Well, I'm not fully convinced that I'm a hipster, but society at large seems to think so.
I've been getting the hipster label since the moment I started wearing wingtips, but it wasn't until a friend recently saw I'd been featured in a YouTube video as the physical representation of a Hipster, that I decided to address the issue.
Now although the host of the PBS Idea Channel was very nice and not in any way taking shots at me, it made it instantly clear that when people think of the word hipster, they think of someone who looks like me.
I'm not sure if I am a hipster, but if so, do I really care? Do you?
The entire video is a really well done history of the hoodie so I recommend that you watch the whole thing, but you can skip to 9:07 to see a real life hipster in his natural habitat.
Using “Hipster” As An Insult
Nearly all the negative comments directed at me here on Iron & Tweed (just a few out of over 1,000!) have contained the word or implication of hipster somewhere in the insult. Like this one.
Hey Nate, There is nothing worse than an unoriginal hipster puke wearing a pair of DM’s. Especially when the boots in question are not straight laced! It’s bad enough to see those horrible clone like hairdos and ridiculous beards in a hideous pair of Allen Edmonds knockoffs. Please continue to view DM’s as the boot/shoe of punks, freaks, and deadbeat artsy types. For the love of all that hipster culture holds holy (coffee shops & homely girls with horn-rimmed glasses) stay in your daddy’s wingtips! The last thing punks, freaks, and weirdos want is grudging approval from a hipster of any sort!
In addition to that em, one angry fellow characterized me as someone who would blast down the street in my Subaru WRX (presumably with a fart can) while vaping and billowing smoke from my windows.
That sounds great, but I don't own a Subaru WRX and have never vaped. And I'd never really viewed myself as much of a hipster.
But it's not only online, I get called a hipster in real life too. Many conversations with friends, family, and casual or new acquaintances have contained something like the following:
“You don't feed your daughter candy and soda? Hipster.”
“Nice iPhone and Macbook Air, hipster!”
Aw, you look so nice. You're dressed like such a hipster.”
While some people almost say this as a compliment, others present it as a thinly veiled jab.
All I can do is smile when I hear shit like this because the words of scorn usually come from someone wearing a sports team hoodie and dirty running shoes while simultaneously complaining about their belly fat, poor financial situation, and a host of other problems.
Really, I don't feel like I'm living some kind of highly alternative lifestyle.
I do things just a little different than most and have my life mostly in order. But the general reaction of most people is to criticize the unfamiliar.
What I Think Of As A Hipster
The first time I heard the word hipster was around 2005 while talking to a high school friend who had recently settled down in Portland, Oregon.
I asked her how the people were out there and she said “oh, they're great, but we have a LOT of hipsters in our area.”
Me, “Hipster? You mean hippies? Tie dye shirts, long hair, sandals?”
Her, “uhhh, not quite.”
She went on to describe a group of 20-somethings known for their tight pants, ironic t-shirts, mustaches, drinking PBR, and chain smoking. They listened to obscure music, talked politics, and refused to conform to social norms.
She also noted that were often considered to be aloof, judgy, preachy, even flat out rude at times. And a number of them (in Portland) were voluntarily homeless because they refused to work for “the man” even though they had degrees and came from well-to-do families.
Me, “Interesting. Maybe I'll meet one of these fringe creatures some day.”
Soon after, I began to notice a handful of folks fitting the visual description of a hipster in my neighborhood and even more when I took a day trip into the city.
Really, they didn't seem that different from any other group of youths I'd encountered, so I was pretty ambivalent to the hipster community.
But fairly soon after learning about this new (to me) breed of cool kids, I dramatically limited my TV consumption (and eventually cut cable altogether), stopped reading magazines, ignored online news, and didn't participate in social media.
With this lack of social influence, my definition of a hipster was static.
The New Definition Of A Hipster
After being called a hipster more times than I can count over the next decade, I though “okay, these people are crazy! I don't smoke, ride a fixed gear bicycle, talk incessantly about social issues, or aim to be one step ahead of every trend.
But after the YouTube video, my wife said, “well, let's put it to the test.” Several online quizzes later confirmed what people had been saying to me for years. I, Nate Lewis, am a hipster.
However, it turns out that the common definition of a hipster has evolved over the years, and has been so misused by the general public that it's nearly useless.
Historically, a hipster was part of a small subset of society who prided themselves on forward thinking, setting the latest trends, and enjoying activities that others weren't cool enough to partake in.
But according to completely average people:
- Anyone with a beard or any form of a hairstyle is a hipster
- Your 13 year old cousin who loves music is a hipster
- Hollywood actors? All hipsters!
- If you've ever gone hiking you're definitely a hipster
- Boat shoes are hipster
- Ever eaten organic food? Total hipster move!
- The specky urbanite is a major hipster
- The guy with the open vest and no shoes or shirt is a hipster
- Anyone who gardens is a hipster
- Like any form of art? Hipster!
So hipsters are supposed to be the minority and go against the grain.
But with how fast trends and ideas spread in the age of the internet, there really isn't much of a “fringe” area of society to hide (at least not one visible enough for your average Joe to notice and use to label others).
Today, everyone is visible and trends move so fast that who can even tell what's current, retro, or dated?
When an unfamiliar song comes up on my playlist, I honestly can't tell if it's an awesome 80s jam I've never heard or was just released last month!
So I guess it's true…
Quizzes never lie.
According to the ones doing the name calling (I call them Normies*)
ANYONE DOING SOMETHING POSITIVE WITH THEIR LIFE IS A HIPSTER!
During almost all of my wakeful hours, if I'm not actively working to make my life better, I'm using my “downtime” to surf the internet or read books for fresh information, ideas, and inspiration about:
- Making better food choices
- Living with fewer, but higher quality things
- The secrets to building muscle and staying lean
- Finding audio equipment that will increase my enjoyment of music
- How to change my perception of the world around me
If these things are fringe, then I'm completely uninterested in being mainstream.
My Admitted Hipster Offenses
From a visual standpoint, I have a beard, classic haircut, tortoise shell glasses, and wear fitted clothes. Guilty as charged.
Lifestyle wise, I prefer public transportation and cycling to driving, want to live in Portland, Oregon someday, and was drinking craft beer and whiskey before it was cool (such a hipster thing to say, haha!).
But I didn't choose any of these things because I want to be better than anyone or to fulfill some uncontrollable desire to be different regardless of the outcome.
I choose them because they seem like the best choices FOR ME.
I like the Pacific Northwest because the weather is mild compared to Chicago, the surrounding environment is beautiful, and the people there tend to value individuality and free thinking.
I have a beard because I've been shaving since 7th grade and always wondered what I would look like if I let it grow out. When I saw it working for other guys I figured I'd give it a shot.
Is being a Hipster so bad? Are YOU one?
I can't see the downside of fitting into the broad category of modern-day hipsters.
More appreciation for all forms of art?
Moving beyond seeing the world as it used to or ought to be, to seeing it as it is?
Aiming for a presentable appearance?
Other than not fitting in with people who are complacent with, or scared to, change their dreary lives, what do you and I have to lose by being associated with hipsters?
As long as people aren't calling you a hipster because you're an insufferable dick lording your supposed intellectual and political superiority over people every time you open your mouth, don't be concerned with the label.
From here on out, I'll take each accusation of being a hipster as recognition for doing things differently than those who are underwhelmed with their own lives.
In other words, I'll take it as a compliment!
All the best,
*Normie – Anyone who is content (and simultaneously miserable) with their dead end job, failing relationships, closed minded thinking, and general lack of awesomeness. Their favorite activity is to strike first and make fun of others as a defense mechanism.