A "hipster" can be many things to many different people: are they vegans or do they just buy grass-fed beef? Are they exclusively allowed to drink PBRs or can High Life be imbibed without an issue? How many plants constitute a rooftop garden, and is thyme really even worth growing? One thing, however, is quite clear: it's a label of derision, one that comes with a complimentary sneer usually attributed to the hipster him- or herself. We asked staff writers of The IN – some from the hipster epicenter of New York City – to define the term as best they can. Here are their responses:
I definitely really resent any white-looking person in their 20s automatically being considered a hipster. I always thought the definition was someone who inauthentically adhered to an interest or hobby because they thought it made them look cool. Which, granted, is hard to discern from the legions of white-looking people in their 20s who actually have a passion for their hobbies. So maybe we just shouldn't resort to name calling! Or we should just start self-identifying, because nobody does that.
Also I remember reading that Truman Capote referred to himself as a hipster. This was after he moved into a townhouse in Brooklyn Heights. Unpack as you wish.
I'll only answer this question if I'm the first one to answer it and I can tell everyone I answered it before everyone else did. And anyone who answers the question after me is a poseur just jumping on the bandwagon. I answered it when it meant something, when it wasn't all corporate and sold out.
As a guy who has been to Brooklyn before, I think I can comfortably act as an authority on how to spot the elusive hipster. When hunting hipsters, look for someone who expresses their open-mindedness through a combination of tattoos, short shorts (men only), large glasses (prescription optional) and ironic use of Americana. Is he or she smoking American Spirits and drinking a PBR? Is their wallet full despite their lack of a job? Sounds like you're on the right track!
But be careful, they only want to TRICK you into thinking they're free spirits, as the elegantly disheveled hipsters worship their demon gods by convincing the outside world of their artistic cred. To be sure you're on the trail of a REAL hipster follow them back to their apartment/lair and watch as they perform the judgment ceremony in which they burn effigies of everything they've seen that day. Listen as they repeat the magic words, "Ew, what a phony." Quick! Take the shot, before they successfully summon the ghost of Holden Caulfield!
Phew, that was a close one. Cover the body in a nearby "ironic" confederate flag and take it home. You should be making hipster jerky in no time. Delicious!
I do not know how to ride a bike, nor do I own even one single Apple product. I can't decide if these two facts make me the most or least hipster person in the world.
My take on the answer to "what is a hipster" is entirely personal and not meant to reflect who hipsters are, where they came from, or why they are the way they are. Thousands of sociology books have been written that attempt to deconstruct various cultures. Instead, I'm going to tell you exactly what my personal, biased, prejudiced, gut reaction is to the question. Also, it is worth noting that I like hipsters and have hipster tendencies myself.
A hipster is any person whose personal value is derived from having superior taste in anything, as long as that taste goes against popular consensus. This usually manifests itself in music, clothes, literature, food, alcohol, transportation, or really anything that allows one to say "Oh you still do X, you should probably do Y."
Hipsterism is essentially the statement that the popular consensus is wrong. The masses are morons. To go along with general opinion is to be part of a large group that does not know better. If one is still partaking in a crappier but still popular thing, one is therefore not hip and not privy to superior alternatives because, as the assumption goes, one does not have the taste (intellectual, artistic, or emotional) to either appreciate or even know about it.
Much research and testing went into creating a definition of hipsterism for future scientific debate.
Let j = "tightness of jeans"
Let c = "time since last haircut"
Let u = number of times the subject has dismissively uttered "I liked it before it was cool"
Let i = "irony of eyewear or t-shirts"
Let R'(t) be the frequency of obscure cultural references over time t
Hipsterism (H) as a function of age (t) is defined as the following:
As you can see, the significance of the utterance “I liked it before it was cool” becomes diminished as the subject ages, and irrelevant after 35, as it is more likely to be a factually accurate statement at that time. The choice of clothing has no relationship to age and is consistent regardless of the subject’s age, but the obscure cultural references compound over time.
I present these findings for peer review, and for the edification of my peers and future students of the science of human behavior.
Hipsters are cooler than other people so of course people don't like them.
What does a hipster mean to you? Be sure to throw your own definitions in the comments, hip and non-hip alike.
Image of the hip-ass editor courtesy of Liz Miles / Facebook