What is the hipster?

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What is the hipster?

Postby Sugarcubes Forever » Wed Dec 22, 2010 11:23 am

Interesting column over at Slate.com by Christopher Byrd that starts out with a mention of a new book titled, What Was the Hipster, but goes on to comment on and slightly dissect "hipsterism."

While there's been this past decade a never ending shit stream of bloviating on hipsters and hipsterism, reading Byrd's comments got me to thinking.

Thus, with no small display of wit, Christian Lorentzen in his essay, "I Was Wrong," confesses to having profited from "a massive fraud [that] held that there were people called hipsters who followed a creed called hipsterism and existed in a realm known as hipsterdom. The truth was that there was no culture worth speaking of, and the people called hipsters just happened to be young and, more often than not, funny-looking."

Hipsterism is nothing but an insult or slur used firstly by older people and secondly by younger people themselves, to put down and stereotype young people.

You see the same thing with baby boomers and their parents, who used to refer to any man with longish hair a "hippie." Truth is there weren't ever very many bonafide hippies in the universe. They were a rare breed even in 1969. Their trappings and style became commerical, but their stereotype persisted long enough for my Grandfather in 1985 to refer to my mullet as "hippie hair." But my grandfather wasn't just saying he didn't like my hair. He was insulting me, linking me to the idea of somebody who he saw as opposed to his value system.

The most interesting point that I thing Byrd gets at, though, is what lies at the heart of hipsterism. It's a vapid, shallow, hypocritical ESTHETIC. A corporatist cardboard stand-in where a real counterculture ought to be...

One of the salient questions that linger in the mind after one emerges from all of this self-reflection is whether, in the panoptic age of the Internet, a counterculture can thrive without corporate interference. I'll leave it to you to ponder this conundrum that apparently entraps us all

Hmmm. Thinking back I sort of get where he's going with that. At least the original hippies had a belief system. They eschewed the trappings of material society, corporatism, war, etc. They went back to the land, broke a bunch of cultural norms to make a point, made at least some interesting art and costumed themselves to signal their difference.

Punk was the godfather of counterculture. It denied labels. Go watch The Decline of Western Civilization. Kids and bands back at the beginning didn't even like to use the word punk. They denied everything; rules, labels, social norms, conventions, etc. Yeah, it was a reaction to something. But at it's heart it originally was organic, non corporate. It came from the streets, poured out and probably influence music and art to a much greater extent than the hippies (or the beatnicks before them) ever did.

So, what is hipsterism? Nobody calls themselves a hipster. Unlike the hippies there's no real core beliefs or ideas. Is it just a label applied to people who react against whatever brand or consumer items are "cool" by declaring that some other brand or consumer item is cool? Or just a slur to throw at kids?

So what I want to know is where is today's counter culture? It isn't hipsterism. It isn't anything or anywhere. For those of us who believe that a healthy society is dependent on a regular uprising, an ethos of youthful anti establishment ideas, where do we look for it? It used to be a slur to call someone a hippie or a punk or a beatnik BECAUSE those movements (for lack of a better word) at least signaled to the establishment that they didnt' want to follow the prevailing rules.

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Postby Jake » Wed Dec 22, 2010 11:36 am

This sounds familiar, and I still think it's an interesting subject.

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Postby Sugarcubes Forever » Wed Dec 22, 2010 1:53 pm

Hmm. I thought that book looked familiar, Jake!! I kept thinking that I'd read a review of it, but couldn't remember where.

So goes the intertubes....and my vapid intertube diet.

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