Trying to define the term Hipster often makes me feel like I'm trying to pin the tail on the skinny jeans wearing donkey. I can point hipsters out when I see them, I know the lingo, the humor and the overall vibe surrounding the subculture, but conceptually, the term is a moving target.
In the recent past (90's-early 00's), Hipster came to be associated with the angsty, ironic, Pabst drinking, Lynch watching, thrift shopping Williamsburg-esque 20-somethings. Please enjoy the following video for reference...
But times have changed. The current state of affairs on our concrete catwalks transcends all boundaries. Hipster is no longer just an androgynous gentrified-neighborhood white thing, it's not just an artistic or fashion or social thing. Today's conceptual Hipster transcends language, music, boroughs/neighborhoods/cities/countries, color schemes, dances, name brands or accessories (keep an eye out for the up-coming GLOBAL HIPSTER post!). In the vast world of Hipsterdom, then, what is it that unites them (us?) as a grand "subculture"?
(photo by Tone, The Adventures of Kesh)
Well there are many, but for the sake of this post, I believe there to be two important elements that tend to go hand-in-hand--one that the Snaps&Daps hipster audience will take pride in, and the second, one that y'all might deny. But I'll tell you right now, if you take pride in the first one, you're automatically guilty of the second to some degree.
In the 40's (though the hipster/bohemian scene actually predates the French Revolution) musicians used "hip" to describe anybody who was "in the know" about the blossoming (mostly Black) jazz subculture. Everybody in that scene was known as "hepcats." Subsequently "hipster" was coined to replace "hepcat" (I'm kind of loving the hepcat though!). This "in the know" part is what I'll highlight as the first globally unifying component. Hipsters have always been ahead of the trends--whether the so-called trends ever reach mass appeal is irrelevant--the hipsters found it, wore it, and listened to it first. They dug through bins, stumbled upon hidden treasures, and inadvertently (or deliberately) created "art". They may have done all this on a very small/"underground"/"alternative" (whateveryouwannacallit) level, but they were there. Doing it before you. Sorry dude.
Now, you can imagine what this "in the know" lifestyle does to a person (this is where the second unifying component comes into play). Some hipsters let it go straight to their heads and eat away at their humility like an acid wash on jeans. Others take it all in stride--minimal ego, appreciation for others in the know, network, perfect their craft, whatever. Whether or not you take it to the extreme or it even just crosses your mind, the second thing all hipsters have in common is the Judgment Factor. It might be as simple as giving the once over to the girl in khakis leaving The Gap, or as obtuse as the do's and don'ts from Vice (although we all know that those are always right...and entertaining). It's no question...when it comes down to who's in and who gets voted off the metropolitan island, hipsters will be the first to cast their votes (and their looks, with a discerning eye from behind their Cazals).
Don't worry, though, dear Hepcats, I don't judge you for judging. You (we?) can't help it, and I'm pretty sure I've decided it's not an intrinsically negative thing. Being in the know has some side effects, but lord knows the side effects to being out of it are worse. They key to humility in this business of Hip? Remember your roots. You weren't born with hipster, you were bred with it. Maybe you wore Sketchers in high school or listened to Chumbawumba on your walkman...remember black lip liner? Word. I should mention here (and mention briefly, because this could lead into a totally different post) that even with all of the top-notch hipster-breeding the underground has to offer, hipness is more than studying, collecting, and emulating other peoples' directions. Hipsters-in-training can only read so many blogs, or people-watch in LES for so long. Eventually all of the swag you've collected must be made your own...because trust me, if you're trying to cover a J. Crew soul with a Pegleg t-shirt, it won't go unnoticed. True hipsters sniff out posers like dogs smell fear...and you will be judged.
And to all of you fabulous, judgemental hipsters--until the next time, keep on knowing, check the judgment from time to time, and as always...