Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Do Hipsters Exist?

Often times, it is said that post-structuralism and postmodernism followed existentialism. While this is true, I might also wager that hipsterism should have joined the continental conga line. Just as certain existentialists denied that they were existentialists, many hipsters deny that they are hipsters (in addition, reading existential literature gains hipster points).

But unlike the fact that existentialism was once a real theory and approach to be reckoned with, the very notion that the hipster was/is actually a materialized entity has been questioned. Rob Horning, in his article The Death of the Hipster, asks "...are there hipsters, actual hipsters, or just a pervasive fear of hipsters?" Perhaps this says something significant about identity-denial among those perceived as hipsters, an implication that is very much a fact in the social stock of knowledge. In a way, it almost seems like hipsterism is to aesthetics what atheism is to religion. The gods who are so obvious to the majority of the world go unnoticed by the atheists; the hipster fashion trends that are so obvious to the non-hipster majority go unnoticed by the hipster collective. And, like all social groups, both make room for some hypocrisy. As an atheist might be militant (religious) about their purported lack of beliefs, a hipster might deny the commonly perceived nature of their attire.

So, the answer to the question of whether or not hipsters exist is contingent upon who you ask. If they're slurping down a can of PBR while reading the latest issue of the New Left Review, the answer is probably "no." If, however, they're voicing a jeremiad about how pretentious a site like Pitchfork is, the answers is likely "yes."


  1. This makes me want to read about Plato's forms again.

    1. I still need to get to reading some Plato himself sometime! I actually hadn't thought about the forms relating to this, but now that you mention it, I see it. In Mumford's introduction on metaphysics, I remember him writing about the forms like this: would the idea of the circle disappear if all the circles in the world disappeared? (akin to of whether or not the idea of the hipster would disappear if all hipsters disappeared).

  2. I have a theory on this I've only formed in the last couple of years, and it has holes in it, so I will also likely end up disproving it before I even finish explaining it (which I know you will understand!):
    I asked myself sometime in the last 36-or so months: what happened to all of the hipsters?
    They used to be everywhere, and now I hardly ever see them. At about the same time, I also read a lot of research and commentary on generational lines and differences, which has pretty obviously forced its way into my writing as of late. As a late period Gen X'er who went to college for a much longer period of time than someone should probably ever go to college, I got to see the last members of my generation graduate, and the first members of the next generation begin their collegiate experience. The term "millennial" wasn't getting tossed around as much, and I had no way to categorize how different these incoming freshman were to the peers I was used to. I just called them "hipsters." I think that a whole lot of Gen X'ers did the same. However, as time passed by, and I even married a millennial, I began to notice that while the stereotypical PBR-drinking, stupid clothes and ironic-beard sporting, Pitchfork-quoting hipster was an actual thing that existed, it was only a small portion of the millennial population, and essentially equitable to the "MxPx and Slick Shoes aren't real punk, you should get the new NOFX, it's rad, but not as rad as this other thing I experienced that you either won't understand or get to experience" classmates I had when I entered college--someone who values aesthetics and appearance more than substance, and won't laugh at my jokes or make eye-contact with me at parties because they don't want to give the impression that something could be cooler than them.
    So to perhaps clarify for the sake of brevity, I think the grew-up-with-the-Internet, came-of-age during/after 9/11, "I can do anything I put my mind to" kids were such a culture shock to us of the previous generation, that we lumped them all together as hipsters (and I realize I am commenting on a millennial, but decidedly non-hipster's blog (you care about meaning far more than any hipster possibly could!)). But now, with the benefit of hindsight, most millennials have simply shown themselves to be normal people who are simply younger than us, and have a slightly different perspective, creating the illusion that all the hipsters have vanished, when in reality, their numbers were never that great. Then again, they are there, and will always be there, telling you what you like isn't as cool as what they like, even though they could never actually describe what they like to you in their own words, or in a way that ascribes actual meaning to it.
    It was probably too late at night for me to attempt to explain this.

    1. Thanks for sharing those observations, really enjoyed reading them! I laughed when you mentioned that disproving my own theory scenario. I agree that pretentiousness can find its way into a number of identities/social groups, wholly apart from hipsterism. I'd also add that out of the hipsters (well, maybe they don't call themselves that, but who knows - it's the impression I get! ha) I've acquainted myself with, they've been nice people. I might criticize the music and some of what I consider "the vanity" of the scene (such as beer being an object of cultural capital - I'm just not interested in what you're drinking!) ... the music especially because I feel like indie hipster totally replaced emo rock and I'm just not happy with that result.