Thursday, August 7, 2008

Taking the hip out of the hipster...

I love when I read a piece that reads like an observation you're made at some point, but - as most fleeting thoughts do - goes without deeper analysis.
is one of those articles.

I agree with the author that today's hipster collective is NOT about being counter-culture. It's become a social grouping (not a movement) based primarily on a shared aesthetic, or sense of style. I shudder at the realization that I'm about to use this term (I work in advertising), but it fits the bill - being classified as a hipster is about a "lifestyle", a look and a shared set of interests/ideals - that's why you usually find hipsters en masse at particular bars, concerts or gallery openings. Being a hipster doesn't carry the clout or validity that being a punk in the late 70's and early 80's did (though I'm sure they got s**t back then, too - hindsight is always 20/20) because it's not about social change, or rebellion. Given the broader acceptance in today's society - at least as compared to 20 or 40 years ago, and the existence of a profitable, valuable creative economy - there's little for hipsters to rebel against. Noone's censoring them, kicking them out of their parents' home for dreaming of art school instead of law school, denying them education, or forcing them into arranged marriages - so what is there to rebel against? And in terms of perception (the terms "obnoxious" and "predictable" have been tossed around), the youth of many hipsters - and the self-absorbed, self-seriousness that generally comes along with being young and having your self-identity depend on your peers' acceptance - certainly doesn't help.

Where I disagree with the author is on the notion that hipsters represent a notion or collective that past social/cultural groups have not. Could the same not have been said of the artistic counterculture of the 1960's - that so iconically embodied by Edie Sedgwick and Andy Warhol (muses to today's hipsters, no doubt). Did past journalists describe the mid-to-late punk scene as "vapid", "void" or "pointless"? I suspect people and journalists eventually grew as tired of the beautiful, hyperstylized tortured artists of the 50s and 60s - and of the punks of the 80s - as they're becoming of today's hipsters. Once the political or social repression that a movement erupted from dissolves, it all becomes less about questioning norms and more about style and aesthetics, no?

I'm tired of the hipster look, as well - and rather enjoy talking to someone with a similar interest in art, literature or music that can confidently rock an under-stylized, basic long-sleeve shirt and jeans, instead. Or *gasp* a dress without a hint of irony. But I think this has more to do with growing into yourself and no longer needing the uniformed approval of a social circle to define you - and less with "killing the hipster". Today's hipster, after all, is the greasy-haired, flannel-wearing grunge god of the early 90's - whom eventually got a gig at a start-up, made serious bank and dropped the Eddie Veder look.