It's Time to Stop Hating Hipsters
|Photo from Look At This Fucking Hipster|
It seems everyone on the Internet is currently either ragging on hipsters or arguing they don't exist. Even Joe Mande, the Williamsburg comedian whose hugely popular (and hilarious) Tumblr blog, Look At This Fucking Hipster was recently made into a book, got in on the cool-kid slamming in an interview in Salon.com recently:
Interviewer: "Why do you think there's this widespread hatred for hipsters?"
Mande: There's something about people acting like children and having what seems to be no real serious problems in their life that people find annoying."
The hipster has become just another stereotype based on a set of assumptions. Mande calls them "rich white trash ... college-educated babies" who drink PBR and wear handlebar mustaches. It's almost like hipsterism is some kind of social plague that must be ridiculed into oblivion: Fight the mustached! Outlaw asymmetrical bangs! No more irony!
Fuck that. It's time we stood up for being hipsters. We should begin by refuting idiotic stereotypes like Mande's. Hipsters are all kinds of people, from the brilliant, employed, and broke to the drugged-out, lazy, and rich. I have hipster friends who are studying for Ph.Ds in sciences I'm barely aware of, and I have hipster friends who, um, work at Urban Outfitters. I have hipster friends who lead nonprofits. I do not have any hipster friends with trust funds.
Rather than hating it, as Mande's interviewer assumes, the general public is learning to love hipster culture more. I mean look around: Pitchfork-lauded bands like Grizzly Bear, Animal Collective, and Spoon are now reaching the mainstream of rock, "indie" prefix or no. American Apparel is the new Gap, as even Gap's new, Helvetica-heavy ads admit. Pabst Blue Ribbon has a goddamn iPhone app. Hollywood's leading men sport Buddy Holly glasses at the Oscars. Phoenix is big enough to sell Cadillacs.
What people like Mande seem to dislike about hipster culture is an incorrect belief that it doesn't stand for anything: It's not explicitly political, it's not vehemently opposed to the mainstream (even if it does wince at it). To them, it's just a fashion.
Actually, hipsterism is an idea of how to live though culture. The hipster ideal is a meta-awareness of cultural knowledge and experience, fueled by Web-oversaturation and hyper-eclectic taste in everything from food to clothing to music. Hipsters are ominvorous cultural scavengers, people willing to sift through $1 record bins and the dusty shelves of thrift stores to try and make something fresh out of something old, and to find the best of what's new. More than skinny jeans and tall boys, hipsterism is about taking the forgotten and under-appreciated and recombining it into something cool and different.
Mande does get one thing right: The goal of all this dustbin trolling, creative remixing, and Web obsession is partly "to stretch out adolescence as far as it'll go." Hipsterism is kinda like adolescence with better style, more access to alcohol, and the right to vote (oh, and rent bills). But hey, it's also more interesting--not to mention fun--than being a crabby, boring adult.