This may seem really strange, but up until a few months ago I had no idea what or whom the term “hipster” referred to. I had never heard it used in the form of an adjective and I also was ignorant to the fact that it was so commonly known, I hate to say it, but yes to the “younger generation” of which I am not too far removed. What I found intriguing was the sudden realization that I had been surrounded by hipsters for quite some time in many areas of my life and yet never noticed enough to engage in serious thought about what they represented.
However it was precisely my inability to discern this cultural movement that in my opinion gave me a better understanding of the trappings of hipsterism and what it meant to be a hipster. The New York Times recently ran an essay “The Hipster in the Mirror” by Mark Greif, in which the author states that the primary currency of hipsters is taste. He describes taste as more than just ideals and choices one makes, but as being a “means of strategy and competition.” This made me think back to my own days in middle school and high school which were filled to bursting with social interactions dominated by reflections and ideas about taste. The topics were infinite and teenagers were able to easily create subculture within already defined class structures to differentiate themselves from others. There was no name for it then, maybe just to be cool or not to be cool, but the rules that apply today were almost no different then. It was always about knowing the newest music and most definitely not listening to what everyone else was listening to. It was most certainly about never admitting that you were part of this click that new you were cool, but too cool to admit you were cool, all the while keeping up the pretense of a being cool showing obvious disdain for anyone who appeared to “care” or just try too darn hard. As Greif states “a natural aristocrat of taste.” It was cultural and social currency and the game was played day in and day out.
I am curious to why this generation was able to bring about the conceptualization of hipsterism, or whatever word comes to mind when attempting to describe groups of people with elitist nonconformist tendencies. They certainly would not be the first generation to use ideas of taste and class structure to differentiate themselves from others. Or maybe it is just as we read early in Sturken and Cartwright where the authors explain that perception changes from culture to culture and generation to generation; that “meaning changes with social context and over time.” Maybe in this increasingly consumer/popular culture driven, ad infused, multi tasking, Facebook, Twitter revolution world we live in, it has become increasingly more difficult to find one’s identity. And in the chaos of it all the younger generation turns to what is readily available for consumption in broadcast and narrowcast media.
Whatever the reasons, this trend since it has been defined and shown to exist, will pass like so many others only to be replaced by new ideas and trends. The passage of time will tell how future generations look upon hipster’s and their way of life. I’m willing to wager it’ll be with a little bit of disdain, mixed with superior intellect, aristocratic values, sophistication and taste.