Defining the ‘hipster’

One thing I find repeatedly cropping up is discussions about what defines a hipster, and what are their most pernicious traits. Now, I could really take the topic and run with it but I want to do this in short bursts if any more than one post, to avoid getting too tangential.

The argument over what defines a hipster has become mired too much on aesthetic matters and strict dichotomies when these matters are more spectral in nature. It has also become too much of a matter of attacking hipsters and not hipsterism. For sure, there is an identifiable consistency in what a hipster looks like, but this only concerns appearances. Having the very broad musical taste that I do, I am not categorically opposed to everything associated with hipster culture (nor SWPL culture if we take hipsters to be a sub-section of them). I enjoy a bit of Arcade Fire every now and then.

I am very much of the crowd who believes that first and foremost, it can be defined as an attitude. My definition is someone who may be part of a subculture that probably derives from the counter-cultural movements that sprung out in the 60s, but primarily can be identified by their imperative which is status-seeking and one-upmanship. This is identified by a penchant for the avant-garde or perhaps esoteric, but only for it’s own sake, to appear more cultured than others (a classically bourgeois trait). There’s also a noticeable trait of not wanting to appear to “take anything too seriously”, to shroud everything in irony, deconstruction and absurdity (save of course, the modish political view as this gains them social capital) – this is taken very seriously. Their biggest targets are low-status people who have any serious convictions, save the aforementioned modish views . The simple impulse for this is that almost  if you hold a conviction deep down, you risk inconvenience, ridicule and social ostracism and feeling bad when marginalised as such, so to make irony and absurdity out of everything is the path of least resistance, thus reinforcing any status quo enforced by anyone with social, political and financial clout. They are the soldiers of entropy.

Overcoming this cultural battle will be a tough one for all of the reasons mentioned. Humans by nature are drawn to people who make them feel good about themselves, and the more militant, passionate, fringe elements will continue to alienate the majority because they involve compromise, not to mention attracting the sort of rejects nobody likes to consort with, whose po-facedness and resentment are self-sustaining; they embody the other negative extreme of completely lacking self-irony. Until they can find a more positive image that takes into account the nature of socially-involved humans, they face an uphill battle.

Or maybe I just need to chill the fuck out and drink a Pabst Blue Ribbon, right?


~ by CallistoRising on June 6, 2011.

2 Responses to “Defining the ‘hipster’”

  1. You make a really good point here. Hipsterism will infest anything. The current trappings of hipsterism will go away, but there will always be people who are afraid to take anything seriously, so use it all to make egodrama for social purposes, while ironically mocking it. Hipsterism is eternal.

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