Chron's C.W. Nevius Can't Define the Word 'Hipster'

Categories: Media
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Longtime writer stumped by word
You might recall the short piece we did recently pointing out that majority of the San Francisco Chronicle's readers are old(er) white men.

And because readers tend to be a reflection of the newspapers they read, it could also start to explain why C.W. Nevius, longtime Chron columnist, cannot for the life of him figure out what a hipster is.

Poor dude.

You see, Nevius apparently referred to the twentysomething crowd as "hipsters" in a recent column about the trendy shops opening in the Tenderloin. While he was well intentioned, Nevius quickly learned he got it all wrong. The veteran writer received a barrage of e-mails from "hipsters" who say they aren't hipster and sure as hell don't appreciate being identified that way.

"There was the inevitable what-does-an-old-crank-like-you-know-about-hipsters backlash. The answer is: Admittedly not much," Nevius writes today.

But he tried. In fact, Nevius admits he struggled with how to appropriately refer to the class of younger adults with liberal arts degrees without it being a misnomer. 

This isn't surprising, I suppose. The terms "beatnik,'' and "hippie'' have been in common usage, although I am of the generation that remembers that "real'' hippies looked down in scorn at wannabe's and faux-hippies, as well as at the news organizations who tried to work the term into their copy.

But what they didn't do for Nevius is properly explain what a hipster is, because even after the tongue-lashing he got, Nevius is still unsure.

Is a hipster any urbanite sporting skinny jeans, a messenger bag, and riding a fixie down Valencia Street? Or does none of that make you a hipster unless you also have side-swept bangs and only 2 percent body fat? Or do you need to do key bumps in Bender's?

Does voting for Supervisor John Avalos for San Francisco mayor make you a hipster?

"So here's my question. What is a hipster? And if you can answer that, is there any way that it can be used in a newspaper column that wouldn't upset everyone? Seriously, I'd like to hear your thoughts," Nevius writes.

Come on, help an old sportswriter out.

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TV Pirates
TV Pirates

Nevius was right the first time - those asshats ARE hipsters. They just don't like to be called that because its become a term of derision meaning "cynical, jobless, dick with no unique skills."

Jim Simmons
Jim Simmons

John is a definite hipster.  He is the only candidate I have ever know who knows who The Minuteman are!

randyfleming
randyfleming

I think they prefer to be called 'trustafarians'.

TK
TK

Nevius compounded the problem by linking to that ludicrous Adbusters article from 2008 that called hipsters the "dead end of Western Civilization."  It's worth reading if you want a laugh, but the idea that anyone takes that overheated garbage seriously is frightening.

Able Dart
Able Dart

I would put forth that the best definition of "hipster" is someone who adopts a fashion type as cool simply because it seems novel, is repudiated by an establishment, or because perceived peers see it as such, despite its obvious lunacy. PBR will always be crap beer no matter who thinks being seen drinking it is cool. Generally speaking, dressing like an extra from the film "Cruising" also has its limits.

I also dispute the focus on age. There are hipsters in their forties and (especially) fifties, we just call them d0uches and c0cks.

While the hipster phenomenon is separate from politics, I think it can be said that the typical Avalos voter is the political equivalent of a hipster.

JspiderSF
JspiderSF

For my money, a key part of being a hipster is a sense of cooler-than-thou detachment. I use "hipster" to describe people who are too cool to get involved or show that they're passionate about things.

And Able, what do you mean by Avalos voters being "the political equivalent of a hipster"? Looking at these pictures from the Avalos kickoff rally, the crowd looks like a mix of ages and ethnicities that doesn't fit so neatly into a single stereotype:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/6...

Manalog1
Manalog1

This isn't surprising, I suppose. The terms "beatnik,'' and "hippie'' have been in common usage, although I am of the generation that remembers that "real'' hippies looked down in scorn at wannabe's and faux-hippies, as well as at the news organizations who tried to work the term into their copy......................................................................................................you are correct ..the above is the real meaning of hipster............. Hipsters are the new hippie..clouded political views,that they will take action on,the trustfunds are the same...the hair is worse,and they do look down on each other(for hipster reasons..i.e. not cool or gay enuff)..the drugs are better along with the bicycles...but the "outfits" are just as bad..if not borrowed from the "hippie" era...plus it makes all these twentysomethings feel like they are part of something,even though its just problems....but problems they will benefit  from...I.e gentrification.....they say they hate it,but create it...and will be able to not only afford the inflated price...but maintain its value by following natural human progression(starting ignorant and getting more ignorant) ......for they are all sheep....hipster and cool will never rhyme......key bumps in the bathroom at benders may be hip....but kilos and lines off tables is cool...5k fixies are hip......motorbikes are cool....shitty art and ironic graffiti are hip......art history and museums are cool...thats why I love being black.....we always been cool...

Humin
Humin

The blog post is a great deal of an email conversation that we at The Tender had with Nevius and we were actually responsible for his tour of the Loin as well that brought about the column article.  As soon as the article came out, it smacked of some higher up acting like he/she knew better.  First there was the print edition that called the area he was writing about the "TenderNob".  That it most assuredly is not.  Then, when the online edition rolled out, the forced use of hipster derailed the entire conversation to be about "hipsters suck".

Point being, it doesn't really matter what a hipster is or isn't.  The fact is that we have some great, local businesses opening up in the Loin and the neighborhood has really developed in the last three years.  Some of these people have tats, hats, and bikes and some don't and some are a mix.

All I can hope is that if the Chron does anymore articles on the Loin that they'll not try to "know better" as that's what's killing them as a publication.

JspiderSF
JspiderSF

Judging from the John Avalos events I've been too, if supporting Avalos makes you a hipster, then there are a bunch of Latino, Filipino, and African-American hipsters on top of the traditional young, white hipsters who support John.

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