complaining about hipsters, without really engaging with the piece itself. (Not all of you!)

MattP (#475)


HiredGoons (#603)


Jeff Barea (#4,298)

I'm not one to complain, but when you change shit can you at least alert those of us of diminished capacity a bit of warning so it's not so traumatic?

Jeff Barea (#4,298)

OMFG that damn editable clock is scaring me now.

Jeff Barea (#4,298)

The damn thing says "Log Out" and somehow I get "Error posting comment. Are you logged in?"

I don't need this type of shit this late in the night, ok? Fix it.

Jeff Barea (#4,298)

AcK the damn clock reset… Everyone fucking RUUUUUNNNNNN!!!

I still think the word "hipster" is too broadly defined to really mean anything (too often it's synonymous with a certain definition of the term "white"). I mean, you see some websites calling the people who populate the Lower East Side now — you know, the ones with the stretch Escalades — "hipsters." It's a word that says much more about the person uttering it (usually derisively) than about anything it might be describing.

Bradley Wind (#5,526)

I'm enjoying We Were Promised Jetpacks at the moment. Thank you.

KarenUhOh (#19)

I used to have hips.

Art Yucko (#1,321)

I still have a hip-flask. Somewhere in this mess of kitchen cabinet.

katiechasm (#163)

And then the wheels fell off?

Anarcissie (#3,748)

The problem with hipsters is that hip has been dead for many years, as has the notion of bohemianism. Whatever they once meant, they are now modes or strategies of marketing to the naive. Hence the hipster is necessary a poseur, and a failed one at that — a simulacrum whose original has vanished, a sucker. It's not very attractive.

dntsqzthchrmn (#2,893)

I don't see how this word applies to anybody not painted with the words Soy Bomb.

Jonathan Lethem more short-ish genre books plz kthxbai

Craig Brownson (#4,257)

"I know I don't have too long/ Whatever happened to Soy Bomb?"

Art Yucko (#1,321)

"The Disappointment Trustafarianist"

Abe Sauer (#148)

"…hipsterism turns out to be the most stultifying intellectual position there is… In other words, the hipsters are suffering from a kind of reverse-earnestness that is in fact as old as the hills. It's a very stubborn malady."
– "Dorkismo: The Macho of the Dork"

thethetk (#8,111)

but now someone has offered me space to write something different!

barnhouse (#1,326)

Oh, now I see. You haven't read my book, and therefore do not understand what I wrote on the subject five years ago, vis-à-vis what I wrote about it last week.

Abe Sauer (#148)

Well, I read some of the sections. But I'm open to understand how the above takeaway fits with what you wrote (genuinely interested).

The persecution complex "hipsters" have seems misplaced to the extreme. The echo chamber of the media hipsters ingest is why they think there is some complex reason people dislike them, or even some kind of sweeping feelings about them at all. But the reasons any do dislike hipsters is far, far simpler: Money and a luxury to be carefree about their lives.

You write, "It would be great if, instead of excoriating the hipsters, people took a serious look at how they like to live, and maybe tried some of the things they like, for example riding a bicycle instead of driving a fancy car, or trying a vegan diet, or learning to play music." "Fancy" car, eh?

I don't specifically care about hipsters, believing that everyone should live however they please, but that sentence makes me angry. And if that statement is representative of the "hipster" mindset, then I might be inclined to start disliking them very much, if for the ignorance alone.

DoctorDisaster (#1,970)

"Fancy" makes sense in that context. Using Maria's definition of hipster, lots of hipsters drive cars; most hipsters' cars would be deemed "not fancy" or, indeed, "shitty" by any sensible observer. If she just said "car," it would sound like she was saying that none of them drive.

barnhouse (#1,326)

Television, movies and magazines reinforce an upper-middle-class, "fancy car" materialist mindset on an enormous scale. Hipster culture is far less materialist than the mainstream concept of “success” peddled during the commercial break–you don’t think? Embarrassingly, I can't figure out what would make you angry about this.

As for my earlier stuff on this topic, Dorkismo describes pretty much the same phenomenon in differently-defined terms, because it's a blunter, broader argument; it compares the non-pleasure-taking hipsters to the dorks, defined in terms specific to the book, with caveats like the ones I make here.

The vilification of "hipsters" is a real thing, not some kind of persecution complex. I am around a lot of undergrads these days and I see it constantly. For what it's worth, I got a really surprising amount of positive correspondence about this thing from under-20s whom I didn't have a clue were even reading The Awl (they totally are.)

Abe Sauer (#148)

Thanks for the clarification. Ill go back and reread with this info.
But isn\'t the fancy car etc. assessment of others\' life choices, and the opinion that they might be better off being more hipster, quite a judgmental mindset? Something you say Hipsters don\'t do?
A vilification can be a real thing and yet allow for persecution complexes. Even using the term \"vilification\" is preposterous. You know who\'s vilified? Muslims. Hispanics. Gays.
Hipsters are a punching bag for a certain cross-group of overly-clever by half self-styled intellectual sophisticates and another group of market econ American Dream adherents. What they have in common is twofold: 1) a shared urbanity where their groups function as West Side Story gangs; and 2) money. #2 is the primary reason these groups all hate one another. It\'s a battle over how people with means think they should live. Think the large numbers of impoverished in cities like Milwaukee or New York or Dallas or those in rural Nevada, Mississippi or Ohio think about \"vilifying\" hipsters? Not at all. Outside of a very small population, nobody gives a damn about hipsters or even knows who or what they are.
And, I\'m sure you received a boatload of positive responses. Nobody likes anything more than finding their personal life choices affirmed. That\'s why Fox News exists.

barnhouse (#1,326)

Well, I'm saying that hipster values aren't so bad, yes, for example because they are less materialist than mainstream ones. You think it is "judgmental" in a bad way to suggest alternatives to the excessive materialism in this country? A country that contains Rick Santorelli? I'm flabbergasted.

The size of/interest in this population isn't really in question? The interest generated by the articles on this subject right here at The Awl demonstrates the relevance of that culture pretty irrefutably, I think, at least to The Awl's readership–it surprised me a little, the response, that's why I mentioned it. I daresay "the impoverished" of Milwaukee, rural Nevada etc. don't much read websites like this one, so your point escapes me entirely, there …

Maybe part of our disconnect is that when I say, "hipster" I mean a young kid. They do not have any money! They go to school and/or play in some band or other and/or live in a squat, practically, or a gnarly leaking loft? (same as it ever was…) They drink PBR because it is cheap! (in my day it was Rolling Rock!) Maybe I mean that, and you mean James Franco?

barnhouse (#1,326)

@Abe! You've read my book?!?!?!? I am gonna die right now.

Dang (#8,090)

I've been living in the Bushwick/Williamsburg area for the past 5 years, and I fit the general description of a hipster. Yes there are people who have similar interests who live here – the same is true almost everywhere. When a person decides they like something which other people may also like, (i.e. TV on the Radio, Twilight, Animal Collective, Harry Potter, Grizzly Bear, The Office, The Stranger, The Daily Show) it does not make them any less of an individual. Common interests are a common occurrence everywhere in the world. The fact that hipsters are currently under fire from whomever, claiming lack of originality and integrity, is also a standard happening. Culture evolves in this manner constantly. A person (or group of people create item A) – a bigger group of people identify with item A – it snowballs – a culture is created – a group of people decide that item A is bullshit – they create item B – it snowballs – some people from the group that really dug item A decide they identify and appreciate item B too – item B replaces item A in popularity and cultural significance – and so on and so forth. Yes there is a counter culture in Brooklyn – yes it gaining more popularity. This is not in and of itself new or exciting. My qualm with the counter culture in Brooklyn is not the elements of uniformity or the occasional spoiled/sneering participant – it's the lack of direction and interest in matters truly more relevant than individual pursuits. In important subcultures (Beats, Hippies) there was a vital reason why those individuals bonded together to create a whole greater than its parts. The Beats helped forge the way for individual expression in literature, free from traditional structure, The Hippies wildly pursued new horizons in the mind, new perspectives on how to live and be in general, and in turn helped stretch the boundaries of popular music. Hipsters live near each other yes, can identify one another based on visual similarities, but there is no real sense of a unified community working together, or even having a shared cause. Beyond similarities in personal goals nothing really ties it all together. That being said – I like living around other musicians and artists. I like it because as a musician I must be inspired to create something, I can't just switch it on and off – seeing other individuals working hard to make something is a beautiful site – its something that lights a fire under my ass too. If you have a healthy amount of self-esteem you should have a touch of pride when it comes to the people you identify with, if you continue to think negatively about the people you don't see eye to eye with you'll only get better at it. Judging and criticizing typically doesn't lead to lasting happiness. All I can say really is that I'm looking forward to what new counter culture emerges to topple the current heavyweights. (this response is directed more towards the commenters than the author of the post – Maria has a healthy outlook)

Andrew Piccone (#7,185)

This made me feel not jaded and depressed.

Spencer Lund (#2,331)

The Wolf Brothers told me they love hipsters. Mr Dibbs told me he killed a couple of them after a show last year. Doseone is very introverted, so he didn't say anything, but he giggled. That other guy from Cinci doesn't know what a hipster is. None of them wanted to come back to Williamburg with me. I'm a poseur since I only really liked Deep Puddle Dynamics.

Being 40, a married heterosexual white female with two kids, I am probably not supposed to be even reading this. But, there have always been hipsters, I think. One thing I like is their consumer influence. In looking for the new, the might start habitating an otherwise broken down or depressed area and revitalize it. Plenty of hipsters have done that in the city of Detroit and its surrounding neighborhoods. Thanks Hipsters!

Doug Henwood (#6,729)

Damn, I loved this. I have nothing more to say than that.

thethetk (#8,111)

ugh please stop posting these sad little pieces that defend the author's residency in brooklyn. this kind of thing was tired when it was in the high school newspaper.

thethetk (#8,111)

and that last paragraph is particularly detestable, given the rents hipsters pay and the anecdotal-but-really-pretty-common prevalence of family money among the "hipsters."

thethetk (#8,111)

but nobody besides me seems to have read that far.

Anarcissie (#3,748)

I read the last paragraph, and it's pretty silly, but it's inoffensive because the term 'hip' and its derivatives became meaningless 20 or 30 years ago. Sure, some people are trying out new things and attitudes and relations and organizations and so on. Most of them are probably not trying to make Williamsburg rents, however, since that task will tend take a lot of one's time and attention. I guess given the lovely Williamsburg waterfront I should say mortgages, not rents.

Gabriel Rom (#5,903)

"It's easy to tell the difference between a hipster and a poseur, because while the former are mainly enjoying, the latter are mainly judging."

But I thought the defining characteristic of a hipster is to judge?! De what?

But on a more serious note, the backbone of hipsterdom are good things (in my opinion) – intelligence, wit, political awareness, etc. I think its the lack of empathy the hipster has for the non-hipster that creates the antagonism. I always wonder what hipsters would think of a witty intelligent person who is into the dirty projectors and voted for George Bush. What a paradox, would the universe explode? I actually have a theory that there are quite a few closet hipster-conservatives.

Gabriel Rom (#5,903)

Addendum: This is going to sound \"hipsterish\", but I think it\\\'s really true: Capitalism has stripped hipsterdom of it\\\'s substance and co-opted it\\\'s \\\"coolness\\\" or \\\"we\\\'re-on-the-cultural-inside\\\" factor. This starts a cycle of hipster soul-searching in a society that misunderstands and abuses them. It makes hipsters become reactionary and hate mainstream culture even more. Or it leads to a gross misuse of irony and smugness in everything a hipster says or does. Eventually at some point we all just want to know what a person really feels and thinks and we couldn\\\'t care less about wit or irony thats meant to divert us from actual emotions or thoughts.
The link between hipsters and elitism is bullshit but capitalism feeds on it because it sells. Want this pair of shoes, well look at this cool skinny jean wearing chick at a concert wearing those shoes. Now you must really want them?
Honestly advertising does more to fuck with our collective psyche than anything I can think of.

Gabriel Rom (#5,903)

wow what teh fuck is goin on with these slash marks. help theawl

Supak Ryan (#8,153)

Hi, I\\\'ve been a H-Word for most of my life — first as a teenage poseur and later as a fully-vested Hipster. (Also, I\\\\\\\'m a cartographer by trade, so I often think of things in geographic terms.)
Awhile back, I was on 4chan and people were making maps of their cities by screen-capturing Google Maps, then drawing on top of it in MS Paint to denote what kind of people lived in different neighborhoods. (As anyone who knows 4chan at all can imagine, almost none of these were politically correct.) One thing that did strike me, though, was that every single city that was depicted, even those with only 100K or so people, had an area labeled \\\\\\\"Hipster Neighborhood\\\\\\\".
A few weeks ago, I saw another article that showed the ethnic breakdown of cities, presented in map form. Each person of a certain \\\\\\\"race\\\\\\\" was a tiny dot on the map, and different \\\\\\\"races\\\\\\\" had their own color so the reader could easily glance, and get a rough idea what was going on.
I noticed that many of the cities strongly associated with hipsterdom had the most stark racial segregation by neighborhood. This led me to wondering if what we call \\\\\\\"hipster\\\\\\\" is just the newest version of \\\\\\\"yuppie\\\\\\\", basically the young, white, educated, white, self-proclaimed elite. (Again: I am one of them, so don\\\\\\\'t take this as a condemnation or a political overture.)

There has obviously been a cultural shift — instead of ascots and tennis courts, the new social currency is obscure sneakers and street cred — but it seems to me that this bluntly simple explanation may be the best.

sandrz (#8,337)

People don't respect hipsters because hipsters qua hipsters are shallow. Real, fake, there's no way of distinguishing between them because none of them believe in anything at all. They just consume the currently trendy things and like some better than others.

Individual hipsters may be no more shallow than anyone; AS hipsters, they're people who buy a certain kind of clothes and whose idea of "Who am I?" is "I am a person who likes X band and wears glass that look like this." Shallow.

However, people don't really hate hipsters. What they hate is the endless flood of empty, idiotic articles about hipsters, most of which completely ignore that there is no phenomenon here. "Hipsters" have nothing in common but fashion and age. Oh, and most of them are privileged, but that's really nothing new. Whenever the media defines a generation, it only pays attention to the richest strata of society. Whatever these rich kids do, is defined as what's new. Even in a desperate case, like today's, where what they are doing is absolutely nothing.

Richard Goldman (#8,418)

As an ancient – god bless the village green and maria b!

shashero ten (#8,426)

Malingering is what best describes and defines these precious
& incomparable shimmering souls.

mokkos (#21,833)

Loved this article. I too cannot "unsee" the typos in books or on signs, and I don't even work in the publishing field. Maybe I should try it. trading forex

So the difference between a "real hipster" and a "fake hipster" is a certain level of happiness? Being happy doesn't make you hip nor does loathing. What makes a person a hipster is their level of awareness. I would say the hippest people (in the eyes of the hipster) are people who have discovered something profound about the nature of human existence (positive or negative) and live their life outside the mental constraints of the vast majority. Ironically these idols are not hipsters, they are bohemians or artists or something like that. they're just being themselves. In a materialistic culture; hipster aesthetics are trivial manifestations of one's desire to be something more than one is. Adorning or enjoying these things does not make one anything more than a hipster.

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