Let’s just jump right to it, shall we? Hipsters. I kind of love them.
I know. We’re not supposed to do that. They represent all that is wrong and soft with America. And to a degree, I can agree with that. In fact, I often wonder what would happen if a hipster of today came face to face with his or her great-great-great-great-great-great grandparent, who struggled against war and famine and an otherwise brutal existence, hoping to maintain their lineage before dying from a disease we cured decades ago (and who was also probably very short and didn’t smell all that nice). Who would be more disappointed?
But at the same time, I can’t get enough of hipsters. Their blasé attitude. The clothes, the tattoos, the incredible way they consume culture. I love it all.
Let’s back up a bit. Last summer, I moved from Manhattan to Williamsburg, Brooklyn – what is considered the epicenter of hipsterdom. I got a lot of jokes about it, because, well, people love making jokes about hipsters. But while I laughed, I was excited as well. Because I definitely have my hipster tendencies. I have bangs. I have one tattoo and am seriously considering more. I ride a no-gear bike, wear vintage clothes, and listen to obscure music. To me, moving to Williamsburg was moving to a place where I would fit in more than anywhere else.
And you know what? The move has been great. Like really great. I spend all my time here. I hit up concerts at small nearby venues, drink whiskey at the local bars, work in cafes with other young “adults” who are writing for blogs and websites galore. I buy my vintage watches and talk music with the watch repairer. I head to the local artisan food fair nearly every weekend. I peruse the thrift stores for clothes, books, and records (because yes, I still buy records). While I still head to “the city” (as we like to call it) for things like church, I’ll occasionally stay in the area and hit up the local Presbyterian outlet, and get my worship on with other tattooed believers wearing fantastic and outrageous clothes while singing along with an awesome band that most likely played at Pete’s Candy Store the night before. If Williamsburg is the embodiment of what it means to be a hipster, then sign me up for a pair of thick framed glasses.
I will even go so far to say I love the impersonation and condemnation of hipster life. Zooey Deschanel? I’ve got no problem with her whatsoever. Articles like this one from The New York Times this summer? Terribly written, but I see the writer as more jealous than anything else. I’m an amateur student of the history of the hipster, looking not just at this fucking hipster of today, but also of old.
So this all leads to the question of why. Why do I love the hipster so much? (Tru Confession Part II: replace “kind of” with “really really” in the title of this article, because that’s actually more accurate.) Well, first we should define what a hipster actually is. Take this quote from an excellent article in New York Magazine 2 years ago:
The hipster is that person, overlapping with the intentional dropout or the unintentionally declassed individual—the neo-bohemian, the vegan or bicyclist or skatepunk, the would-be blue-collar or postracial twentysomething, the starving artist or graduate student—who in fact aligns himself both with rebel subculture and with the dominant class, and thus opens up a poisonous conduit between the two.
The hipster is constantly – whether consciously or not – trying to bridge the gap between all worlds. You know that scene in Empire Records where Mark (with a K) yells “Damn the Man, Save the Empire!” and they throw a huge party to stick it to the owner, Mitchell? What if instead of damning the man, they continued to work at the store, changing it from within and establishing a culture that wasn’t quite Empire, wasn’t quite MusicTown, but something altogether new? That’s kind of what I see hipsters doing. They are not protesting in the streets like their 60’s parents, or wallowing in 80’s guilt like older sibling and cousins. They’re somewhere in the middle, balancing youth with nostalgia, excess with minimalism, Gen X attitude with an ambitious Millennialist outlook.
Eventually, the hipster will have to grow up. Maybe they’ll continue to embrace the hipster life while still being responsible adults, spouses, and parents. But more likely they’ll become a neo-hipster. They’ll look back and remember their 20s/30s with a sigh, and then turn to hate the newest generation of the hipster. And that’ll be just fine.