What is in a hipster?

(1)  "... Although hipsters are technically conformists within their own subculture, in comparison to the much larger mainstream mass, they are pioneers and leaders of the latest cultural trends and ideals...  The true irony here is that many of the detractors of hipster culture are in fact unknowingly following a path that hipsters have carved out years before them."

(2) "Definitions are too mainstream."
- Urban Dictionary

 

Most of Gen Y (and indeed, likely most of the people alive in the Western World) have encountered the word 'hipster'. A lot of people have been called it, and a lot of people have been calling it. The term seemed to arise out of a seemingly unpredictable fixation youth suddenly developed over vintage clothing, facial hair, tattoos, irony and bands-nobody-else-had-heard-of-which-were-ruined-as-soon-as-they-were-because-they-had-sold-out-and-become-mainstream.

The word 'Hipster' was coined in the 1940s, one of the two terms (the other being 'Hepcat') to refer to a blooming jazz subculture at the time. However, living in the present-centric world that we do today, that's totally irrelevant. What is relevant is how our post-2009 conception of the hipsters came to be, and furthermore how the hell you're supposed to spot one. The biggest problem here, as any studious social taxonomist will know, is that these kids we intuitively feel require the label and the understanding that we think they fit within it just really don't want it.

To perhaps try to begin piecing together an understanding of this subculture that doesn't want to be identified, we should start with some research. The best measure of a culture's conscious I believe rests in its its vernacular. Despite having dropped out of maths (and High School, no less) as soon as I could, I'm going to attempt to draw some sketchy conclusions from data. Data that I found on the internet.

I used Google Ngram Viewer (totally nifty device, get into it) to check out the frequency with which 'hipster' has been used in published material over the past 208 years - you know, just to see if your great grandparents were half as concerned about calling people out for rolling up the cuff of their pants. Voilà, here's the findings:

hipster chart1

The terms of comparison are 'beatnik' (the 60's version of a just as easily misunderstood subculture) and 'hype'. 'Hypebeast' didn't register at all on Ngram, as I'm guessing it's not only too colloquial, but also way too fresh to be popping up in any novellas of even the past decade. This pretty line graph shows us a few things:

1. The terms 'hipster' and 'beatnik' first began cropping up in books around the 1960s, lending creedance to the pretty much accepted fact that those subcultures were first recognised/created around that time period

2. 'Hype' totally became a thing in the early 2000's, increasingly falling into print on many a page from the 1980s until hitting its peak at about the time Hypebeast started, in 2005

But all this information really shows is published professionals' use of the words, which for all intents and purposes really does not usually serve as the best yardstick for what the layman is thinking about (although, it is extremely interesting seeing the increasing intellectualisation of the layman's interests). What we need, then, is some kind way of gleaning what the everyday person thinks about. What could possibly better provide insights into this than the very search engine we use to find out everything from whether we're pregnant to how to cook a potato? Enter stage right, Google Trends.hipster chart2

Here we go; the inside of your head and your smartphone history from 2004 to 2014. I thought 'YOLO' would stand as a beautiful lowest-common-denominator yardstick, a term which appears to have grown at an erratic, inexplicable pace, if we didn't know 2011 heralded the drop of Drake's 'The Motto'. Contrasting the disgusting temporarily incessant popularity of that term, we notice an interesting thing about our obsession with hipsterdom: it's been growing since 2009. Slowly, but steadily. The general public's interest seems to have waned with regard to 'hype' in and of itself, and we haven't really cared about beatniks for at least the past decade.

So what happened in 2009 [side-note: holy shit, that was five years ago]? Well, beside the fact that it started on a Thursday, it was the first year post the realisation that American banks had fucked up the world's economy and caused the Global Financial Crisis/'Recession'. It was the year that 'Swine Flu' was declared by the World Health Organisation as a global pandemic (for which you can thank the enduring trend of clinical facemasks in airports). Obama was sworn in to office. Michael Jackson died.

Correlation doesn't imply causation, so I really can't draw anything from that chunk of nostalgia and seriously present it as the impetus for the (re)birth of hipsters. Perhaps the best way to look at the situation, then, is the same way some common media outlets (I'm looking at you, New York Times) did - by "recognising" the movement as the culmination of, and theoretically subsequent end-times, of all culture. Characterised in this way, hipsters are the chewers and spitters of everything potentially and eventually trendy. They play on irony to the extent that irony loses all meaning. They clump together and conform in anti-conformity, throwing the observing 'normal people' into writhes of cognitive dissonance.

The shackles of definitive characteristics involving preferences for vinyl, moustaches, tatts and v-necks have now so far filtered into the 'mainstream'  that they're useless. And no others have since come to take their place. Consequently, 'hipster' has become the chosen derogatory slur thrown wholeheartedly at any individual who makes any show of distinction from the norm. It's the signifier for the person we judge has somehow 'tried too hard' by thinking about or involving themselves in things outside of the cliche box.

So, what's in a hipster? I've got no fucking clue.

 

 

11 comments

  1. Avis 1 February, 2019 at 09:48 Reply

    Howdy! Quick question that’s completely off topic.
    Do you know how to make your site mobile friendly?
    My web site looks weird when viewing from my iphone 4.
    I’m trying to find a template or plugin that might
    be able to fix this problem. If you have any suggestions, please share.

    Thank you!

  2. gamefly 6 May, 2019 at 19:39 Reply

    Hmm is anyone else experiencing problems with the pictures on this blog loading?
    I’m trying to find out if its a problem on my end or if it’s the blog.

    Any feedback would be greatly appreciated.

  3. g 11 May, 2019 at 11:09 Reply

    Every weekend i used to pay a visit this website, as i wish for enjoyment,
    since this this site conations in fact pleasant funny stuff too.

  4. g 12 May, 2019 at 03:25 Reply

    Hi there I am so thrilled I found your site, I really found you by error, while I was browsing on Yahoo for
    something else, Regardless I am here now and
    would just like to say thank you for a remarkable post and a all round interesting blog (I also love the theme/design), I don’t have time to look over it
    all at the minute but I have book-marked it and
    also included your RSS feeds, so when I have time I will be back to read much more, Please do keep up
    the superb b.

  5. download minecraft free 16 May, 2019 at 03:45 Reply

    Hi, I do think this is an excellent site. I stumbledupon it ;) I am going to come back
    once again since i have book-marked it. Money and freedom is the greatest way to
    change, may you be rich and continue to help others.

  6. free minecraft 17 May, 2019 at 07:58 Reply

    Does your site have a contact page? I’m having trouble locating it but, I’d like to send you an email.

    I’ve got some suggestions for your blog you might be interested in hearing.
    Either way, great website and I look forward to seeing it improve
    over time.

Leave a reply