Hipster Subculture

By: Mason

Hipster means different things to different people. For many it’s a cheap insult; an all-encompassing term for the shallow, the insincere trend-followers. Whatever comprises the actual subculture the perception tends to be entirely negative. It is a group which generally associates itself with progressiveness and the counterculture yet one which is associated with posturing and trends devoid of meaning. Particularly in Portland the group inhabits an odd gray area where most people (disdainfully) acknowledge the large and growing presence of hipster culture yet no one is willing to identify themselves with the movement.

Nevertheless the hipster subculture is one which has become a permanent fixture in Portland where the city generally tends to value the same qualities; progressiveness, individuality, couterculture. But where a culture is permanently established which identifies itself as couterculture, as subversive, as individual then without a doubt some level of incorporation has occurred where it is popular and marketable to sell identification with this movement. The fashion associated with the hipster movement varies and may be somewhat difficult to pin down but most will say that they know it when they see it. If we take, for example, the bicycling movement which is often associated with the hipster culture and also with the green sustainability movement there are certainly specific sort of utilitarian fashion choices (rolled up jeans, simple shoes, messenger bags) which tend to repeat themselves. As soon as a fashion can be established it can be commodified, regardless of each individual member of the movement’s conviction or reason for being a part of the subculture.

Much of what we identify hipsters with, certainly here in Portland, is the green or sustainability movement. Of course Portland in general is widely involved and accepting of this movement which also seems to ostensibly turn a lot of people against it, not unlike the very common disdain for what people identify as hipsters. The commodification of the sustainability movement is an interesting one generally because one could argue that it has done more good in this form than if it had remained absolutely true to its roots. An ideal situation would be one in which a movement becomes widespread and does not become something to be sold, but this may be an impossibility within our current system. And without a doubt the popularity of the green movement has spawned things like the car commercial we watched, equating driving a certain car with an act of sustainability, boldly attempting to dispel the idea that driving in general is an unsustainable act. Nevertheless the commodification of the movement has created a widespread demand for more green products and organically produced food over conventional farming. Even though some of these products are similar to green cars, in that they are marketed in this way but really provide no benefit, however for all of those products there are also many which are genuinely concerned with the idea of sustainability and those are now more common and widely available since they have a place in the market.

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