Hipster (contemporary subculture)

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Hipster is a slang term which appeared in the 1940s. In the 1990s and 2000s it was used to describe young, recently-settled urban middle class adults and older teenagers with interests in non-mainstream fashion and culture, particularly alternative music, independent rock, independent film, magazines like Vice, Clash and Adbusters, and websites like Pitchfork Media.[1] In some contexts, hipsters are also referred to as scenesters.[2] The term is sometimes used in a derogatory manner, referring to someone who moves from trend to trend while claiming to be outside of mainstream culture.


[edit] History

[edit] 1940s-1950s

"Hipster" derives from the slang "hip" or "hep," which are derived from the earlier slang "hop" for opium. The first dictionary to list the word is the short glossary "For Characters Who Don't Dig Jive Talk," which was included with Harry Gibson's 1944 album, Boogie Woogie In Blue. The entry for "hipsters" defined it as "characters who like hot jazz."[3] The 1959 book Jazz Scene by Eric Hobsbawm (using the pen name Francis Newton) describes hipsters using their own language, "jive-talk or hipster-talk," he writes "is an argot or cant designed to set the group apart from outsiders." Hipster was also used in a different context at about the same time by Jack Kerouac in describing his vision of the Beat Generation. Along with Allen Ginsberg, Kerouac described 1940s hipsters "rising and roaming America,... bumming and hitchhiking everywhere... [as] characters of a special spirituality."[4]

[edit] 1990s and 2000s

In the late 1990s, the term became a blanket description for middle class and upper class young people associated with alternative culture, particularly alternative music, independent rock, alternative hip-hop, independent film and a lifestyle revolving around thrift store shopping, eating organic, locally grown, vegetarian, and/or vegan food, drinking local beer (or even brewing their own), listening to public radio, riding fixed-gear bicycles, and reading magazines like Vice and Clash and websites like Pitchfork vogue .[1]

In 2003 Robert Lanham's satirical book The Hipster Handbook described hipsters as young people with "... mop-top haircuts, swinging retro pocketbooks, talking on cell phones, smoking European cigarettes,... strutting in platform shoes with a biography of Che Guevara sticking out of their bags."[5] Hipsters are considered apathetic, pretentious, and self-entitled by other, often marginalized sectors of society they live amongst, including previous generations of bohemian and/or "counter-culture" artists and thinkers as well as poor neighborhoods of color.[1]

In early 2004, Gavin Mueller wrote an article entitled "Hipster or Not?" for Stylus Magazine which reflected on Robert Lanham's definitions of the term in the Hipster Handbook. Mueller argued that the "... hipster lifestyle is reduced to a pose, a pretense" which involves"..."a hipster costume, worn to appear "cool", a liberal arts education, and so on. He claims that the term "'Hipster' is far too vague and broad to have any semblance of essential meaning". [6]

In 2005, Slate writer Brandon Stosuy noted that "Heavy metal has recently conquered a new frontier, making an unexpected crossover into the realm of hipsterdom." He argues that the "current revival seems to be a natural mutation from the hipster fascination with post-punk, noise, and no wave," which allowed even the "nerdiest indie kids to dip their toes into jagged, autistic sounds." He argues that a "byproduct" of this development was an "... investigation of a musical culture that many had previously feared or fetishized from afar.” [7]

In 2008, Utne Reader magazine writer Jake Mohan described "hipster rap," "as loosely defined by the Chicago Reader, consists of the most recent crop of MCs and DJs who flout conventional hip-hop fashions, eschewing baggy clothes and gold chains for tight jeans, big sunglasses, the occasional keffiyeh, and other trappings of the hipster lifestyle." He notes that the "old-school hip-hop website Unkut, and Jersey City rapper Mazzi" have criticized mainstream rappers who they deem to be poseurs or "... fags for copping the metrosexual appearances of hipster fashion."[8] Prefix Mag writer Ethan Stanislawski argues that there are racial elements to the rise of hipster rap. He claims that there "...have been a slew of angry retorts to the rise of hipster rap," which he says can be summed up as "white kids want the funky otherness of hip-hop... without all the scary black people."[9]

[edit] Criticism

Elise Thompson, an editor for the LA blog LAist argues that "people who came of age in the 70s and 80s punk rock movement seem to universally hate 'hipsters'", which she defines as people wearing "expensive 'alternative' fashion[s]", going to the "latest, coolest, hippest bar...[and] listen[ing] to the latest, coolest, hippest band." Thompson argues that hipsters "... don’t seem to subscribe to any particular philosophy... [or] ...particular genre of music." Instead, she argues that they are "soldiers of fortune of style" who take up whatever is popular and in style, "appropriat[ing] the style[s]" of past countercultural movements such as punk, while "discard[ing] everything that the style stood for."[10]

Christian Lorentzen of Time Out New York claims that metrosexuality is the hipster appropriation of gay culture. He writes that "these aesthetics are assimilated — cannibalized — into a repertoire of meaninglessness, from which the hipster can construct an identity in the manner of a collage, or a shuffled playlist on an iPod."[11] Lorentzen argues that “hipsterism fetishizes the authentic” elements of all of the “fringe movements of the postwar era—Beat, hippie, punk, even grunge,” and draws on the “cultural stores of every unmelted ethnicity” and “gay style”, and then “regurgitates it with a winking inauthenticity” and a sense of irony. He claims that this group of “18-to-34-year-olds”, who are mostly white, “have defanged, skinned and consumed” all of these influences “into a repertoire of meaninglessness”.[12]

In a Huffington Post article entitled "Who's a Hipster?", Julia Plevin argues that the "definition of "hipster" remains opaque to anyone outside this self-proclaiming, highly-selective circle". She claims that the "whole point of hipsters is that they avoid labels and being labeled. However, they all dress the same and act the same and conform in their non-conformity" to an "iconic carefully created sloppy vintage look". [13]

Rob Horning developed a more complicated critique of hipsterism in his April 2009 article in PopMatters entitled "The Death of the Hipster". Horning explores several possible definitions for "hipster". He muses that the hipster might be the "embodiment of postmodernism as a spent force, revealing what happens when pastiche and irony exhaust themselves as aesthetics", or that the hipster might be "...a kind of permanent cultural middleman in hypermediated late capitalism, selling out alternative sources of social power developed by outsider groups, just as the original “white negros” evinced by Norman Mailer did to the original, pre-pejorative “hipsters”—blacks..."

Horning also proposed that the role of hipsters may be to "... appropriat[e] the new cultural capital forms, delivering them to mainstream media in a commercial form and stripping their inventors...of the power and the glory...". He argues that the "...problem with hipsters" is the "way in which they reduce the particularity of anything you might be curious about or invested in into the same dreary common denominator of how “cool” it is perceived to be", as "...just another signifier of personal identity." Furthermore, he argues that the "hipster is defined by a lack of authenticity, by a sense of lateness to the scene" or the way that they transform the situation into a "self-conscious scene, something others can scrutinize and exploit".

On August 22, 2007, the Brooklyn-based comedy troupe POYKPAC posted the comedy sketch "Hipster Olympics" on YouTube. The sketch portrays hipsters as being narcissistic, materialistic, and apathetic. Less than two years later the video has over 1.6 million views. As described by one essayist, the sketch depicts hipster:

..."athletes"[who] bumble through the games exhibiting a number of stereotypical hipster indicators including tight jeans, ironic fashion sense, and an overall apathy... this video serves to magnify a stereotype to ludicrous proportion so that one cannot help but laugh at the image, yet simultaneously grow more comfortable with individual "hipster-isms."[14]

[edit] See also

[edit] References

  1. ^ a b c Douglas Haddow (2008-07-29). "Hipster: The Dead End of Western Civilization". Adbusters. http://www.adbusters.org/magazine/79/hipster.html. Retrieved on 2008-09-08. 
  2. ^ Tim Walker (2008-08-14). "Meet the global scenester: He's hip. He's cool. He's everywhere". The Independent. http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/fashion/features/meet-the-global-scenester-hes-hip-hes-cool-hes-everywhere-894199.html. Retrieved on 2008-09-08. 
  3. ^ This short glossary of jive expressions was also printed on playbills handed out at Gibson's concerts for a few years. It was not a complete glossary of jive, as it only included jive expressions that were found in the lyrics to his songs. The same year, Cab Calloway published The New Cab Calloway's Hepster's Dictionary of Jive, which had no listing for Hipster, and because there was an earlier edition of Calloway's Hepster's (obviously a play on Webster's) Dictionary, it appears that "hepster" pre-dates "hipster."
  4. ^ Kerouac, Jack. "About the Beat Generation," (1957), published as "Aftermath: The Philosophy of the Beat Generation" in Esquire, March 1958
  5. ^ Robert Lanham, The Hipster Handbook (2003) p. 1.
  6. ^ http://www.stylusmagazine.com/articles/pop_playground/hipster-or-not.htm
  7. ^ Brandon Stosuy (2005-08-19). "Heavy Metal: It's alive and flourishing.". Slate. http://www.slate.com/id/2124692/. Retrieved on 2008-09-08. 
  8. ^ Jake Mohan (2008-06-13). "Hipster Rap: The Latest Hater Battleground". Utne Reader. http://www.utne.com/2008-06-13/Arts/Hipster-Rap-The-Latest-Hater-Battleground.aspx?blogid=32. Retrieved on 2008-09-08. 
  9. ^ Ethan Stanislawski (2008-06-20). "The Chicago Reader has hip-hop hipster backlash against hip-hop hipster backlash". Prefix Mag. http://www.prefixmag.com/news/hip-hop-hipster-backlash/19451/. Retrieved on 2008-09-08. 
  10. ^ Thompson, Elise. "Why Does Everyone Hate Hipsters Assholes?" February 20, 2008 [1].
  11. ^ Lorentzen, Christian. "Kill the hipster: Why the hipster must die: A modest proposal to save New York cool." Time Out New York [2].
  12. ^ Lorentzen, “Kill the hipster.”
  13. ^ Julia Plevin. "Who's a Hipster?". Huffington Post. August 8, 2008. Available at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/julia-plevin/whos-a-hipster_b_117383.html
  14. ^ Quevedo,Cameron “The Hipster: A Blast from the Past, Caught Up in Today.”

[edit] External links

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