My beef with so-called hipsterism has led me astray from otherwise decent things like Pabst Blue Ribbon, stocking caps and Chuck Taylors. I’ve made so much of an effort to not look or act hipster, I’ve become something of a cliché myself. I’m not alone.
Linda Holmes, who writes for NPR’s pop culture blog Monkey See, deconstructed this very behavior the other day in one of her posts. Her skepticism of all things hipster still gleans, but Holmes argues the deliberate avoidance of anything we commonly know hipsters to like is just as contradictory as their mainstream counterculture.
Holmes’ description of hipsters — as a subset of society — goes like so:
“What comes through most clearly in accusations of hipsterdom — where the term becomes a putdown rather than an attempt to describe a demographic — is the charge of inauthenticity, of what is actually conformity masquerading as nonconformity. Hipsters are bad, the thinking seems to go, because they subscribe to a group identity instead of an individual identity; they are interested in image instead of substance.”
When I speak to hipster culture, Holmes’ is the definition I’m working with. It’s this painfully obvious attempt to wear the right clothes, have the right interests, eat and drink the right things and have the right likes and dislikes so as to abide the hipster ethos.
Holmes makes the argument disliking something because it’s perceived as something intended for or preferred by hipsters is another form of inauthenticity and posturing:
“Why is it a valid criticism of anything to say that it is designed for, marketed to, or championed by hipsters? “That band is hipster music, therefore it is bad.” Really? How can it possibly be more valid to dismiss something on the basis of someone else’sadoption of a counterfeit group identity than it is to surrender yourself to that group identity in the first place?”
Here’s where hipsters are unique. Do you listen to rap music? I do. One could argue rap music is intended for a specific demographic which may not be 25-year-old white guys from the Midwest, but I listen to and enjoy it without pause. In fact, I never take the time to consider who rap music may be intended for.
The same is not so with “hipster music”, which can/should include MGMT, Vampire Weekend, The XX, Elliot Smith, etc. I may listen to an MGMT record privately on my iPod — they make great running music — but you’ll never catch me at a concert. Not my scene, I would reason.
So here, with Holmes as my leader, I proclaim to be, at times, as inauthentic as the same hipsters who I frequently mock and ridicule in this here blog. I haven’t gone so far as to let seedy, thrift store clothes overrun my wardrobe and at 230 lbs., I’m about 70 pounds too big to meet the club requirements. However, I intend on doubling back for some of the items I let hipsters have to themselves for fear I might be associated with hipsters, myself.
I’m drinking PBR again. I’m listening to Spoon. I getting a pair of Chuck Taylors. Thank you for the reality check, Linda Holmes.