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Hipster: counter-culture or mindless trend?

by The Concordian October 31, 2011
Hipster: counter-culture or mindless trend?

What do you think of when you hear the word “hipster”? For hipster haters, it is an arrogant trend follower, who loves sarcasm and drinking Pabst Blue Ribbon while wearing black thick-rimmed glasses with no lenses. It is clear to see that it has become an overused word that has lost its significance and impact due to mainstream popularity. Dr. Zeynep Arsel, who jokingly calls herself a “hipsterologist,” is an assistant professor in Concordia’s marketing department. Her doctoral dissertation looked at “the intersection of indie culture and mass mediated hipster narrative and the consumption patterns that emerge as a result of this co-optation.”
She explained how marketers began pegging people with the term hipster. “We’re talking about ‘90s. This was where indie music was very exotic and interesting and nothing like anything out there. Marketers were trying to understand, and I was looking at the media discourse about indie music. Gradually, journalists and marketers started to label and categorize people who are in this indie culture as hipsters. I don’t know what the challenge was with [labelling] indie, but it was sort of a production system rather than a lifestyle, so hipster was a prefect scheme of someone. Using hipster helped them understand what indie was about.”
Arsel explained that marketers “cool-hunt” for subcultures and new styles in areas where the culture is merely emerging. They “find stylistic cues, fashion, and make them mainstream.” This happened with hipsters, who were originally discovered in the New York City borough of Brooklyn, and Williamsburg, one of its neighbourhoods. These individuals, who were 18 to 35, were edgy and had interesting taste in music and fashion.
Hipsters aim to stand out in a crowd, yet they all look the same. The hipster style is a  mix of all other counter-cultures and actually shows little originality: oversized glasses of the ‘80s, unflattering sweaters from dad’s closet, and beards from the Paleolithic period.
Stereotypically, hipsters are young people who believe in forward thinking, helping the environment, and think of themselves highly. Hipsters live and dress like aspiring artists, but spend copious amounts of money on the latest Apple technologies.
It’s easy to list the stereotypes, but there is more to the hipster label than what www.latfh.com tells you. Despite popular belief, hipsters aren’t just attention seekers.
“I have a lot of disagreement with people who talk about hipsters, and say, ‘hipsters are trend-seeking people.’ In most cases, hipsters actually really like the music they listen to and like to dress a certain way,” said Arsel.
She also sees people stereotype others as hipsters when they only borrow from the counter-culture. “In every group, there are always the people who are hardcore, and people who paraphrase and emulate. There are always people who are the tail end of the moment,” said Arsel.
By glancing around campus, it appears that hipsters are everywhere, but most of these people are hipster emulators. Because the hipster style of frumpy sweaters and skinny jeans can be bought at Urban Outfitters and American Apparel, the style has become conventional. Part of hipster style is trying hard to look like you’re not trying hard, and it’s fashionable.

“I think it’s a way people go back in time and remember the ‘80s and ‘90s, especially people ages 20 to 30,” said political science graduate student, Juan Diego Santa. “People go back to old fashion to remember everything about the culture, from TV shows, fashion, music. I like the hipster style. I think it’s original and it reflects people’s appreciation for art.”
Indie music, which is a hipster trademark, has also turned into an increasingly popular genre. Bands such as Foster The People and The Black Keys are crossing over to Top 40 radio stations. Indie and alternative music can even be heard playing at Hollister, a clothing brand at the height of becoming mainstream.
The style, music, and mindset of hipsters have become so common the purpose is defeated. The hipster counter-culture began because people didn’t want to conform, but it’s used so frequently that it’s ordinary.
Arsel believes being a hipster has no point anymore. “One thing that baffles me is that by looking at the definition of hipster, you can basically categorize anyone as a hipster. If you have a funky haircut, you’re a hipster. Am I a hipster professor because I wear band T-shirts? Everybody that is 18 to 35 could be hipster. That’s why I think the category is no longer meaningful.”
Concordia student Sabrina Patti agrees.
“It’s been really overused. I think everyone has something they can relate to the hipster style. I wouldn’t even call it a style anymore. It became such a general term,” she said.
Arsel has seen The New York Times use the word many times, and even apologize for using the word so many times. “It ceased to be meaningful because anyone can be categorized into the term. We talked about it so much that we contaminated it. “
Googling “Hipster” produces 6.7 million results. Magazines and newspapers have used the word excessively. Hipsters are imitated, borrowed from, and laughed at like it’s second nature. The retro fashion and underground music have become meshed into our personal tastes to the point where they are common, so the exclusivity of the counter-culture is gone.

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1 comment

Jeremy Sola Fide Inglesi Jr. December 12, 2011 - 05:01

thank you. 

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