Hipster Culture

by Isaac

Whereas a hipster may be representative of a sub culture in other towns, in Portland it has been embraced as the norm seemingly for a large group of the young generation.  Not only a different sense of style and dress but what seems to be ideally an alternative lifestyle.

But is it truly alternative if it is embraced in pop culture? It seems the hipster lifestyle is easily attainable, perhaps more than reason enough to live it. Portland shops seem to serve the alternative lifestyle well with the various bike shops and thrift stores with vintage clothing in stores such as Metro, Buffalo Exchange, even Goodwill on Hawthorne, to higher end but similar trending fashions found in the Pearl District in stores like Urban Outfitters.

Ironically enough the term hipster originates in the 20th century in the 1940s Jazz era. A hipster then was not only primarily minority but associated with the music of Jazz and would be characterized as mellow with a distinctive dress and slang. To be hip was to simply be in the know in regards to the Jazz music scene and the culture itself. The hipster of now that exists in Portland would be considered predominately white in comparison but share similar concepts. Hipsters are considered to be in the know on local bands and events, with an eye on what’s deemed to be quality music and suitable fashion. They too would be associated with originality in not seeming to conform to any specific group or ideal tastes. But when it becomes so common is the lifestyle of a hipster still truly alternative?

The hipster phenomenon reminds me of the so-called “cool hunting” done by hired specialists for clothing brands to find new trends. Once new trends are found they’re marketed and become more mainstream subsequently. However to me the hipster fashion seems unique enough in that it’s a self made image person to person and for the most part doesn’t seem to be susceptible to duplication. Sure you can get a fixed gear bike, but the fashion style doesn’t seem to be constricted to any specific brands. To shop through thrift stores and mix up wardrobes with varying styles and even time periods of dress makes it unique. It seems each hipster’s wardrobe is truly individualized to his or her sense of style. The act of being a hipster in the first place seems to be to lean towards transcending convention.

Therefore to me Portland is unique in that the masses are concerning themselves with individualizing their culture.  We seem to avoid the stigma of being undifferentiated groups of people in that at least in the culture of the hipster we lean more towards a conscience lifestyle in support of organic diet, sustainability and green living. Even if this is becoming perhaps more of a trend and a means of fitting in, these practices seem to be ideally beneficial even if they come to represent symbols of conformity.

To be a hipster seems to be entirely accepting of what is urban culture here. Not necessarily just regressing in to the so-called MTV generation or subjecting one self to common advertising and jolts of propaganda. It is deemed cool to be socially conscience and politically active. The Hipster seems to embody many of the characteristics of free will and self-direction. A hipster seems to create their own trends whether or not they have the intention of it rubbing off on others. What makes it seem appealing as a lifestyle is that it’s the creation of ones own image rather than fabricating one’s style to appear like someone else.

“Lack of diversity leads to inefficiency and failure” (Lasn, pg. 26) a common issue for subcultures when they become mainstream. When punk bands start selling millions of records and their audience is shifted to what they set out to oppose to when other subcultures like skateboarding become commercialized and concerned with appealing to the teenage market profiting on branded shoes and video game franchises. However the hipster subculture seems to be particularly unique to Portland with a broad demographic of those that are supportive or involved in the culture. Perhaps when diversity is stressed so much it goes against the definition. But to me historically the hipster seems to lean towards personal tastes in art and fashion. This subsequently promotes the message of diversity in opinion rather than conforming to trends being set or displayed in popular culture. If anything the hipster culture is a culmination of trends both old and new, and is devoid of labels for this very reason.

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