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Hipsteritis: Symptoms checklist

in Philosophies/Society by

I can’t remember when I first heard the word “hipster”. I do know that people don’t like them. They seem to be responsible for everything bad. I couldn’t figure out what they were really. So, I googled.

hip·ster
ˈhipstər

noun
informal

a person who follows the latest trends and fashions, especially those regarded as being outside the cultural mainstream.

So, does that mean they are trying to be up to date, but not mainstream? And OMG! Does that mean I am one? I dug deeper. I turned to the Urban Dicitonary, cause that’s just how much of a hipster I am.

hipster

“Hipsters are a subculture of men and women typically in their 20’s and 30’s that value independent thinking, counter-culture, progressive politics, an appreciation of art and indie-rock, creativity, intelligence, and witty banter. The greatest concentrations of hipsters can be found living in the Williamsburg, Wicker Park, and Mission District neighborhoods of major cosmopolitan centers such as New York, Chicago, and San Francisco respectively.”

Ok, I don’t live in the States, am not into indie-rock, although I haven’t owned a radio in years and I get my music from exploring online. I have no idea what’s in the top ten right now. And I am in my 20’s, albeit for… is it the third… time. That said,  I am independent, counter, progressive-ish, creative, intelligent and witty. Hmm. So now I’m 6 or 7 to 3 in favour of being a hipster, if each thing counts equally. It does, right?

Urban Dicitonary goes on:

“Although ‘hipsterism’ is really a state of mind, it is also often intertwined with distinct fashion sensibilities. Hipsters reject the culturally-ignorant attitudes of mainstream consumers, and are often seen wearing vintage and thrift store inspired fashions, tight-fitting jeans, old-school sneakers, and sometimes thick rimmed glasses. Both hipster men and women sport similar androgynous hair styles that include combinations of messy shag cuts and asymmetric side-swept bangs. Such styles are often associated with the work of creative stylists at urban salons, and are usually too ‘edgy’ for the culturally-sheltered mainstream consumer. The ‘effortless cool’ urban bohemian look of a hipster is exemplified in Urban Outfitters and American Apparel ads which cater towards the hipster demographic.

Despite misconceptions based on their aesthetic tastes, hipsters tend to be well educated and often have liberal arts degrees, or degrees in maths and sciences, which also require certain creative analytical thinking abilities. Consequently many hipsters tend to have jobs in the music, art, and fashion industries. It is a myth that most hipsters are unemployed and live off of their parents’ trust funds.”

urban outfittersss
models sport anti-fashion fashion in an Urban Outfitters ad

OMG! I pretty much have that same sweater that I got at the free store like 2 years ago. I love that sweater. I’ve got no trust fund. I am an artist. My hair is not either of those styles, but too edgy for many. I don’t wear glasses, but I do look cute in the thick rims. I often wear whatever’s clean. I wear glitter as often as possible. They haven’t mentioned that. hmmm. I’ll keep reading.

“Hipsters shun mainstream societal conventions that apply to dating preferences and traditional ‘rules’ of physical attraction. It is part of the hipster central dogma not to be influenced by mainstream advertising and media, which tends to only promote ethnocentric ideals of beauty. The concepts of androgyny and feminism have influenced hipster culture, where hipster men are often as thin as the women they date. The muscular and athletic all-American male ideal is not seen as attractive by confident and culturally-empowered hipster women who instead view them as symbols of male oppression, sexism, and misogyny.”

I like my men on the skinny side. I do like a classically beautiful man, but in an androgynous kind of way. I think we need to define muscular here. While I like skinny, toned is not a bad thing. I don’t really go for the body builder type, though. I keep teeter tottering, but mainly staying in the hipster camp thus far. Maybe the next passage will make it clearer.

“Likewise, culturally-vapid sorority-type girls with fake blond hair, overly tanned skin, and ‘Britney Spears tube-tops’ are not seen as attractive by cultured hipster males who instead see them as symbols of female insecurity, low self-esteem, and lack of cultural intelligence and independent thinking. Hipsters are also very racially open-minded, and the greatest number of interracial couples in any urban environment are typically found within the hipster subculture.”

A girl could get really confused here. ATM my hair is bleached so it can go pastel and that is not exactly my natural colour, which btw I discovered on Instagram, but who was wearing it? Was it cheerleaders or street smart, in-your-face girls? Plus, I have been known to sport a tube top when I feel like it. But I find many men of colour hot and would totally have no problem with mixing race. What else?

“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. For example, the surge of jeans made to look old and worn (i.e. ‘distressed’) were originally paraded by hipsters who shopped in thrift stores years before such clothing items were mass produced and sold to the mainstream consumer.

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. This phenomena also applies to music as well, as many bands have become successful and known to mainstream audiences only because hipsters first found and listened to them as early-adopters of new culture. Once certain concepts of fashion and music have reached mainstream audiences, hipsters move on.”

Now that there is some bullshit.

That is just a hipster defining what a hipster is, and who better to define it so that we know what it really is. But the truth is this is nothing new in the fashion industry. It has been taking from the street for years. So, yes, they see who is standing out and leading, so they can make clothes for those who want to stand out. There are even trend watchers who are paid to see what “stand out” teens are wearing so they can be incorporated into next season’s fashions. Just listen to Cher talk about her clothes when she started out and the impact they made. (It’s at the end of part 2 and beginning of part 3.)

The term “hipster” has been flung around since the 90s and is now associated with post-modern trust-fund kids who “slum” it and “ruin the neighbourhood” by bringing gentrification. Generally speaking, hipsters mainly consist of urban millennials who are resisting societal norms.

But where did the term hipster come from?

It originated in the 40s jazz scene. The exact origins are disputed, but we all know that to be “hip” is to be in the know on all things cool. It could have come from the slang word for opium, “hop”, or it could have come from “hipi”, West African for “opening one’s eyes”. Or it could simply have come from lying on one’s hip while smoking an opium pipe. Being hip and, conversely, unhip have even been linguistically noted as early as 1902.

Hot jazz artist Harry Gibson (at the piano), coiner of the word hipster in the 1940s, photo: Wikipedia
Hot jazz artist Harry Gibson (at the piano), coiner of the word hipster in the 1940s, photo: Wikipedia

The first dictionary reference for the term “hipster” was in the short glossary “For Characters Who Don’t Dig Jive Talk”, which was included with Harry Gibson‘s 1944 album Boogie Woogie In Blue. The entry defined them as “characters who like hot jazz”.

Now I know I’m an old school hipster!

All I’m saying is, the way I see it, there should be no shame in being a hipster. And while I’m not gentrifying anything on purpose, I am not opposed to listening to some jive with a hot, chocolate or caramel man in a beard or a man bun (preferably with glitter). And to be honest, I don’t care if you have money or not, as long as you have something interesting to say, and I mean genuinely interesting. I’m not so sure about this trend to discuss the cosmos at dinner parties…. unless you are my lovely Italian Brazilian scientist friend, Bruno, who explained to me that we are all just star glitter. Sigh.

Artist, curator and writer: maeshelle west-davies gleans her varied life experiences to expose a personal perspective through a multitude of mediums.

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