Michael Azerrad, Author of "Our Band Could Be Your Life," Writes a Very Smart Essay Defending Hipsters

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Thu, Dec 23, 2010 at 12:22 PM

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We're big fans of Michael Azerrad, Nirvana biographer and, most importantly, the author of the indispensable story about the development of what we now call "indie" music, Our Band Could Be Your Life (if you haven't read it, read it now). That's why we were so happy to hear that Azerrad had turned his experience covering youth trends and his keen analytical skills on today's most vexing phenomenon, the hipster. "Here's the deal about why you don't admit to being a hipster: being a hipster means you have an intuitive grasp of what is hip -- or, more precisely, what is about to be hip," Azerrad writes. "If you say you have it, you don't. It's like saying you're cool. Or like saying you're lucky. The very act of declaring so jinxes it, renders it false." More from the essay:

You should read the whole thing here, at the You and What Army blog, but here are a few excerpts:

Why does everyone hate on hipsters? Well, the thing is, not everyone hates on hipsters. A reality check: Most people out in the real world don't even come across them, don't know they exist, would not even recognize a hipster if they saw one.

In a culture that prizes being ahead of the curve, being unhip can be a source of shame, jealousy and resentment; there's a type of person who likes to feel that they are generating trends, not passively conforming to them. It's a point of pride. So those people lash out at hipsters, just as the hippies lashed out at the punks and, before that, the beatniks lashed out at the hippies. In those cases, the older group insisted their bohemia was better.

The class component -- "fucking trust fund hipster!" -- stems from the fact that affluence is one sure way to have enough free time and mental space to remain alert and receptive to the slightest cultural vibrations, rather than being distracted by the hurly-burly of, you know, making a living.

There's no sure way of knowing until we see how it plays out but I'm with n+1 co-editor Mark Greif: my hunch is that the fixed-gear bikes, the used vinyl LPs, the tribalism, the DIY ethic (cooking, clothing, music venues, etc.), the pervasive non-ownership of TV sets, and yes, even the beards, all forecast a larger move toward simplification and, in the broadest sense, economy. As we reel from the devastating consequences of living beyond our means, those are clearly Good Things.

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