How to Spot a Hipster
21st century hipsters, to be precise. This is the trend that everybody loves to hate. Heck, even hipsters spend a lot of time hating on fellow hipsters, because of course, this is the first movement in the history of fashion and lifestyle to which no one wants to belong, most especially those who make up the skinny-jean, flannel-clad ranks.
Punks knew they were punks. Grunge was grunge. Hippies were hippies. Even the first wave of beatnik hipsters were proud to be beat, so why, oh why will no one fess up to contemporary hipsterdom?
Well, as the #2 definition of the word “hipster” on Urbandictionary states, “Definitions are too mainstream.”
And lo, we are faced with the all-encompassing hipster conundrum: Those who fit into this category are supposed to stand for all that is counter-culture, social-minded, ultra-individual and hyper-original, but the simple suggestion that one is part of a trend undermines the very thing itself.
Of course, everyone likes the idea that they are the most creative thing since re-purposed LaserDisks (and yes, that is a thing), but no one wants to be seen as straight-up weird, lame or loser-ly, and so we find ourselves living among thousands, dare I say, millions of young people searching for a way to show the world that they don’t give a flying flip while still feeling like the coolest kids in school.
Oh, to be hip... What an existential nightmare it must be!
To properly observe hipsters in their natural habitat, one must know where to look.
Commonly cited dwellings are located in metropolitan areas like Portland, San Francisco, Seattle, Minneapolis and of course, Williamsburg, Brooklyn, but any city or town with a disproportionate number of cafes, independent record shops and used book stores is fair game. Proceeding with discretion, you can witness first-hand the characteristics and rituals of daily life.
To stay one step ahead of the latest trend, hipster tendencies evolve rapidly. Of course, we less-than-cool individuals will never have the pleasure of knowing what it feels like to be so far ahead of the curve, but here are a few clues to help us realize when we are dealing with an ever illusive Hipster and how we can try to relate to our mustachioed brethren.
So while we’re on the subject:
1. Mustaches (and beards!)
Facial hair has become one of the symbols of the truly hip.
Though baffling, it is believed to be purely aesthetic. Anything from perfectly waxed handlebar mustaches to big, bushy mountain-man beard is fair game in realm of the truly cool.
Don't worry ladies, there are all sorts of mustache bobbles and accessories. If you are especially committed to the stash as a life choice, the mustache finger tattoo is quite popular!
Bringing us to:
2. Bod Mod... or not
Brightly colored markings and decoration know as body modification are a true sign of cool and a helpful indicator of hipster status. Hipsters loooove getting inked, but for pete's sake, none of those mainstream tats between shoulder blades or on ankles!
To really let the world know that they are devil-may-care, creative cool cats, your typical hipster will be sporting some ink on the arms and wrists (full sleeves maybe?) the chest or even neck. The more visible the better, and they get extra points if it is either a visual representation of a mathematical equation, a geometric representation of a poem or song or, ya know, completely devoid of meaning. Two gold stars if the tattooing was done by either a high profile tattoo artist or by a friend with a home-made ink gun.
Recently however, some hipsters have rebelled against getting inked. It's just getting so that every Dick and Jane around has at least some little tattoo.
If you think that you may be faced with an ink-less hipster, you can still search for an indication of their true coolness in the form of piercings and plugs.
General rule of thumb: If you can imagine it, a hipster somewhere has pierced it. Again, the more original the placement, the better!
Still not sure if the tight-pants-wearing young person you are looking at is a hipster? All you need to do is scan for accessories!
The flavor of the moment is over-sized headphones, hats (vintage and/or trucker, ideally) and glasses (plastic is best) though an experienced hipster will display a wide array of plumage.
Any hipster worth his/her flannel shirt knows that finding just the right melange of flare, bobble and utilitarian sets them apart from the masses.
Often perplexing is the mix of often home-made patches/pins, gaudy dime-store jewelry, vintage cameras and buck knives that make up the perfect look. The pins show off a knowledge for the latest yet-unknown bands and a disdain for shiny consumerism. Feeling inadequate because you don't know how to load film into a 1970 Minolta? That's ok, the average hipster doesn't either. The camera's true purpose is more as a necklace signaling the potential for creativity than anything else. The knife is there to dissuade any flip comments you might have made about the ridiculousness of an adult wearing a ring-pop as actual jewelry. Don't be afraid, it's just for show.
Some hipsters like to cultivate an "aura of mystery" and therefore will carry around leather-bound books, moleskin journals, wind-up bolex 16mm or super-8 cameras, musical instruments and the like. They do not necessarily use or know how to use any of these items, but gosh, they've got you wondering!
If you can't for the life of you figure out the purpose of an accessory item, it is simply there for the love of...
Irony is one of the cornerstones of the hipster lifestyle. It's not always easy to define where the line between the "actual enjoyment" and "ironic appreciation" of any given thing is drawn. Experts believe that in part, "irony" is used to mask an actual affinity for something which could be considered too mainstream or uncool by the rest of the pack.
- The playing of pop-music = Ironic
- Unicorn-themed t-shirts = Ironic
- Lunchboxes and backpacks with childish motifs = Ironic
etc, ect, ect...
Irony is also found in the rejection of anything deemed too popular by the masses. Hipsters put an enormous amount of time and energy into collections of bygone goods:
- Switching from CD's, and more recently mp3s, to vinyl, because the sound is so soulless on digital. (Though I am willing to give them that one.)
- Replacing entire vinyl collection with cassettes because vinyl has gotten "so mainstream."
- Owning an 8-track player, just for good measure.
- Scouring the thrift stores for the oldest still-functioning VCR on which to play a painstakingly reconstructed collection of "Tales from the Crypt."
- Trading out the I-pod mini for the Walkman maxi because "cassetes are so ironic, and Apple is like, the symbol of capitalistic consumerism." (This is exclusive to the I-pod, however, as the I-phone, I-pad and MacBook Pro are like oxygen to a hipster-ly existence.)
and the list goes on...
In fact, many hipster choices can seem quite ironic to the outside observer. It's a very complicated situation.
Because the modern world does get so complicated, many young people look to the past for comfort.
Vintage or retro clothing, hair, decorations, and the aforementioned technology is highly valued in the land of the hip. Naturally, authentic old stuff if worth it's weight in $dollaz$. Luckily for fashionistas, moths have usually eaten away a great deal of the weight, making thrift stores a great place to find inexpensive duds.
By the same pricing system, the bulky industrial fabrication of many vintage objects means that those rotary phones, tube radios and pinball machines are going to cost an arm an a leg.
Now many companies also cater to these hipster sensibilities, selling vintage and retro-inspired items at full price all in one place, saving numerous trips to a plethora of often funky-smelling thrift shops.
When multiple trips to Good Will, Buffalo Exchange and Urban Outfitters prove fruitless, some hipsters get crafty.
Within the hipster community there exists a sub-genre: The Do-It-Yourslef-ers. They will customize anything and everything, from welding their own tall-bikes, to hand-rolling their own organic tea, DIY hipsters are ready to put in that extra effort to stand out from the crowd.
You will be able to identify them by the extra hand-stitched flare on their clothing and their up-cycled accessories.
While their intentions are admirable, a customized and stenciled shelf from Ikea, is still from Ikea, and only the most austere hipsters can truly break free.
7. Superior Beings
Once a lone hipster has successfully integrated with a larger pack, they adopt a new way of communicating with others. The phrase "I knew about/ liked/ listend to xyz before they were mainstream" can be overheard while walking through any central hipster den. They will only admit to listening to the most obscure groups, watching the most independent films and liking the most inaccessible artists. As soon as something/someone becomes well know, hipsters will drop it like a hot locally-grown potato and move on to the next thing.
If you choose to engage a hipster in conversation, do not be surprised if they quickly direct the dialogue towards a topic in which they are particularly proficient. This is standard behavior and they will proceed to express their superiority by refusing to agree with anything you say. A hipster will ALWAYS be more liberal, more eco-friendly, more sustainable, more knowlegable, more vegetarian, more femenist, more adrogynous, more open, more well-read, more...
Just MORE, than any other person in the room.
If you find yourself suddenly in they middle of a heated debate, find a way to bow out as quickly as possible. This is an argument that you cannot win. Hipster reasoning is often illogical, their sources are questionable and they insist on having the last word.
Experts believe that this tendency to make others feel inferior is a survival instinct, much like a cat raises its hackles and spits, a hipster puffs up as a territorial defense mechanism. – If you feel like you just got owned by someone who has memorized the complete works of James Joyce and pi to the 146th place, you are less likely to upset the delicate balance of the hip-hip ecosystem.
8. Going on the defense
Have you ever called a hipster out on being a hipster? Don’t. It will only end in tears –probably theirs – and they will say a lot of hurtful things that they don’t actually mean.
Check out this quote from Urbandictionary:
“Hipsterism is often dismissed as just an image thing by some ... a lot of anti-hipster sentiment evidently comes from culturally-clueless suburban frat boy types who feel that the more sensitive, intelligent, and culturally aware hipster ideal threatens their insecure sense of masculinity. Anti-hipster sentiment often comes from people who simply can't keep up with social change and are envious of those who can.”
See. Faced with any line of questioning, the common hipster begins to feel the need for justification, the claws come out and it just gets rude.
And now, for the ultimate red flag:
No matter how they dress, who they listen to; whether it’s on a walkman or an eight-track, the surest sign that you are dealing with a hipster is the Blasé Attitude.
You can’t tell them one single thing that they don’t already know and gosh darnnit, they will just never get as excited about anything –anything– as you think they should.
This is because in the hipster world, outward emotion is seen as a sign of weakness. Showing too much interest in any one thing could result in public shunning and aggression from the pack. Thus it is safest to speak in monotone, and ideally in sweeping generalities, laugh only ironically and avoid large gestures or facial expressions.
If you tell someone that Bon Iver just released his latest album to cassette and all you get is a shrug and a mumbled “cool.” You are most def dealing with a hipster.
If the individual in question stares at you, blinking with no signs of comprehension, you can breathe easy – you’re talking to a good ol’ regular person.
Apply your new-found knowledge
If ever you find yourself face to face with a hipster as you go about your daily life, don't panic. They mean you no harm and only attack with snark and sarcasm when feeling threatened.
Now that you have a better understanding of the average hipster's struggle for survival in the modern world, you should probably think about just giving the kid a hug. After all, it can't be easy being that cool and aloof.