The hipster has no clothes, so says Punch columnist Robert Burton-Bradley whose takedown of the most derision prone subculture on Earth (breathe easy Juggalos and Pedophiles) is about as timely as it is compelling. Dude’s all like: “What’s the deal with Hipsters? They’re all left-leaning Bachelor of Arts students with asymmetrical haircuts, tight jeans, fixed gear bikes, obscure iPod playlists and beards etc, etc, etc”. While I’m reading along, trying to decide if blurred vision is a signifier of sleepiness or stroke. Seriously guy, stop it.
It’s that shopping list of signifers exactly which makes trend pieces, specifically trend pieces about hipsters, so infuriating. I’m not a hipster apologist or anything – I firmly believe that elitism in any form is worthy of derision – but The Punch’s definition of a hipster is so nebulous, it could be anyone who is creative, social and young. That’s part of the problem really. When discussing the various youth cultures of today, mainstream media outlets seem to use the terms Gen Y and hipster interchangeably which is confusing because behaviours exhibited/ideologies embraced by the latter are increasingly exhibited/embraced by the former. And that’s fine, I get that. My main contention is with the article’s timeliness or, more specifically, its lack thereof. I mean, Adbuster’s landmark Hipster: The Dead End of Western Civilization was published over two years ago and to write about hipsters now like they’re this nascent youth subculture is alarmingly belated and hopelessly out of touch. The author also fails to frame his article in relation to the recent wave of hipster-bashing blogs/videos/memes/articles, which would have at least offered insight into why this subculture is derided so. What’s the point? It’s like authorized trolling.
But timeliness isn’t the only issue here. Not only does Burton-Bradley belatedly trot out every stereotype a writer could possibly Google three years ago – he adds nothing new to the discourse. Fortunately he avoids any mention of “trucker hats”. Unfortunately, this lets us know he’s not joking. To be fair, I wouldn’t be so critical if the piece was accompanied by data and insight instead of anecdotal rants about the culture’s supposed vacuity. If hipsters co-opt the signifiers of subcultures past for example, explain how this devalues said culture or is even a bad thing in the first place. Instead of dismissing hipsters as wankers, discuss why you think their behaviour is detrimental to society. How have they affected the music industry? The fashion industry? Entertainment? The internet? Why should we dismiss the cultural capital they create? What does their existence say about the world we live in now? What are the by-products of hipsterdom aside from the mild annoyance of people who comment on The Punch? The piece is essentially a 900 word description of what the writer thinks a hipster is – composed primarily of sweeping cliches and mock-exasperation. You could call it a diatribe but that would imply it has a point.
More so, it posits the kind of “us vs. them” mentality favoured by the willfully incendiary – hipsters being a crude cobbling of elitist tastes, beards and umm…air and non-hipsters being those who don’t “read pitchfork music reviews” or “own a pair of “old skool” sneakers”. Yep that’s the kind of reductionism we’re dealing with here. Below, ten more unintentionally hilarious cliches from the article (and some personal thoughts in brackets)…
10) capering around while being deliberately ironic has become highly desirable
9) new breed of inner city trendy
(Totally abhor trendy as a noun)
8) add a dash of metro-sexual leftovers then a sprinkling of first year arts degree intellectualism
(You’ll find that recipe on page four of the Reductionists cook book)
7) indie music even triple J rejected bleating facetiously in the background
(even Triple J rejected it you guys)
6) several waiters with asymmetrical bangs down one side of their otherwise shaved heads cast derisive glances at you through thick rimmed glasses
5) that lanky guy in skinny jeans, a long sleeve T and mini vest with designer stubble reading Karl Marx while snacking on organic lima beans.
(What’s harder to fathom? The hypothetical hipster above or organic lima beans as a legitimate snack food?)
4) existentialist lattes and French baguettes
(I’m all for anthropomorphic food stuffs but what the fuck is an existentialist latte?)
3) listening to indie bands from the Canadian Prairie on oversized 80s headphones
2) posing in front of each other’s iphone and pouting in giant sunglasses for Facebook
(Or typical behaviour of Western World humans under the age of thirty five).
1) “[Hipster magazines] carry headlines like “Sri Lanka’s most excellent metal band” “Fashion: there’s no one quite like grandma” and Russian cosmonaut style””.
So please journos, I beg of you, cease the hipster bashing unless you can A) Add something new to the discourse…or B) Develop time travel technology which allows you to blog from 2005. I’ll also let it slide if you can distill your grievances into a snappy three minute youtube video. Sincerely, Ashley.
The saga continues. Read Hipster Bashing Part 2