Hipsters have gotten a bad rap lately. They have been called culturally insensitive, gentrifying teeny boppers who have no understanding of the world outside of their Twitter feed, but have the monopoly on cool. They are the ones who only buy their music from record stores, but listen to it on Beats by Dr. Dre headphones.
But I remember what it was like before wearing Vans, acid wash jeans, black rimmed glasses and fedoras were cool. When keeping a journal and going to the skate board shop meant you didn’t fit in somewhere else. Anywhere else. Hipsters were the kids who insisted that the band and the chess club should be funded as much as the football team. Now the same kids who ate lunch in the drama club meeting room have graduated from college and are becoming the new movers and shakers much to the dismay of everyone who called them lame.
Hipsters embrace change in a way that makes most people uncomfortable. It is their inclusiveness, their willingness to embrace the unconventional, that gives them their power. The contribution of the hipster is beyond making wearing suspenders and carrying tote bags with 90s sitcom stills on them cool.
I think what makes hipsters so despised by the mainstream is that they are early adopters, and their influence is spreading. They broke the news on Twitter and now daily newspapers are forced to tweet. They are dictating the cool. They are pushing everyone into the future, while traditionalists are trying to hold steadfast to the past, and resist the present. They say print is dead and digital is in. It’s okay to wear thrift store jeans and carry a Marc Jacobs handbag. They buy local produce from food co-ops. They are choosing what’s relevant and deserves to be carried into the future and what’s dated and out-of-touch, all while wearing their fathers’ 1984 Pink Floyd concert t-shirts. They are winning the culture game, they just don’t have any money. It’s kind of like a twist on high school– the basketball team gets the new jerseys, but everyone wants to sit with the drama kids at the lunch table.
Do we hate hipsters because they behave like sheep or because they’re on to something? Maybe these are the new cultural preservationists. They visit the art galleries, attend the open mic nights, support the underground artists when they have less than 1 million YouTube views, and try the fare at the new local coffee shop. No one moves to the Big Apple or Tinseltown for the ball teams, except the people on the court. The institutions that hipsters patronize are what make great cities. The fringe theaters, thrift boutiques, mosh pits, vegan restaurants—these are the gems that make a place unique.
Perhaps this group of referential graphic tee wearing, f bomb swearing, Beatles listening, emo alt kids is opening us up to new socio-cultural ideas, rather than cloistering themselves in a yesteryear they never knew. Maybe they are walking nostalgia museums, reminding their parents and grandparents of youth, and of all of the passion, or lack thereof, that comes with it.