I recently authored a post with the headline “Why Hipsters Are Obsessed With Fleetwood Mac.” Though I stand by it, my editor had to talk me into the headline. Why? Because not only is this a lazy use of the English language, it is also an outdated one.
I will explain below. Oh, and don't worry about my poor editor, he of the “20 Worst Hipster Bands.” Here's his say on the matter.
Hipsters have been around forever, of course. But we're talking about the iteration of hipster that emerged from the primordial cultural ooze around the turn of the millennium. Back then, people needed a way to describe the burgeoning culture of unearned wealth and misguided free expression in large metropolitan areas.
Photographers like Cobrasnake documented the scene, and folks not part of it either gasped in horror at people wearing keffiyeh scarves and big stupid glasses dancing to remixes while holding aloft PBR tallboys, or they wondered where they could get those big stupid glasses. Guys wore Gameboys as jewelry. Vice's Do's and Don'ts and Lookatthisfuckinghipster turned scene self-mockery into an artform. Don't get us started on mustaches.
In those days, self-referential irony ruled the streets with a bedazzled iron fist, and the sewers ran thick with artisanal pickle juice.
But that was ten years ago.
Since then, we've grown; we've matured, and we understand that some strange throwback tastes are not at all ironic. We've learned that it's perfectly acceptable to earnestly hate bands that everyone else likes – even if those bands are not on major labels – and vice versa. Cultural sympathy has matured to the point where fashion accessories are no longer robbed directly from marginalized groups.
Most importantly, we've learned that a fake bohemian lifestyle is just the way mainstream urban twenty-somethings tend to live.
Every generation has its cultural scapegoats – there were dirty hippies, freaky beatniks and dope-fueled flappers. Just a decade or so back, we railed against the coked-up yuppie and his conspicuous consumption.
Up next, better ways to describe the people we lazily call hipsters…
So why have hipsters become this generation's cultural boogeypeople? Perhaps it has to do with writers. No one gets paid by the word anymore and critics need a shorthand term that everyone can understand.
But while the word hipster worked for a while, it has no meaning anymore. Everyone under 40 has become one. Guy wearing shoes? Hipster. Woman in a dress? Hipster. It has become a prime indicator of the speaker or writer's ignorance of history and culture.
Wouldn't it be better if we tried a little harder and adopted words that mean exactly what we mean them to say? That guy on a big-wheel fixie bike promoting his minimal noise show you're trying to describe? That, my friends, is a scenester. He's into a scene. He lives a breathes a scene. He knows nothing of life outside the scene.
That trust fund girl in a wispy fake thrift story outfit with big stupid glasses gawking her way up Echo Park Blvd.? She is a poseur. She is posing as someone who doesn't care about her image, even though she cares about every single aspect of her image right down to how she tilts her head.
The cultural atavist who delights in the irony of old-tymey things? Hiptard. (Coming from the combination of “hip” and the textbook definition of “retarded” – which is “delayed” or “limited.”) The words “twee” and “indie” among others can be used to great effect when employed properly.
It's not that difficult. We can do this together. We can come up with a plethora of fruitful ways to diminish and degrade young people without resorting to the “h-word.”
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