In Praise of Hipsters

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.

nice scarf asshole
A typical example in the wild

The word is universally an epithet. Everyone hates these people. Let us recount their sins:

  1. Privilege: predominantly white middle to upper-middle class college students or graduates with disposable income
  2. 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.
  3. Borderline racist: Blaxploitation obsession, appropriation of hip-hop and  soul music culture, hilarious afro haircuts
  4. Pompous about pop culture: See the Pitchfork website for examples
  5. Politically hypocritical: wealthy kids with carefully chosen causes unlikely to affect their privilege
  6. Trendy fashion clones
  7. 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.

5 thoughts on “In Praise of Hipsters

    1. I put some effort into finding a better picture but I couldn’t find the perfect specimen. I was too tired to go wander Silverlake and find one. Patches welcome!


  1. I moved to Boyle Heights just about three years ago, so I guess I’m one of those evil hipsters. Here’s my story:We hubgot our house from an elderly Japanese lady, and to tell the truth, some people tripped out, and most people were fine with it. Long-time Chicano residents of our street have told me that they are glad we are keeping a little of the diversity the street once proudly had alive, they were not happy to lose one of the last Japanese neighbors, and the last few Russians have passed away as well. The only thing that I’ve seen here that smacks of gentrification might be the ad campaign for Guisados where they proclaim Come into historic Boyle Heights for something different! as if nobody here already would want their food. Frankly, the attitude of that ad IS gentrification. A Latino business, I believe. If gentrification is defined by seeing any white individual somewhere in Boyle Heights, then I guess I’m stinking up the place daily. On the other hand, if there are a bunch of noticeable, noxious Silver Lake type hipsters ruining the place, why don’t I see white people in the neighborhood? Sure, there’s a few, like maybe I see someone white somewhere every three or four days or something. But they are usually old people at the Food for Less! But seriously, el batmanuel has the story straight. That’s what I see here, sadly, is Latino exploitation of desperately poor immigrant people. And as far as what Veronica is saying, that’s pretty much true. It takes a lot of energy to move to a new place, and it is my choice to live in Boyle Heights, because I think its a pretty cool place, just like it is. Yes, I am an outsider, but so what? I like the people here, the art made here, the music made here. I’m in a band with neighbors on my street. The people who live here are a mostly great bunch of people. This is a great neighborhood already. What is needed is improvements for the people who live here already. This is what the author of the article should be working on. Anything that creates real bonds in the community. The strength of any community is its communication and dedication to keeping things right for the kids that are coming up and will be here in the future. The neighborhood is full of vegan kids, as but one example. Why don’t the people with this kind of diet get together and form a co-op? Just one example, but a neighborhood business can donate to the needy instead of profit. People can put their money literally where someone in need’s mouth is, so to speak. But even if this kind of community organization is begun, there is still a lot more to do. It is not a question exactly of who moves into a place, that’s not the whole story. The money tells the story. What is most profitable for those who own land is always gonna be the bottom line. I grew up in Seattle and lived in Portland, both of which have been gentrified into a pulp. Ultimately, if wealthy people decide this place is it, that’s pretty much what happens, and it sucks. Witness Echo Park beginning the slide.But I gotta say, Portland and Seattle were strong, organized communities willing to fight to the bitter end. There is evidence of very strong community in Boyle Heights in the past, witness the history from Community Under Siege, as an example. Inner City Struggle shows itself as a present-day example. But where is the community outrage over the city planner’s concepts for totally replacing 1st and 4th street with condos and shop space that they unveiled a couple years back? Is anybody paying attention? Boyle Heights is in the developers’ cross hairs, and it has been for a very long time. Why do you think the city zoned the whole of B.H. multifamily in the 50 s? It worked, chased out people worried about their home values and reduced the effective economic power of the neighborhood. This is how places are kept down in America, and its done by tightening a vice very slowly over the generations until there’s nothing left. But if there is no voice NOW to demand that any changes that are made to the environs improve things first and foremost for those who live here now, then there will be very little hope, because while you’re worrying about hipsters the real game has been underway for at least half a century.What screwed the people up where I come from in the Northwest is the lack of a Prop 13. People were very well organized, fought each and every b.s. proposal all the way, etc. But that’s not really gonna do much if you just can’t afford to live there anymore. Your property taxes just keep going up every year until you sell. In my case, I’ve been forced into selling TWICE. Taxes went from $2,700 a year to over $10,000 in one jump in Sea-town, and from $960 to $5,700 in two years in P-town. Who can afford to live there? So home town or no, I decided on moving to California. For lots of reasons, like the fact that Los Angeles is mind-blowingly diverse. But they can’t force you out of your home with property taxes here, and that’s a big factor.So why live in Boyle Heights? Take a walk or a drive down Cesar Chavez. A beautiful, thriving street. Why do I want to live here? Places like that, people like that. So if that makes me a gentrifier or a hipster, then so be it. But the future of Boyle Heights is being written by big money interests while you waste your time grumbling about nothing. Me, I’ll worry about hipsters from outside Boyle Heights when I actually see some.


    1. I’m glad you like Boyle Heights. I’ve always enjoyed visiting East Los Angeles but I have no idea how it would be to live there.

      Moving to a different neighborhood isn’t offensive. I think what sets people off is a wave of privileged young people who bring an entire culture with them suddenly like a new immigrant country. It’s a shock even for those who aren’t financially affected.

      Since California has been invaded by everyone including the Natives, the poor old state is used to it.


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