Thursday, May 27, 2010

Will the Real Hispter Please Stand Up?

Who is a hipster? Is it the girl at Kafein sporting the library readers and the unwashed asymmetrical haircut? Or is that boy at the poetry slam drinking a micro brewed beer in his Three Wolf Moon T-shirt? No, neither of them are hipsters, at least not according to them anyway.

No one is a self-admitted hipster, because to associate one self within the conformity of a label would be the antithesis of the hipster philosophy, analogous to a Quaker wearing a NRA t-shirt.

Yet it seems that those who fall into the hipster category are the first ones that adamantly deny their hipster status. But how does a creature of the plaid wearing species rationalize this act of apparent self-denial?

As blogger of Pop Matters Rob Horning puts it “People think of their own bids for recognition in a different way: we’re not trying to be cool; we’re just expressing who we really are. That other guy, though, what a douche.”

But what is it exactly about the title hipster that attracts so much loathing and criticism among the public and critics alike?

According to the creator of the website Hipsterwave, J. Parker Doty, hipsters attract such negative sentiments because of their attitude of superiority and pretension.

“If you walk around thinking your cooler and different than everyone else people are going to pick up on that and react negatively,” he says.

It is true that the label has come to encompass more then just a propensity for neon hued wayfarers and Wes Anderson movies. The term has come to describe, whether accurately or not, people who practice an outward effort of being “cool.”

“It designates people who are invalidating the authenticity of certain social practices by making them seem as though they are only about scoring points on identity,” says Horning.

And we’ve seen it plague the most artfully constructed hipsters, the moment they realize a facet of their subculture is suddenly deemed “cool,” diluted to the unoriginal masses of the public they drop it as quick as that Ed Hardy shirt that they “never” used to wear.

But can you really blame hipsters for being so finicky about the facets that make up their subculture. Because besides their Rushmore DVD and healthy dose of cynicism what really is the foundation of modern hipsterdom?

Many people say that today’s hipsters do not have a subculture of their own, lacking any defining characteristics. They are not like the original hipsters of the 40s that wanted to emulate the lifestyle of jazz musicians nor are they like Jack Kerouac and his fellow beatniks carrying around the “Naked Lunch” as their manifesto.

The basis of today’s hipsters is solely founded on the mantra of being different for the sake of being different. This is the reason why many critics have claimed that the hipster culture has come to an end, engulfed by consumerism and a capitalistic society.

Some individuals lament the creation of stores like Urban Outfitters and American Apparel for “capitalizing on the concept of coolness” according to Parker.

But others argue that these corporations are the very pillars that are holding down the hipster camp.

Hipsterism wouldn’t be possible without stores like American Apparel and Urban Outfitters, according to Horning. Since it is based on the expression of identity through goods that possess “cool connotations” you really can’t have one without the other, he says.

So with every other youth buying their pre-pubescent sized jeans and their worn in messenger bags at the local strip mall is there an authentic hipster out there? And moreover is there a hipster who doesn’t view the word as a complete and utter travesty to their counter culture?

The thing is, we are all closet hipsters on the inside. Mainstream culture’s boundaries have become nebulous, with indie bands playing on the radio, Cannes Film Festival winners available on Netflix and everyone owning a pair of converse maybe hipster culture has not become extinct. Maybe everyone is just trying on different facets of being a hipster.

Yet isn’t the popularization of hipster culture sacrilegious? But then again, who better to pull of a sense of irony than a hipster?

-Heba Hasan

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