I used to believe in hipsters.
First, they were theoretical — tall men in tight pants, artfully mussed t-shirts, proprietors of pop-up coffee bars. They were all people with lives I could never identify with as a small 10 year old from Tucson, Arizona. But at night, I could quietly feel the total sum of irony in the world build, could feel the vortex of being “over it” alter our center of gravity, could vaguely hear whispers of a fabled place called Williamsburg. The world was shifting. We could all feel it.
As I grew up, hipsters became more concrete to me. I knew them — interns at my mom’s work, older cousins, cool friends. I remember this moment in the cultural zeitgeist very distinctly because it seemed to be a phenomenon that everyone was talking about at once. And, for a while, a debate was raging across the country: What exactly was a hipster? We knew one when we saw one (except, of course, when we were one), but it was much harder to articulate what assemblage of traits made a hipster. They were probably both well-dressed and dirty, maybe into techno or punk, many claiming to be fans of the vaguely titled “alternative music.” They liked art and writing, rode bicycles and made picnics, pioneered onion jams and balsamic reductions.
When I was younger, I felt that hipsters were above me, cooler and somehow smarter. But I also knew that they were a group of people nobody seemed to like. Hipsters were a joke to general America. Then, we got used to them, discovered we liked onion jams and balsamic reduction and came to find mason jars aesthetically pleasing.
“I could quietly feel the total sum of irony in the world build, could feel the vortex of being ‘over it’ alter our center of gravity, could vaguely hear whispers of a fabled place called Williamsburg.”
In 2015, about six years after the emergence of twentieth century hipsters, Vice proclaimed: Hipsters are dead. Hipsters have become too integrated in our culture to be alternative anymore, a subculture that’s been commercialized beyond anything recognizable to its underground roots.
And it’s all hogwash. Hipsterdom is not something the mainstream subsumed — it is something that the underground abandoned.
Maybe it’s the way I remember it. I was eavesdropping in on a conversation I couldn’t really keep up with, being too young to understand social positioning and identity performance. But I also think I saw hipsterdom with an honesty.
The way I remember it, hipsters were people who didn’t really care about things. Like, okay, maybe they cared about things, but they didn’t *really* care about things. They liked things so they could tell other people what to like; they collected things so they could tell other people what to want; they made everything ironic so that we would all wonder about the joke that we were missing. Being a hipster was like playing Calvinball: if you had to ask how to play, you’ve already missed the point. If you are trying, you are missing the point. To care is to reveal yourself in a way that is too genuine for irony or carefully constructed bedhead. You ruin the illusion of being cool when you let it slip just how badly you want to be cool.
At some point, the inside jokes become unfunny.
“Hipsterdom is not something the mainstream subsumed — it is something that the underground abandoned.”
Perhaps David Foster Wallace said it best: “All we seem to want to do is keep ridiculing the stuff. Postmodern irony and cynicism become an end in itself, a measure of hip sophistication and literary savvy. Few artists dare to try to talk about ways of working toward redeeming what’s wrong, because they’ll look sentimental and naive to all the weary ironists.”
My conspiracy theory is this: The death of the hipster was a suicide. I believe that the weary ironists have really become weary and abandoned their camp. They’ve grown up and discovered that laughing is better than smirking.
I used to believe to believe in hipsters. I don’t anymore, if only for their sake.
Eleanor grew up in Tucson, AZ. She loves the desert and her friends. Her current apartment is less than 200 square feet that she makes less lonely with poems and pictures of her parents. You can occasionally find her ranting about war and other bullshit she doesn’t like. Her bottles of choice are Orangina and the tears of boys.