I get it. Hipsters are easy to pick on. It can be tough to look at someone wearing skinny jeans and a keffiyeh and not assume he’s vegan, owns a fixed-gear bike, and refreshes Pitchfork hourly. Such stereotypical hipsters, decried everywhere from Time to Time Out and lampooned regularly on blogs like Hipster Runoff and Look at This Fucking Hipster, are deplorable. They sneer and sardonically bemoan everything you hold dear without standing for anything themselves. They destroy culture. Et cetera. But they also probably don’t really exist.
The hipster archetype is at best a broad generalization and at worst a straw man for people to direct their own insecurities about being “cool.” I mean, come on.
But let’s talk about these people who meet some of the hipster criteria, which no doubt owe at least partially to reality: those who sip PBR at Wavves concerts, wearing their thrift-store flannel, discussing the latest Wes Anderson movie and why his earlier stuff is more authentic. None of these things are bad in the abstract. After all, everyone is entitled to personal taste.
What we find irksome about the people we imagine fit the stereotype is that they’re all so damn ironic.
The irony, intensified to such a volume, is so detrimental because it not only strips the meaning from the things we hold dear (by coopting and thereby mocking everything we value), it does nothing to offer an alternative. Hipsterdom is, in its purest form, harmful because of how acridly ironic it is, deconstructing not in a Dadaist attempt to make sense of things, but simply because it’s cheap. It’s so much easier to knock things down than to hold something up yourself.
But those who decry this hipster are guilty of the same thing: identifying problems without suggesting solutions. It’s iconoclasm at its worst. Tearing down elements of culture can be valuable, but the zeitgeist is not a zero-sum game; that is, countering the hipster critiques doesn’t cancel them out and in fact only intensifies the acrimony on both sides. Hipsters (among others) add to our cultures’ vapidity, but so do their critics.
There is no end to how much I love this article. It’s perfect, something I had been working on, but hadn’t found the right way of writing, which makes sense, since I’m not paid to do this (nor do I really deserve to get paid).
Backing up a second, or ummm, ten years… there was this Decade of the Hipster thing that made its way around tumblr, and everyone had a good laugh, some people mentioned how they were THAT guy, and others were like UGH. But here’s the odd thing about that article: all those people photographed were happy. All of the guys above are happy. They aren’t sullen, right? Spoiled, ornery, ironic, obnoxious, any of the awful things people say about hipsters, these people aren’t that.
I’ve mentioned this to my NYC friends, but I don’t really know what a hipster is. The few times I’ve been at the supposed hipster breeding grounds (aka Williamsburg)? Party at Whisk and Ladle, which was a blast, and otherwise, a few bar outings with friends that supplied the same exact ratio of douchebaggery as any other drinking situation. Was I in the wrong places? Maybe, I dunno. But honestly, if there’s some bar out there that’s huddling a bunch of awful people in one spot, then by all means, it makes it easier for me to have fun when I’m hanging out elsewhere.
I feel like we’ve lost touch of the reason everyone hates hipsters in the first place: the sneering, the vanity, the ironic detachment… and here’s the kicker: some of these traits represent all that some of us have. A few bloggers who pay for the tickets to see that goofy Glenn Beck Christmas movie-thing, just so they could ironically review the movie… isn’t that the epitome of hipsterdom? Why the hell would anyone need to contribute to that, we already know what Glenn Beck is all about! He’s compared himself to a rodeo clown, one who is happy to stir up controversy in the name of ratings, and yet I got to read from people who thought they were smarter than he was. Maybe he’s fooling his believers, but he’s just as much fooling his detractors, who think they’re doing a service by posting criticism for an audience of 99% liberals who already agree.
But back to hipsters. That whole thing about the 15th Anniversary Vice Party, the story with handfuls of photogs hovering over guys snorting coke, all taking the same flashy or gritty picture, having fun for facebook? That’s bad. The joke about the hipster walking into the bar and telling the girl from Misshapes “this bar sucks, it’s full of hipsters”? That’s funny. Leave it there. I can’t knock a dude just because he’s wearing flannel though. It seems pretty cozy.