An interesting article on a not very interesting topic...

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Jake
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An interesting article on a not very interesting topic...

Postby Jake » Tue Oct 26, 2010 1:45 pm

What Was the Hipster? By Mark Greif

I know this seems like a silly subject to get all scholarly about, but this piece goes into it in a pretty interesting way. Worth reading. And it makes me really happy that I'm old enough to have been an early 90s slacker, ha ha.

When we talk about the contemporary hipster, we’re talking about a subcultural figure who emerged by 1999, enjoyed a narrow but robust first phase until 2003, and then seemed about to dissipate into the primordial subcultural soup, only to undergo a reorganization and creeping spread from 2004 to the present.

The matrix from which the hipster emerged included the dimension of nineties youth culture, often called alternative or indie, that defined itself by its rejection of consumerism. Yet in an ethnography of Wicker Park, Chicago, in the nineties, the sociologist Richard Lloyd documented how what he called “neo-bohemia” unwittingly turned into something else: the seedbed for post-1999 hipsterism. Lloyd showed how a culture of aspiring artists who worked day jobs in bars and coffee shops could unintentionally provide a milieu for new, late-capitalist commerce in design, marketing, and web development. The neo-bohemian neighborhoods, near to the explosion of new wealth in city financial centers, became amusement districts for a new class of rich young people. The indie bohemians (denigrated as slackers) encountered the flannel-clad proto-businessmen and dot-com paper millionaires (denigrated as yuppies), and something unanticipated came of this friction.

The Lower East Side and Williamsburg in New York, Capitol Hill in Seattle, Silver Lake in L.A., the Inner Mission in San Francisco: This is where the contemporary hipster first flourished. Over the years, there developed such a thing as a hipster style and range of art and finally, by extension, something like a characteristic attitude and Weltanschauung. Fundamentally, however, the hipster continues to be defined by the same tension faced by those early colonizers of Wicker Park. The hipster is that person, overlapping with the intentional dropout or the unintentionally declassed individual—the neo-bohemian, the vegan or bicyclist or skatepunk, the would-be blue-collar or postracial twentysomething, the starving artist or graduate student—who in fact aligns himself both with rebel subculture and with the dominant class, and thus opens up a poisonous conduit between the two.

...

Through both phases of the contemporary hipster, and no matter where he identifies himself on the knowingness spectrum, there exists a common element essential to his identity, and that is his relationship to consumption. The hipster, in this framework, is continuous with a cultural type identified in the nineties by the social critic Thomas Frank, who traced it back to Madison Avenue’s absorption of a countercultural ethos in the late sixties. This type he called the “rebel consumer.”

The rebel consumer is the person who, adopting the rhetoric but not the politics of the counterculture, convinces himself that buying the right mass products individualizes him as transgressive. Purchasing the products of authority is thus reimagined as a defiance of authority. Usually this requires a fantasized censor who doesn’t want you to have cologne, or booze, or cars. But the censor doesn’t exist, of course, and hipster culture is not a counterculture. On the contrary, the neighborhood organization of hipsters—their tight-knit colonies of similar-looking, slouching people—represents not hostility to authority (as among punks or hippies) but a superior community of status where the game of knowing-in-advance can be played with maximum refinement. The hipster is a savant at picking up the tiny changes of rapidly cycling consumer distinction.

This in-group competition, more than anything else, is why the term hipster is primarily a pejorative—an insult that belongs to the family of poseur, faker, phony, scenester, and hanger-on. The challenge does not clarify whether the challenger rejects values in common with the hipster—of style, savoir vivre, cool, etc. It just asserts that its target adopts them with the wrong motives. He does not earn them.

It has long been noticed that the majority of people who frequent any traditional bohemia are hangers-on. Somewhere, at the center, will be a very small number of hardworking writers, artists, or politicos, from whom the hangers-on draw their feelings of authenticity. Hipsterdom at its darkest, however, is something like bohemia without the revolutionary core. Among hipsters, the skills of hanging-on—trend-spotting, cool-hunting, plus handicraft skills—become the heroic practice.

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Postby Sugarcubes Forever » Tue Oct 26, 2010 2:31 pm

The rebel consumer is the person who, adopting the rhetoric but not the politics of the counterculture, convinces himself that buying the right mass products individualizes him as transgressive. Purchasing the products of authority is thus reimagined as a defiance of authority. Usually this requires a fantasized censor who doesn’t want you to have cologne, or booze, or cars. But the censor doesn’t exist, of course, and hipster culture is not a counterculture. On the contrary, the neighborhood organization of hipsters—their tight-knit colonies of similar-looking, slouching people—represents not hostility to authority (as among punks or hippies) but a superior community of status where the game of knowing-in-advance can be played with maximum refinement. The hipster is a savant at picking up the tiny changes of rapidly cycling consumer distinction.


Word!

Unfortunately, consumption is what has driven almost all youth movements in the past 30 years. Aside from the Hardcore Punk era in the 80s, I can't think of a single youth 'movement' or style identity that doesn't rely almost completely on it's consumption choices.

Hipsterism is devoid of any real ideas. It isn't a political or social ethos. It's a fashion statement that claims to be make the individual somehow better than the uninitiated. It's the ultimate in middle class white poserism. It isn't about or for anything. It isn't against or opposed to anything. It isn't anything. Except maybe the next cool pair of skinny pants or deciptively scrappy looking but uber manicured retro modern haircut.

In a sense, Hipsterims represents a symptom of the utter failure of people to present any modern alternative to a consumption driven economy and society.

You are not just what you wear, but what "tribe" you identify with.

bullshit.

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Postby Jake » Tue Oct 26, 2010 2:53 pm

I thought you in particular would appreciate this:

There were also some practical technological withdrawals. As CDs declined, LP records gained sales for the first time in two decades—seemingly purchased by the same kids who had 3,000 songs on their laptops. The most advanced hipster youth even deprived their bikes of gears. The fixed-gear bike now ranks as the second-most-visible urban marker of hip, and not the least of its satisfactions is its simple mechanism.

Ha!

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Postby Jonathan » Tue Oct 26, 2010 4:13 pm

Nothing like overanalyzing society to get my blood boiling - but just slightly.

There's no doubt that consumerism has driven almost everything in modern life (at least in western nations) and it's beyond a damn shame.

But when any media story in whatever format tries to define hip or cool or shit like that, my eyes become slot machines rolling and rolling some more.

As young kids and teenagers, we (most of us) tend to gravitate towards that which we can identify with and feel accepted - no matter if it's good or bad for us in the long run because we have no genuine clue as to what the 'long run' really entails.

When I observe large masses of people (friends/neighbors/co-workers) all getting into the latest product or "cool" thing, I tend to run in the opposite direction for a long long time. Sometimes it's difficult to stay there - ya know - not being able to relate and not wanting to either.

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Postby Sugarcubes Forever » Tue Oct 26, 2010 4:52 pm

What we all need to keep in perspective here is that hipsters suck.

As far as the "kids" go these days, what the heck is the actual cool thing to be into, anyway? It can't be hipsterism. Can it?

What the frack would a kid be into today if they're solidly anti mainstream? I don't view hipsterism as anti mainstream at all.

And of course, Punk is dead. What else is there?

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Postby miss carol » Tue Oct 26, 2010 5:06 pm

I read through this shopping list a bit and grew bored. Didn't we read this before: "What was the [fill in group here]"? I did stop briefly when he wrote that hipsters were (ahem, are) men. No, there are women hipsters and they all friggen knit and craft.

Sugarcubes and Jonathan are both correct, at least in my mind. I gave this piece some of my time just, well, I'm underemployed. But really, "hipsters," whatever they wear, buy, or consume, have always been with us and always will be. Just like herpes. And like herpes, they ain't cool. They're lemmings. There's the cliff, kiddies, off you go.

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Postby jaimoe0 » Tue Oct 26, 2010 8:06 pm

My son's clearest sign of "rebellion" against his low-slung pants wearing, monosyllabic mumbling peers is a keen interest in history, specifically military history. It is totally unironic, completely unabashed. He makes no effort whatsoever to hide it, although it has gotten him lumped in with what he refers to as the "nerd herd." He doesn't care. I think that's cool. Apparently, he is alone among his 8th grade friends in being FOR literacy, a progressive tax system (I kid you not), classical music and The Pogues. I wish I was as cool as him. /bragging.
Last edited by jaimoe0 on Tue Oct 26, 2010 11:58 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Postby steve-o » Tue Oct 26, 2010 9:04 pm

Jake wrote:The most advanced hipster youth even deprived their bikes of gears. The fixed-gear bike now ranks as the second-most-visible urban marker of hip, and not the least of its satisfactions is its simple mechanism.

Ha![/quote]

Sigh. You would have thought hipsters invented the fucking things the way they get portrayed every time the topic of hipsters is brought up.

I'll just wait it out and keep riding my fixed gear bike until they all get tired of 'em and move on to something else. Judging from the hipsters in my neighborhood, it looks like they're slowly moving towards BMX so it should only be a matter of time.

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Postby Jonathan » Wed Oct 27, 2010 11:42 am

Recent examples of hordes of people all gravitating towards something "cool and hip" include : Facebook/American Idol/DWTS and of course the ultimate example of a crazed media/cultural frenzy...Obama. Never before have so many people blindly followed the slick talking words of a fool. But hey, he was just so damn hip, right?

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Postby Jake » Wed Oct 27, 2010 12:19 pm

Do you really want to go there, Jonathan?


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