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Who's a Hipster?


I know I am not a hipster. I have spent the spring in San Francisco and the summer in Manhattan, two hipster hotspots. I shop at American Apparel, have an Apple computer, avoid Starbucks and other corporate conglomerate coffee, smoothie, and frozen yogurt places, and consider myself "unique," but I assure you I'm not a hipster. I don't think I know any hipsters, I don't even understand hipsters. Are they angry at the world? Are they cynical toward modern society? Are they artistic and blasé? Are they smart or plain lazy? To me, that all seems like a waste of time.

Regardless, the definition of "hipster" remains opaque to anyone outside this self-proclaiming, highly-selective circle. I'm sure the hipsters like it that way. But who is inside this circle? I have met twentysomethings who are "geniuses" at the Apple Store in San Francisco, attend concerts in empty pools in Brooklyn, and wear tight jeans and converse sneakers, but I've never met anyone one who describes themselves as "hipster." In fact, I've noticed that someone who seems to have hipster habits gets really offended and defensive when they are called a hipster. I don't think it is some affected agitation because they don't want to seem like they think they are cool, I think it is adamant belief that they are not a true hipster. But who is a true hipster?

I have never read the hipster handbook or searched the blogosphere for the true definition. I don't particularly care about hipsters and feel like I am giving in just by writing this article, but perhaps by unveiling this myth of the missing hipster, I can put an end to the idiotic craze.

The whole point of hipsters is that they avoid labels and being labeled. However, they all dress the same and act the same and conform in their non-conformity. Doesn't the fact that there is a hipster look go against all hipster beliefs? Hipsters are supposed to hate anything mainstream or trendy.

But the look has gone mainstream -- tweens all over America, from the suburbs to cities, from public schools to prep schools are trying hard to be hipsters. There are definitely hipster, or hipster imposters, who roam the streets of New York City with that iconic carefully created sloppy vintage look. Would the real hipsters argue that these imposters just have the look but not the right values? What happens when American Apparel stores outnumber Gap stores in New York City and blogging about music, photos, or cooking becomes lucrative? Have hipsters won or merely defeated themselves?

This post-modern, anti-consumerism era is just beginning, but the role of the hipster in this age is over. Whoever hipsters are and wherever they reside (across some bridge from New York or San Francisco in a strange place that the New York Times named Sanfrooklyn) they did bring in the tide and made it clear that the direction that America was heading was not one they liked. However, I think a general consensus has been reached and change is ahead. Change may be elected this November or forced upon as our economy continues spiraling downward. As we are forced to consume less, as mass chain stores and restaurants close, and as the nation makes a concerrted effort to become more "green," we seem to be heading in a direction that hipsters might like. Now maybe they can stop complaining and do something worthwhile for society.

Follow Julia Plevin on Twitter: www.twitter.com/juliaplevin