Hipster (contemporary subculture)


Hipster (contemporary subculture)

In the late 1990s, the 1940s slang term "hipster" began being used to describe young, urban middle class and upper class adults with interests in non-mainstream fashion and culture. Actually defining what a hipster is can be a difficult task considering the idea that hipsters are thought to exist as a "mutating, trans-Atlantic melting pot of styles, tastes and behavior [s] ." [cite web | title = Hipster: The Dead End of Western Civilization | author = Douglas Haddow | url = http://www.adbusters.org/magazine/79/hipster.html | publisher = Adbusters | date = 2008-07-29 | accessdate = 2008-09-08] Hipsters are also referred to, in some contexts, as "scenesters". [cite web | title = Meet the global scenester: He's hip. He's cool. He's everywhere | author = Tim Walker | url = http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/fashion/features/meet-the-global-scenester-hes-hip-hes-cool-hes-everywhere-894199.html | publisher = The Independent | date = 2008-08-14 | accessdate = 2008-09-08]

History

1940s-1950s

"Hipster" derives from the slang "hip" or "hep," which are derived from the earlier slang "hop" for opium.

The first dictionary to list the word is 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 for "hipsters" defined it as "characters who like hot jazz." [This short glossary of jive expressions was also printed on playbills handed out at Gibson's concerts for a few years. It was not a complete glossary of jive, as it only included jive expressions that were found in the [http://www.hyzercreek.com/harrylyrics.htm lyrics] to his songs. The same year, Cab Calloway published "The New Cab Calloway's Hepster's Dictionary of Jive", which had no listing for Hipster, and because there was an earlier edition of Calloway's Hepster's (obviously a play on Webster's) Dictionary, it appears that "hepster" pre-dates "hipster."]

The 1959 book "Jazz Scene" by Eric Hobsbawm (using the pen name Francis Newton) describes hipsters using their own language, "jive-talk or hipster-talk," he writes "is an argot or cant designed to set the group apart from outsiders." Hipster was also used in a different context at about the same time by Jack Kerouac in describing his vision of the Beat Generation. Along with Allen Ginsberg, Kerouac described 1940s hipsters "rising and roaming America,... bumming and hitchhiking everywhere... [as] characters of a special spirituality." [ [http://www.fb10.uni-bremen.de/anglistik/kerkhoff/beatgeneration/BG-Definitions.htm Kerouac, Jack. "About the Beat Generation," (1957), published as "Aftermath: The Philosophy of the Beat Generation" in "Esquire," March 1958] ]

1990s and 2000s

In the 1990s, the term became a blanket description for middle class young people associated with alternative culture, particularly alternative music, independent rock, independent film and a lifestyle revolving around thrift store shopping, eating organic, locally grown, vegetarian, and/or vegan food, drinking local or brewing beer, listening to public radio, riding bicycles (more specifically Fixed Gear Bicycles) , and magazines like "Vice" and "Clash" and website Pitchfork Media.cite web | title = Hipster: The Dead End of Western Civilization | author = Douglas Haddow | url = http://www.adbusters.org/magazine/79/hipster.html | publisher = Adbusters | date = 2008-07-29 | accessdate = 2008-09-08]

Robert Lanham's satirical "The Hipster Handbook" described hipsters as young people with "...mop-top haircuts, swinging retro pocketbooks, talking on cell phones, smoking European cigarettes, ... strutting in platform shoes with a biography of Che Guevara sticking out of their bags." [Robert Lanham, "The Hipster Handbook" (2003) p. 1.]

Hipsters are considered apathetic, pretentious, and self-entitled by other, often marginalized sectors of society they live amongst, including previous generations of bohemian and/or "counter-culture" artists and thinkers as well as poor neighborhoods of color.

In 2005, "Slate" writer Brandon Stosuy noted that "Heavy metal has recently conquered a new frontier, making an unexpected crossover into the realm of hipsterdom." He argues that the "current revival seems to be a natural mutation from the hipster fascination with post-punk, noise, and no wave,” which allowed even the “nerdiest indie kids to dip their toes into jagged, autistic sounds.” He argues that a "byproduct" of this development was an "...investigation of a musical culture that many had previously feared or fetishized from afar.” [cite web | title = Heavy Metal: It's alive and flourishing. | author = Brandon Stosuy | url = http://www.slate.com/id/2124692/ | publisher = Slate | date = 2005-08-19 | accessdate = 2008-09-08]

In 2008, "Utne Reader" magazine writer Jake Mohan described “hipster rap,” “as loosely defined by the "Chicago Reader", consists of the most recent crop of MCs and DJs who flout conventional hip-hop fashions, eschewing baggy clothes and gold chains for tight jeans, big sunglasses, the occasional keffiyeh, and other trappings of the hipster lifestyle.” He notes that the “old-school hip-hop website Unkut, and Jersey City rapper Mazzi” have criticized mainstream rappers who they deem to be poseurs or “…fags for copping the metrosexual appearances of hipster fashion.” [cite web | title = Hipster R
author = Jake Mohan | url = http://www.utne.com/2008-06-13/Arts/Hipster-Rap-The-Latest-Hater-Battleground.aspx?blogid=32 | publisher = Utne Reader | date = 2008-06-13 | accessdate = 2008-09-08
] "Prefix Mag" writer Ethan Stanislawski argues that there are racial elements to the rise of hipster rap. He claims that there "...have been a slew of angry retorts to the rise of hipster rap," which he says can be summed up as "white kids want the funky otherness of hip-hop... without all the scary black people." [cite web | title = The Chicago Reader has hip-hop hipster backlash against hip-hop hipster backlash | author = Ethan Stanislawski | url = http://www.prefixmag.com/news/hip-hop-hipster-backlash/19451/ | publisher = Prefix Mag | date = 2008-06-20 | accessdate = 2008-09-08]

The hipster aesthetic of irony extends to the appropriation of elements of lowbrow or working class identity in an ironic fashion, such as Pabst Blue Ribbon beer as well as the multi coloured keffiyeh "initially sported by Jewish students and Western protesters to express solidarity with Palestinians, the keffiyeh has become a completely meaningless hipster cliché fashion accessory".

In his article for "The New York Times", "Leaving Behind the Trucker Hat," Allen Salkin explores the experiences of two hipsters who moved to Tivoli, New York to work on an organic farm. Those without access to farmland are growing vegetables in their backyards and patios. Hipsters are gathering at the local food co-op to exchange seeds and ideas while gaining an identity with a greater sense of irony. [cite web | title = Leaving Behind the Trucker Hat | author = Allen Salkin | url = http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/16/fashion/16farmer.html?_r=1&oref=slogin | publisher = The New York Times | date = 2008-03-16 | accessdate = 2008-09-08]

Criticism

Elise Thompson, an editor for the LA blog "LAist" argues that "people who came of age in the 70s and 80s punk rock movement seem to universally hate 'hipsters'", which she defines as people wearing "expensive 'alternative' fashion [s] ", going to the "latest, coolest, hippest bar... [and] listen [ing] to the latest, coolest, hippest band." Thompson argues that hipsters "... don’t seem to subscribe to any particular philosophy... [or] ...particular genre of music." Instead, she argues that they are "soldiers of fortune of style" who take up whatever is popular and in style, "appropriat [ing] the style [s] " of past countercultural movements such as punk, while "discard [ing] everything that the style stood for." [Thompson, Elise. "Why Does Everyone Hate Hipsters Assholes?"February 20, 2008 [http://laist.com/2008/02/20/why_does_everyo.php] .]

Christian Lorentzen of "Time Out New York" claims that metrosexuality is the hipster appropriation of gay culture. He writes that "these aesthetics are assimilated — cannibalized — into a repertoire of meaninglessness, from which the hipster can construct an identity in the manner of a collage, or a shuffled playlist on an iPod." [Lorentzen, Christian. "Kill the hipster: Why the hipster must die: A modest proposal to save New York cool." "Time Out New York" [http://www.timeout.com/newyork/article/4840/why-the-hipster-must-die] .]

Lorentzen argues that “hipsterism fetishizes the authentic” elements of all of the “fringe movements of the postwar era—Beat, hippie, punk, even grunge,” and draws on the “cultural stores of every unmelted ethnicity” and “gay style”, and then “regurgitates it with a winking inauthenticity” and a sense of irony. He claims that this group of “18-to-34-year-olds”, who are mostly white, “have defanged, skinned and consumed” all of these influences “into a repertoire of meaninglessness”. [Lorentzen, “Kill the hipster.”]

References


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