First, for those of you not stuck in the pop culture tar pit, a definition. Hipster: a youngish person, comfortably middle-class, with a strong interest in current popular music and a defined set of tastes in fashion, food, and other cultural matters. Unlike some youth cultures, their look and tastes have been static for a long time. A lot of them look like their long-ago scenester ancestors from the 1980s.
The word is universally an epithet. Everyone hates these people. Let us recount their sins:
- Privilege: predominantly white middle to upper-middle class college students or graduates with disposable income
- Classist: ironic use of workers’ clothing, self-conscious love for bad cheap beer, endless mockery of white trash culture, disdain for culture genuinely enjoyed by lower-class white people, “ironic” appreciation that simultaneously others lower classes while appropriating their culture.
- Borderline racist: Blaxploitation obsession, appropriation of hip-hop and soul music culture, hilarious afro haircuts
- Pompous about pop culture: See the Pitchfork website for examples
- Politically hypocritical: wealthy kids with carefully chosen causes unlikely to affect their privilege
- Trendy fashion clones
- Hypocritically rejection of their own culture: they claim to dislike all of the above.
Wow, what a bunch of assholes.
They’re partly exonerated by #7. Much of the hating comes from their own tribe, for obvious reasons. “It takes one to know one,” and almost nobody outside the group even cares. Exceptions are: people older than 30, fashion-hating music nerds, people with strong feelings about social class, people who feel left out of a scene, doormen at nightclubs, people who would like to have a lot of fun and can’t afford it, and people who are very focused on art and taste and never like what a mass of people are doing.
Since it’s very important that everyone know my opinions about youth popular culture, I present a revolutionary alternative: these people are great.
I grew up with high culture. My family went to theatres, museums, classical music performances of all kinds, opera, dance, and that entire spectrum of stuff that meant being quiet and dressing nicely and appreciating a dead person’s art.
These events are overwhelmed with wealthy and old people who will drive you crazy. Old ladies snap and unsnap huge handbags, remove candies, rustle wrappers, and bray at each other. Ignorant people clap in the middle of a performance. A hard of hearing couple explains every new thing to each other. Only a few people, it seems, are there for the art. They get grumpy as hell. But it’s all tolerated, and everyone treats these art-ruining cringemonsters with respect. Because they’re paying for it all. Their names are on all those plaques on the seats, the foyers and halls, entire wings. Whatever their failings as fellow connoisseurs, they’ve made this business possible. The true fans have bought season tickets. Great! Not nearly enough.
That’s hipsters. Tiresome, ignorant, loud, hypocritical, painfully classist, boorish, overbearing, and necessary. To all my friends, true music nerds, homebrewers, urban gardeners, cyclists, ukulele players, cult film aficionados: you’re stuck with these people and you should be glad. Without patrons of the arts, we’d all be stuck with forced unironic appreciation of not very much at all. You can’t fill a concert hall with the true and pure fans, or sell enough craft beer and fixies to make it possible for the determinedly unfashionable to enjoy them.
Here’s to hipsters, who bring us all good things.