Finding the Art in Everything

23 July, 2008

Hooray for Hipsters

That's right, folks, the word of the week is hipster. These creatures, relatively foreign to me, have shown up in my music, in my email, and then as a herd of free-thinkers who threatened to wreck good music with their smelly, bad-manners. My limited exposure to them has led me to think they are a limited phenomenon--limited to a particular city or university, to art majors, to a particular age group, but extensive research in the last 24 hours has indicated otherwise.

What, exactly is a hipster you ask?

Christian Lorentzen, for TimeOut New York defines it as, "Under the guise of “irony,” hipsterism fetishizes the authentic and regurgitates it with a winking inauthenticity. Those 18-to-34-year-olds called hipsters have defanged, skinned and consumed the fringe movements of the postwar era—Beat, hippie, punk, even grunge. Hungry for more, and sick with the anxiety of influence, they feed as well from the trough of the uncool, turning white trash chic, and gouging the husks of long-expired subcultures—vaudeville, burlesque, cowboys and pirates."

This amalgamated originality has the potential for wacky charm, but there is an underlying evil to it.

First, Hipsterism is anything BUT original. Go to any indie-rock show to find its uniform:
  • "found-object" shoes--known to the less-tact as "P.F.UGLY" shoes
  • clove cigarettes
  • skinny jeans
  • a superfluous scarf
  • an affinity for an unruly facial forest
  • horizontal stripes
  • one of Kurt Kobain's tour shirts bought on Ebay for $1300
  • enough hair products to shower every day, yet still make oneself look dirty.
  • thick-rimmed vanity glasses
  • a plasticity that puts Fischer Price to shame.
That "original" ends up looking uniform is hardly the irony that hipsters claim to seek--it is ugly, oxymoronic idiocy, and it looks more like the emperor's new clothes than anything to be emulated.

Second, hipsterism feigns good taste while celebrating the opposite. While this alone could be dismissed as simple self-destruction, its danger lies in its ability to cultivate followers. Nothing is worse than hipster disciple. The hipster disciple takes the derivative of the hipster's unoriginality, drawing a tangent line that is even dumber and uglier. Celebrating the opposite of taste is more acceptable when it is done alone.

And they probably won't grow out of it.

I think of the hold the counterculture movements of the 1960's and 1970's has on politics, academics, music, and social movements. I wonder what kind of legacy the Hipsters will have in 30 years, or if it is already too much nonsense to matter.


Jennifer said...

You forgot:
- the headband (worn 'round the head)
- the clever limited-run t-shirt

Props for the calculus analogy. :)

Troy said...

I think you can find those tour shirts at Target for something like fifteen bucks.