Do you hate hipsters? Of course you do. Everybody does. Hipsters attract a degree of derision usually directed by the Daily Mail at communist, homosexual, unemployed immigrants. But could you define what a ‘hipster’ is? You might come up with terms like ‘alternative’, ‘edgy’ or ‘Cellar Door’, but such whimsical considerations merely scratch the surface of the true hipster aesthetic.
Why is it so hard to define what a hipster is? Simple: true hipsters are so small in number that they barely exist anymore, like Siberian tigers, or working class students at the University of Exeter. The authentic hipster subculture of suburban twentieth century America has been displaced by a generation of postmodern pin-ups that I like to call Anti-Hipsters – a collective of pseudo-hipsters who reaffirm consumerist values and measure their weight in Instagrams.
How does an anti-hipster differ from the real deal? Well, I see true hipsters as those beat generation souls “mad to live.” These crazy cats dug jazz in the 30s, 40 and 50s and just wanted to Go! Blow! Go! They analysed, drank, injected and read anything and everything that would set them on the path to unheralded, boundless hedonism. Yeah, they have always been a little pretentious, concerned with outward appearances and showing disdain for ignorant slavish squares, but they were committed to authentic experience, counter-culture and were always self-aware.
The anti-hipster, on the other hand, epistemologically speaking, is a postmodern phenomenon. Whereas the hipster burnt their tongues because they drank the coffee before it was cool, the anti-hipster makes sure everyone sees them drink their ethically sourced mocha at Starbucks, with a Macbook Air (homepage set to Vice) carefully placed over a £10 independent magazine. Anti-hipsters conform to a fabricated ‘non-conformist’ dress code (“These Nike Air Max will go perfectly with my Obey snapback”), can’t get enough of ‘deep house’ (“Have you heard Bashmore’s new banger?”) and say things like “epistemologically speaking, that subculture is a postmodern phenomenon.”
Consumerism poisoned the Pursuit of Hipsterdom. The current batch of plastic copies vomited out by high streets make a mockery of a movement that was once seen as a genuine attempt to swim against current trends and bask in a sublime stream-of-consciousness. The tragic mutation is rooted in how we are seen: the true hipster rejects labels; the anti-hipster can’t wear enough of them.
The result is a non-individual who concentrates so much on the image of hipsterism, rather than the essence, that they fail to see the irony – a hipster staple – in their fabricated self-parody. The anti-hipster cult may appear to be ‘alternative’ in their attitude and dress, but only succeed to parody original hipster characteristics and paradoxically reiterate mainstream values. In short, they are a poor man’s hipster. They are what Pepsi is to Coca-Cola, what ketamine is to cocaine, what masturbation is to sex…
The ‘Urban Renewal’ section of Urban Outfitters neatly encapsulates the anti-hipster paradox. It claims to embody the hipster tradition of recycling, saving money and looking individual, but charges a Stussy T-shirted arm and a vintage Levi-jeaned leg to attain the ‘hipster’ aesthetic. I saw an Adidas rucksack in the Renewal section recently. It was the kind your mum bought you to carry your PE kit in Year 8. They wanted £40 for it. Herein lies the perversity of the anti-hipster attitude: people spend shed loads of money to look as if they picked up an old workman’s clothes from the floor of a shed. If you want cheap, charismatic clothes, abandon Urban Renewal and pop down to the charity shops instead.
Still, I don’t mean to decry those who dress in a certain way or like certain genres of music. I am critiquing rather than criticizing. Of course people are free to enjoy deep house and wear vintage denim jackets. But, in a consumer-saturated age we are too quick to relinquish any individuality and succumb to socially accepted norms of taste, style and attitude – even when we think we are being individual. In this sense, anti-hipsters are the perfect subculture for our times. With no clear origin, no strong political movement to invest in (keep trying, Russell Brand), and no Dylan or Lennon to idolise, they encapsulate that anxiety-fueled desire to be individual in an elitist, homogenised, consumer-driven society.