Monday, April 29th, 2013

The Complete Glossary of Hipster Hallmarks

A "hipster" is "a person who is unusually aware of and interested in new and unconventional patterns (as in jazz or fashion)." Or so says the eleventh edition of Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary. The extent to which that definition is insufficient and unsatisfactory in the modern era boggles the mind. So, naturally, during the past decade lots of people, publications and websites have attempted to fill in the Williamsburg-sized gaps in our understanding by crafting better, more expansive definitions. These efforts often fall short as well. To be fair, devising a comprehensive yet pithy definition is not easy in this case. (Give it a try. It’s like attempting to define the sky with words instead of just, say, going outside and pointing up.)

Fortunately there is an easier way forward. Why exert any energy trying to come up with a formal, all-encompassing definition of the word "hipster" when we can just look to the paper of record for guidance?

Descriptors found in pieces published by The New York Times in the last decade that discuss, describe or mention hipsters combine to offer more than adequate fodder for a useful reference document. They have created a portfolio of hipsterdom.

So if you’re hoping to paint a picture to be hung in some TBA hipster museum of the future, or to create a double-decker bus tour thing catering to hipster groupies, look no further than the world’s foremost daily newspaper for insights on what defines this subset of the population. Below, please find The Complete Glossary of Hipster Hallmarks, cribbed from the pages of The New York Times and presented without comment.

•"all-night roof parties" (May 19, 2002)
•"American Spirits" (March 1, 2009)
•"artisanal tattoos" (August 5, 2012)
•"ascots" (July 10, 2005)
•"asymmetrical haircuts" (July 27, 2003)
•"aviator glasses" (April 16, 2011)

•"bearded [men wearing] trendy straw hat[s]" (October 24, 2010)
•"bespoke frontiersman beard[s]" (August 5, 2012)
•"Brooklyn Flea" ("in the vicinity of the") (August 13, 2009)
•"bunchy blouses" (June 11, 2009)

•"cardigan sweaters" (October 19, 2011)
•"cardigans" ("droopy") (June 11, 2009)
•"cigarette-filled afternoons" (May 19, 2002)
•"cocktails with artisan bitters" (May 31, 2012)
•"Converse high-tops" (July 27, 2003)
•"cool-nerd eyeglasses" (October 19, 2011)
•"cuffs with bright blue socks for emphasis" (July, 12 2010)

•"deliberately homely sweaters" (November 3, 2011)
•"dirty looking young [men]" (April 16, 2011)
•"discount shop jeans" (January 17, 2006)
•"droll expressions" (June 11, 2009)

•"80s hairdos" (May 29, 2005)
•"80s jewelry" (June 24, 2007)
•"80s studded belts" (July 27, 2003)

•"facial hair" ("[a] certain kind of") (April 16, 2011)
•"facial hair" ("creative") (May 19, 2002)
•"fashion [that] embeds a continued wistfulness for early life" (June 24, 2012)
•"[a] fedora perched atop the head just so" (August 5, 2012)
•"fedoras" (June 9, 2009)
•"fellows with scraggly beards" (June 20, 2012)
•"fixed-gear bikes" (being into) (October 19, 2011)
•"flannel shirt[s]" (October 27, 2011)
•"Fleet Foxes" (being into the) (October 19, 2011)
•"foam-fronted trucker hat[s]" (October 9, 2005)
•"full, bushy beards" (March 23, 2006)
•"furry faces" (March 23, 2006)


•"gaunt people in tight clothes" (May 19, 2002)
•"generic slip-on sneakers" (August 13, 2009)
•"glasses and a gentle, humble demeanor" (January 17, 2006)
•"Grizzly Bear" ("fans of") (August 13, 2009)

•"hair in a top bun" ("men with") (Feb 17, 2013)
•"hair that looks as if it had fallen on a guy’s head as he fought his way through a wind tunnel." (January 17, 2006)
•"harmonium" (playing the) (October 7, 2007)
•"high-waisted skinny jeans" (November 3, 2011)
•"huge tote bags" (June 11, 2009)


•"ironic smile[s]" (October 19, 2011)
•"ironic T-shirts" (June 24, 2007)
•"irony epidemic" (the) (April 6, 2004)


•"jeans [that] fit like pantyhose" (March 31, 2002)


•"kale [plants growing] on tops of warehouses" (June 23, 2011)
•"Kings of Leon" (October 5, 2003)
•"kitsch" (a penchant for) (October 7, 2007)


•"leather cuff bracelet[s]" (August 13, 2009)
•"leg warmers" (July 27, 2003)
•"leggings for women" (January 6, 2013)
•"liv[ing] in Williamsburg, or Bushwick" (October 19, 2011)
•"local food" (an insistence on) (June 20, 2012)
•"lopsided hair" (June 11, 2009)

•"[the] McCarren Park Greenmarket" ("in the vicinity of…") (August 13, 2009)
•"[the] man bun" (January 26, 2012)
•"manly stubble" (October 27, 2011)
•"men… twisting their long hair into a form more famously worn by librarians, schoolmarms and Katharine Hepburn." (January 26, 2012)
•"men wearing skinny jeans" (April 3, 2009)
•"mocking over-sharing parents" ("who, for example, post photos of their placentas") (August 9, 2012)
•"Monday night cornhole" ("tournaments") (September 15, 2011)
•"mustache" ("reemergence of the") (February 8, 2009)
•"mustaches on a stick" (June 24, 2007)


•"nerd-chic glasses (October 7, 2007)
•"not trying" (January 17, 2006)


•"off-the-shoulder shirts" (July 27, 2003)
•"old-fashioned valve amplifiers" (the collection of) (July 17, 2011)
•"old-school sunglasses" (November 2, 2006)
•"organic food" (favoring) (October 19, 2011)
•"oversized lumber-jack shirts" (January 17, 2006)
•"oversized plastic-frame glasses" (January 6, 2013)

•"Pabst Blue Ribbon as the… beer of choice" (February 8, 2009)
• "pale, tiny-waisted boys" (June 11, 2009)
•"pasty-white" (April 19, 2013)
•"posturing" (July 23, 2009)
•"potbelly" ("burgeoning") (August 13, 2009)


•"Radiohead and The Killers" (October 19, 2011)
•"raffishly trimmed whiskers" (March 23, 2006)
•"[the] Ralph Kramden [belly]" (August 13, 2009)
•"Ray-Ban sunglasses" (October 19, 2011)
•"rolled cuffs over oxfords without socks." (May 31, 2012)
•"roots in the community [that] are superficial" (July 22, 2012)


•"Schlitz" (as a "hipster staple") (June 9, 2011)
•"scruffy" (November 28, 2004)
•"shabby chic" (May 13 2007)
•"shaggy hairstyle[s]" (October 19, 2011)
•"shapeless sneakers" (January 17, 2006)
•"shorts cut at knickers length" (August 13, 2009)
•"sideways trucker caps" (July 27, 2003)
•"skinny black jeans" (October 27, 2011)
•"skinny jeans" (May 25, 2010)
•"skinny ties" (October 19, 2011)
•"skinny trousers" (October 19, 2011)
•"skinny-leg jeans" (June 11, 2009)
•"slim" ("being") (October 19, 2011)
•"[a] small star [as] the must-have tattoo" (June 24, 2007)
•"sneaker connoisseurship" (November 2, 2006)
•"sons [named] Denim and Bowie" (Feb 17, 2013)
•"[the] sparrow [as] an icon" (June 24, 2007)
•"boys in specs" (January 17, 2006)
•"straw fedora[s]" (August 13, 2009)
•"antique synthesizers" (the collecting of) (July 17, 2011)

•"thrift-store dresses" (June 24, 2007)
•"tight T-shirts" (July 27, 2003)
•"too cool for school" (June 6, 2002)
•"too much pulled pork and too few pull-ups" (leading to "hipster belly") (March 21, 2013)
•"tousled brown hair" (November 30, 2003)
•"[a] trailer-park sensibility" (September 28, 2003)
•"trucker cap[s]" (August 13, 2009)


•"unkempt-but-still-dressy duds" (June 11, 2009)


•"V-neck Hanes T-shirt[s]" (August 13, 2009)
•"vintage clothes" (May 25, 2010)
•"vintage jeans" (July 27, 2003)
•"vintage shirts with high school football logos" (September 28, 2003)
•"vintage T-shirts" (November 3, 2011)


•"wallet chain[s]" (August 13, 2009)
•"Wayfarers with prescription lenses" (September 1, 2011)
•"wearing sunglasses at night" (October 21, 2007)
•"women with Feist haircuts" ("young") (June 11, 2009)

Matthew J.X. Malady is a writer and editor living in Manhattan. Follow him on twitter @matthewjxmalady. Photo by Heather Harvey.

38 Comments / Post A Comment

Hipster: a derisive term used to describe any twenty or early thirty-something who is interested in things outside the prevalent mainstream culture who is disliked by the speaker. Generally used by someone whose habits and tastes are similar who is trying to distinguish between him and herself as the hipster.

There, does that work?

@happymisanthrope I wish! There are a lot of hipsters older than early thirties. And "outside the prevalent mainstream culture" is either over-generous or painfully naive. Nothing is outside the mainstream and nothing is beyond the grasp of the hipster. Spot on with the rest, though. The uncanny valley between the self and the square.

PS: Our numbers are each other's backwards.

smartastic (#2,437)

@happymisanthrope Hipsters are the mainstream culture.

rubyinthedust (#185,652)

@smartastic go anywhere besides affluent, liberal urban areas and you will find that hipsterism is not in fact the mainstream culture.

skyslang (#11,283)

@happymisanthrope YES, it does work. Perfection.

skyslang (#11,283)

@smartastic "generally used by someone whose habits and tastes are similar who is trying to distinguish between him and the hipster" … you kind of fell into that, didn't you?

AKA (#242,007)

@happymisanthrope are goths hipsters?

Vicky (#7,168)

I really like that the dates are given, I'd like to see this presented chronologically, a sort of hipster timeline. The changing idea of what the NYT thinks composes a hipster.

@Vicky They mentioned trucker hats in 2009. I thought this was the New York Times, not the LA Times.

sixlocal (#296)

I love that you included the dates next to each entry. I made a game of just reading the terms and then guessing the date. I was always off by about 8-10 years. Which makes sense since this is based on the NYT.

davidwatts (#72)

"Radiohead and The Killers" in 2011? Really, tsk tsk. 2004, sure. 2011 is a little past vintage on that one.

Werner Hedgehog (#11,170)

I like the accompanying photo! "A hipster is someone who goes outside. Everyone else stays inside, writing on the internet about how much they hate hipsters."

pushpins (#243,488)

@Werner Hedgehog I always saw "hipster" as an ideal much like the carefree white girl. Does anyone really own and use a vintage typewriter today except the white people we pretend to hate? For example

Mr. B (#10,093)

I find it difficult to believe that not one article in 11 years has mentioned Subarus.

Oh, but also! Was this thing a bitch to format or what? What a labor of love this piece is.

Hipster in 2003, Hollister in 2013.

Niko Bellic (#1,312)

Snobs are people who think they are better than others because they can appreciate the fine things in life other people can't. Hispters are those who think they are better than others PERIOD, and they adorn themselves in junk for the purpose of proving that point.

As a snob, I would gladly unite with the rubes in trashing the hispters, if they were only sophisticated enough to tell the damn difference!

Anarcissie (#3,748)

I know that there are no longer any hipsters because I have seen the funny little hipster hats for sale in the Chinese discount junk stores at very, very low prices.

skyslang (#11,283)

@Anarcissie Well…they aren't hipster hats anymore are they?

Anarcissie (#3,748)

@skyslang — No hats, no hipsters. 'Hip' died a long time ago, but no one told these people until a few years ago. Now they have vanished like snow on the river. Last one I saw was wandering along Kent Avenue a couple of years ago. There might be a few left in the provinces, like Bushwick.

@Anarcissie Winter before last one was driven by hunger to raid my Village (East). We cornered it in an Olde Time Candie Shoppe and set it on fire.

Anarcissie (#3,748)

@My Number Is My Address — That was so appropriate. Burning hipsters — it sounds like a 1959 poem by Allen Ginsburg. If the shoppe owners were smart (and what East Village shoppe owners are not smart?) they could make it a regular feature of their enterprise.

beatrixkiddo1 (#2,988)

I will never, ever grow tired of hearing about "sons [named] Denim and Bowie."

Joe Lavery@twitter (#243,505)

Irony -> Fad -> Fashion, [rinse and repeat]

I find them easy to just ignore. ( they are children-not yet adults). What I do find offensive are skinny jeans…

whizz_dumb (#10,650)

The words "hipster" and "douchebag" have become meaningless (somewhat interchangeable) descriptors that mainly expose the user's disdain for strangers.

whizz_dumb (#10,650)

In defense of facial hair, it has been around for quite a while.

purefog (#999)

What, no "quinoa-eating"?

rubyinthedust (#185,652)

i actually really like the Merriam Webster definition.

Ellie (#18,264)

So it's a disorder, not a disease.

Sid Beers@twitter (#243,511)

Why not link to the articles?

shostakobitch (#1,692)

Hipsters are:
1. Young people from 10 years ago.
2. Something Buzzfeed makes fun of to get the low-hanging ad dollars.

antoine (#243,594)

You forgot another one under "U":
"Using the word 'signifier'"

soyamarellaag (#243,601)

SO good

AKA (#242,007)

What bugs me about the wide definition of hipster used by Merriam and others is that it fails to distinguish between people who are so dedicated to making art and culture they will do it despite having no money and those who have enough money to consume copious quantities of the work of said people. They're both essential parts of this corner of the world, but the latter to me is the true hipster, the former is an artist artisan craftsman Bohemian.

AKA (#242,007)

…Martin Amis apparently agrees. Great.

erappob (#244,512)

You missed the Miranda July article from 07/2011 which mentioned: "Etsy-shopping, Wes Anderson-quoting, McSweeney’s-reading, coastal-living category of upscale urban bohemia that flourished in the aughts"

erappob (#244,512)

And here's another priceless quote from the same article:
"The urban bohemian irks precisely because his or her quirky individuality is just part of a different kind of uniformity, where the uniform happens to be a bushy beard or Zooey Deschanel bangs rather than country-club khakis. Twee fascinations with childhood innocence can mask an unwillingness to tackle life’s darker quandaries. "

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