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The Hipster's Dilemma

Updated on July 28, 2016

So do you want to be a hipster?

The classically ironic anatomy of a hipster is truly an iconic symbol of the millennial generation. Ironically using a 'mainstream' phone, ironically expensive recycled shoes, and an ironic sense of style to make up for his lack of one to begin with.
The classically ironic anatomy of a hipster is truly an iconic symbol of the millennial generation. Ironically using a 'mainstream' phone, ironically expensive recycled shoes, and an ironic sense of style to make up for his lack of one to begin with.
Why do you have such an old camera? Because digital cameras don't capture the essence of life itself.
Why do you have such an old camera? Because digital cameras don't capture the essence of life itself.

What is a Hipster?

Everyone knows the type; thick rimmed 80s sunglasses (regardless if they need them), eccentric and many times weird mustached and bearded faces, skinny jeans, ironic deep-v necked t-shirts covered by rainbow plaid, riding a single-speed bike while smoking a cigarette or huffing a vape. They're branded by society as hipsters, which as the name suggests, means a person who tries to be as hip as possible.

They're branded by society as hipsters, which as the name suggests, means a person who tries to be as hip as possible. But as the hipster culture became more developed, they developed certain tendencies. Let's go over a few that seem to be "universal"

1. They think they are special and try to be special

The epitome of hipster culture, trying to be as unique and special as possible. In doing so, many hipsters purposefully choose to like things that would usually set them apart from other people. For example: liking some underground post-neo-grunge garage rock band that seemingly only the subject has heard about, dressing in a different manner than most people; i.e. tight jeans, thick-rimmed glasses, ironic t-shirts and men's scarves and messenger bags and having trendy eating, drinking, and social habits. Some believe that hipsters try to be special due to their inherent normalcy if they weren't trying to stand out so much, but many hipsters refuse to acknowledge that.

2. They tend to think very highly of themselves and of what they like

Many hipsters take pride in the fact that they are in-fact hip. Many take great pride in the brand of sunglasses they wear, in the type of specialized rare brew of coffee they drink, in the stores they like to shop at/ clothes they like to wear and in the bands and subgenres of music they like to listen to. This is usually a fine thing, as it is natural to take pride in the things you love to do and experience, but many hipsters cross the line between pride in oneself's likes and being condescending towards people who don't agree with their tastes. Ironically some hipsters may take offense to the actual name of hipster, since being grouped in with other people means you're not purely unique.

3. They Enjoy the Arts and are unemployed

We often hear that "more and more millennials are living with their parents" which is true. More millennials who have a degree come back from university with no job. This fits the stereotype of the unemployed liberal arts major hipster almost too well. Liberal arts degrees are less likely to land you a job, and while knowledge of poetry, literature, and current fads do have some meaning with employers, many still struggle to find work. In 2013 almost 15% of the 20-24 age group was unemployed and many more were just not in the workforce at all.

4. They love being the first to 'discover' something or like it before it becomes popular


"I liked X before it was cool" insert any recent fad brought to the mainstream and you'll have a hipster-ready phrase. Perhaps one of the pinnacles of hipster irony, when hipsters see something that they like being brought to the mainstream to be enjoyed by the masses, they promptly tell everyone that they liked it before it was cool and then promptly dislike it. Think about the White Stripes before the release of "7 Nation Army" or Arcade Fire after the release of "the Suburbs".

This also works for older things that have gone out of appreciation as well, "grandpa hats", fedoras and suspenders were all popular in their own time, and hipsters bring them back for their own ironic amusement.

There's always going to be someone more hip than you, but being a slave to meta trends is also too cliched as well.
There's always going to be someone more hip than you, but being a slave to meta trends is also too cliched as well.

3 Ironic Observations about Hipsters and Hipster Culture

Now that we've accurately and totally quantitatively established what a hipster is and what hipsters tend to do, I would like to present 3 ironic observation/paradoxes about hipsters and hipster culture.

1. The Hipster Relativity Paradox

The hipster's goals are simple, to be hip and unique. Well that should be relatively simple, shouldn't it? Wrong, the paradoxical thinking involved in hipster culture is rather mind-boggling if you think about it. In order to be unique you have to be someone who can't be even remotely related to, so naturally, the hipster's first course of action is to find the newest trends, the most independent coffee shops, the hippest handmade crafts and the most vintage vinyl anywhere. At this point, the Hipster is usually rather satisfied, but not for long. After a while of thinking, the Hipster realizes that meta-chasing and being a trend slave is now mainstream. GASP! What doest the Hipster do? There is no clear answer, backing off from the job of meta slave means not being the hippest hip hipster of the hip bunch, but staying as a slave to the newest trends is tiring and not totally unique as well. The truth is, the job of the hipster is a never-ending quest to find the freshest, newest and juiciest trends out there. (if only it paid money)

2. They want people (their parents especially) to embrace their subculture, but not really


It's the goal of any subculture to be accepted in the hipsters' case, this is especially imperative due to the incredibly bleak public opinion of the subculture. The older generation especially doesn't like millennial hipsters, I mean most people don't like freeloading adults who leech off your hard earned money, but that's beside the point. Hipsters are in a predicament here, many are pressured by their parents go get a job, but many hipsters don't want to because getting a job is conforming to the system and would hamper their abilities to follow trends and be hip. It gets harder when their incredibly close-minded and behind-the-times parents tell them to "get a job or get out" which leads the hipsters to a crossroads. Do they want to actually go into the real world where they will have abandon their ironic hipster tendencies and actually be a productive member of society and thus conform to the system they spent all of their adult and adolescent lives hating? Or do they want to stay true to their hipster creed and lose all financial support and look more like a hobo than a hipster? Tis truly a hard choice of our times, but can usually be solved with a compromise, working at an independent, unique, craft coffee shop or record store.

3. Hipsters aren't hip anymore

Last, but certainly not least is the ultimate paradox regarding modern day hipsters. Hipsters aren't hip anymore. Hipsters are no longer things that are rare or excessively eye-catching. You can walk down the street in Brooklyn, Minnesota, Seattle, SF or Portland and see masses of hipsters, and although some are more hipster than others, they all seem very similar. The irony of their ironic tee shirts aren't a shock or something that makes you unique, they're everywhere, hipsters are already everywhere, which makes them mainstream and therefore defeats the whole purpose of being a hipster in the first place. And this is the fate for many a subculture throughout American history.

A 'generation' is very loosely defined by a rough timeframe, but it is quite clear when a generation is 'saturated' as it is now with the hipster millennial generation. Although we look back at the hippie counterculture movement as if it was a sort of anomaly, it encompassed most of the generation that was born after World War II. We also forget to realize that the hippies of the 60s are the elders of the present, they don't seem very hip to us, don't they? That's because when the hippie movement was saturated and many got to the age where parents didn't want to or couldn't support them, they got jobs and entered the real world, so as to not die from starvation. The hipsters will likely tread the same path.

Every youthful generation has its unique ideas, fads and philosophies which are integral for the moral and intellectual progression of America and the world, but for every youthful generation there is always an older generation that was once youthful itself, there to support, critique and slowly coax the youthful generation into the real world.

The Evolution of the Hipster: An effort to be eternally meta and hip

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