Thursday, April 24, 2014

An Accidental Hipster

            One day, not so long ago, in a not so far away place, I was walking down the street with two close friends when they started cracking jokes about hipsters. I know what you’re thinking: What’s the big deal? Doesn’t everybody make fun of hipsters these days? Yes, they do, and therein lies the problem—I thought that these two friends were hipsters, and on top of that, I thought that they knew they were hipsters. So, I raised the question: why would hipsters ridicule their own kind? After some consideration, I came to the conclusion that it’s because, often times, hipsters don’t even realize that they’re hipsters. But if it turns out that my theory is true, then that means…oh noooo!…could I be a hipster?
            Before we go any further, let’s determine what it means to be a “hipster.” The term “hip” can be traced as far back as 1902, meaning to be “aware,” or “in the know.” The first known usage of the word “hipster” can be accredited to Jazz Musician Harry Gibson, from his 1944 album, Boogie Woogie in Blue. Accompanying the record was a short glossary of expressions that were found in the lyrics. Entitled, “For Characters Who Don’t Dig Jive Talk,” “hipsters” were defined as “characters who like hot jazz.” These “characters” were typically middle-class white youths who imitated the African-American artists that they listened to. As the popularity of jazz faded, giving way to rock ‘n roll, the term “hipsters” evolved into “hippies,” which were typically middle-class white youths who imitated the rock artists that they listened to. The term “hipster” quickly faded from popular culture, until…
            I blame the Internet, though that isn’t really fair, because I blame the Internet for most things. But I also don’t believe that it’s a coincidence that sometime around the turn of the new millennium—about the same time the Internet took off—that the term “hipster” came back into popular culture (I also don’t think it’s a coincidence that these “free-thinking” generations always seem to evolve during times of war, but that’s something I’ll save for another day). It was in 2003 that The Hipster Handbook was published by Robert Lanham, describing a generation of young urban-dwelling liberal arts graduates who took pride in living outside the cultural mainstream. Much like the original hipsters of the 1940’s, and the subsequent hippies of the 1960’s, this new era of hipsters came from white middle-class backgrounds, but unlike their predecessors, they did not follow the trends of the popular musicians of their time. In fact, they did quite the opposite—they found that the very essence of being “cool” was to contradict what was considered “cool” by mainstream society.
            So, this new generation of hipsters ignored the advertisements for fast food, opting to become vegetarians and pescatarians and whatever-tarians that seemed to be the trend that year. When the rest of the nation was listening to musicians with the letter “y” somewhere in their name (like Coldplay, Beyonce and Kanye), the hipsters dug deep into the underground indie scene to find the most obscure bands with the most ironic names. But as soon as one of these bands broke out into the mainstream (like Vampire Weekend, or Arcade Fire), they were immediately shunned for not being “cool” anymore. And when an explosion of microbreweries were proving that beer could actually taste good, the hipsters reverted back to the cheapest, worst tasting beers on the market, because apparently, no matter how horrible it tastes, nothing looks cooler than holding a can of Pabst Blue Ribbon. But just because you eat healthy, listen to obscure music, and drink cheep beer, it doesn’t necessarily make you a hipster. After all, we are living in an age of image, not ideas, and the one thing that distinctively sets hipsters apart from all others, is their sense of style.   
            Hipsters believe that it’s cool to dress uncool. And how do you do that? One word—vintage. The fashion world changes so rapidly, that whatever seems to be in style today, will surely be out of style tomorrow. Initially, this made it super easy for hipsters to dress. They simply had to go to the nearest thrift store and buy anything that wasn’t currently in style, but was in style at some point, like cardigans, and fedoras, and black rimmed glasses, and old t-shirts (sorry, but I have no clue as to why the skinny jeans became part of their wardrobe). But then, something happened—the hipsters’ sense of style went mainstream. Their look of uncool became cool to the masses, forcing them to start dressing like the very class of people that nobody in the history of the modern world had ever considered cool—blue collar workers. And that’s where I come into the story.
            I grew up in a blue collar household and have held blue collar jobs for most of my adult life. My grandfather had a beard, my father has a beard, and I have a beard. It’s pretty common among blue collar workers to have a beard. I wear clothes with labels like Carhartt and Wrangler. I wear flannel shirts and baseball caps and old beat-up footwear, not because I think it looks cool, but because that’s what you wear when your work blue collar. And now the hipsters have decided that they want to look like me. They don’t want to work blue collar jobs; they just want to steal the image of those of us who work blue collar jobs. And I don’t have a problem with that, other than the fact that I now appear to be a hipster myself. And it gets worse. I recently started riding a fixed-gear bicycle. Not because I thought it was cool, but because I plan on racing in a fixed-gear category at a local cycling event. And I love Kale.
           So I’m a hipster. Big deal. I didn’t do it on purpose. And it won’t last long anyway. A year from now, blue collar will be out and something else will be in. I’m hoping it’s a Revolutionary War look of powdered wigs and tail coats and pantaloons, but I’m not holding my breath. No matter what it is, I’ll continue wearing what I’ve been wearing my entire life. And I know that if any hipsters read this blog post, they will most certainly scoff at it, claiming something absurd, like “only a true hipster would write a blog about being a hipster.” And I’m ok with that too, because if it’s true that hipsters don’t even know that they’re hipsters, and refuse to admit that they're hipsters, then I am most definitely a hipster!

1 comment:

  1. Funny! And I like how you weave so much history into your writing.