You've probably called someone a hipster before. Maybe someone has even looked at you and thought to themselves Look at this F*&king Hipster. But what really makes a hipster, other than their refusal to be called one?
A Time Magazine article tackles this critical issue of our time.
Annoying, yes, but harmless, right? Not to hear their critics tell it. Hipsters manage to attract a loathing unique in its intensity. Critics have described the loosely defined group as smug, full of contradictions and, ultimately, the dead end of Western civilization.
I know I have. Nothing annoys me more than someone so jaded and unfazed that they don't care about silly things like politics or love.
But where does the word 'hipster' actually come from? Here's the brief history lesson as promised:
The name itself was coined after the jazz age, when hip arose to describe aficionados of the growing scene. The word's origins are disputed — some say it was a derivative of "hop," a slang term for opium, while others think it comes from the West African word hipi, meaning to open one's eyes. But gradually it morphed into a noun, and the "hipster" was born.
Hipsters were usually middle-class white youths seeking to emulate the lifestyle of the largely-black jazz musicians they followed. But the subculture grew, and after World War II, a burgeoning literary scene attached itself to the movement: Jack Kerouac and poet Allen Ginsberg were early hipsters, but it would be Norman Mailer who would try and give the movement definition. In an essay titled "The White Negro," Mailer painted hipsters as American existentialists, living a life surrounded by death — annihilated by atomic war or strangled by social conformity — and electing instead to "divorce oneself from society, to exist without roots, to set out on that uncharted journey into the rebellious imperatives of the self."
Sounds a lot like the hipsters of today to me as well. As someone who grew up in Oakland and then went on to go to NYU (working at the college radio station no less and living in Brooklyn), I consider myself a seasoned hipster connoisseur. Like a fine wine, I can sniff one and tell you when they started to ferment and what converted-loft apartment they were shipped from. But if to "divorce oneself from society" is still the defining trait of a hipster, then I wonder, am I one?
Maybe the real defining trait of a hipster is not how skinny their jeans are or what ironically-crappy beer they drink, but rather their very disdain for other hipsters. If you see yourself as above trends, and your friends do too, then maybe that's the trend in itself.
Or maybe it's the recipe of sarcastic snobbery, vintage clothes, square glasses and nostalgia for a time you were never alive for.
OK, so maybe I just described myself. But you'll never hear me admit it, much less call myself the h-word.