Sunday, February 05, 2006

Will the real hipsters please stand up?

First off, I'd like to explain what I mean by calling myself a "coked up hipster." I'm sure you already have the basic idea; it's a stereotype that conjures up some obvious connotations, many of which describe me very well. I see obscure British bands at Spaceland, I wear Chuck Taylors and lots of eyeliner, my hair is black and I spend a lot of time in bathrooms snorting coke.

So yes, "a coked-up hipster" gives you the general idea of me. But though the "coked-up" part of the moniker is self-explanatory, I'd like to define the word "hipster" insomuch as how it relates to who I am. Based on the dictionary definition of the word, I am not a hipster. I am not "one who is exceptionally aware of or interested in the latest trends and tastes, especially a devotee of modern jazz;" I am a music snob, but my awareness is certainly not exceptional. And of course there's the fact that I never listen to jazz. And although I'm a liberal, the second definition: "someone who rejects the established culture; advocates extreme liberalism in politics and lifestyle" describes someone much more passionate and extreme. The word hipster used to describe the true members of the counterculture; the ones who actually created the trends because they didn't care about trends. But about five years ago, the word had a renaissance in the American language and its conntation has changed.

Shedding it's prior associations with jazz or hippies, the word "hipster" has come to define a particular type of urban twentysomething whose culture of cool revolves around irony and a heightened sense of self-awareness. Hipsters drink at dive bars and live in Williamsburg and wore trucker hats in 2002. They have a penchant for indie rock and vintage clothes and a proud disdain for the mainstream.

Hipsters congregate in major cities. Because I live in Silver Lake, I'm talking in particular about the Los Angeles hipster, though the type is pretty universal. Whetherthey live in the East Village or Austin, hipsters are the ones who consider themselves the trendsetters, the center of the zeitgeist, thumbing their noses at the unitiated masses. That band you're listening to? A hipster had the import a year ago; in fact, they made out with the drummer after their show at Silver Lake Lounge last year. They moved to Echo Park before it was gentrified, and the only place that they'd ever consider living on the Westside is Venice. Black hair dye reigns supreme and even the straight boys wear eyeliner. They are gay and straight, from all races but primarily white and Asian, well-educated, and overwhelmingly liberal.

Their liberalism extends to all aspects of their lives. Their openmindedness, especially towards sex and drugs, is a source of pride. Everyone knows a couple in an open relationship, and of course, it's working out so well for them! Straight boys share the story of their gay experience back in high school without shame; the girls love to kiss each other - though it's not for the benefit of the guys, they just really think other women are beautiful. Hipsters don't judge. They'll try anything. They'll even show you the phone number of their drug dealer programmed into their cell phone, though they probably won't share their coke unless they want to sleep with you. These are the people that truly consider themselves the "cool kids," and like in high school, believing you are cool is often enough to convince everyone else. And I am no exception, for even as I try to keep myself apart, I've found myself lured in by the promise of cool - a follower to the hipster herd. But the more I've seen of this so-called hipster world, I've seen how we're all just feeding off of a sense of smug superiority that only exists in a vaccuum. The bandanas and modified mullet haircuts are no better than the Ugg boots and Gap jeans of the reviled masses.

Lately the word has been thrown around so much it's become a kind of parody of itself. Have you ever noticed that no one who the media might still call a hipster would ever actually use the label for themselves? Nowadays, it's only acceptable to call yourself a hipster if you can be ironic about it - like "yeah, I may be a hipster, but I'm a self-loathing hipster." There are people who spend a lot of time pointing out/laughing at/dissecting the sociology of the "hipster," scoffing at the hipster lemmings, but in my opinion, they're hipsters just like the rest of them.

So in my definition, a hipster = a follower with a raging case of cultural superiority.

1 comment:

T. said...

You know, I fucking hate hipsters with a passion (coming from spending a lot of time in the Williamsburg scene for a minute), but I'm loving this blog so far. I'm pretty conflicted.

Gotta say though, I disagree with the idea that hipsters with irony and heightened self-awareness, I found that they actually suffered from extreme self-delusion masquerading as heightened self-awareness. You, however, seem to actually have heightened self-awareness.

One thing I noticed when I hung out with hipsters was that they all made fun of hipsters and denied being one vehemently.

Another thing...hipsters are VERY judgmental and intolerant. They think they're tolerant because they embrace everything that's anti-tradition, but tolerance is more than just liking what's anti-tradition, it's being able to be comfortable with and empathize with things that are fundamentally different than you. They don't do that. If you're Republican, if you don't have a fawning admiration for bisexuality, if you like monogamy, if you shop primarily at a mall, etc. they can be just as judgmental and intolerant as everyone else.

Being tolerant of drugs, promiscuity, weird clothes and bisexuality is not impressive if you actively enjoy those things already. Tolerance comes from how you treat and try to understand things fundamentally different from you.

Anyway, good stuff, keep it up. Are you in LA or NY currently?