We have all heard the word “hipster” before, loosely thrown around in reference to someone that we think is trendy (at least within their own circles) and has a specific musical taste, likely one that they think is far superior to that of other people. In fact, I took the time to look up the definition of the word in the ever-handy Dictionary application available on my MacBook, in which it told me that a hipster is simply “a person that follows the latest trends and fashions.”
Today, the word has been stretched and bent in so many ways that we hardly have a concrete definition for it anymore. If we went by the dictionary definition of the word, the term “hipster” would be nearly synonymous with similar words like “fashionista.” However, it extends beyond this simple definition and remains, to this day, quite an elusive ideal.
These days, it’s hard to tell if the term is used as an insult or just as a simple classification of a person in a cultural context. However, one of the immediate issues that springs to mind is that so-called hipsters tend to be the ones most often throwing out the term at others whom they view as hipsters themselves. In the end, it becomes a sort of paradox.
At this point, we ask ourselves, “Why bother? Does it really matter if we think someone is a ‘hipster’ or not? What the heck is a ‘hipster’ anyway?”
The answer to those questions is simply that it doesn’t matter at all. In fact, everyone in this generation is probably a hipster in his or her own way. The clothes we wear when we decide to go out with friends on a Friday night to the music we listen to define our tastes, which are extremely variable from person to person. Therefore, it’s apparent that everyone that has a taste in any sort of trend or style is, in some ways, a hipster. This implies that there are hipsters that enjoy the “mainstream” fashions and trends, as well as others that enjoy the less popular trends. Nonetheless, these popular trends are still trends.
These less popular trends are often picked up by groups known as subcultures, in which a specific style or musical form is the centerpiece for what makes their subculture unique. These groups are what we would normally think of as the traditional sense of a hipster, in which they look down upon the mainstream trends and culture with a pretentious air in an effort to justify that their own tastes are somehow superior to others who are not members of their subcultures.
I have observed that this is not necessarily a bad thing, however. Unique groups, such as the one I just described, are essentially what drives cultural change, since mainstream culture appears to be a mixture of subcultures. For example, having a lot of tattoos is more and more common in the mainstream and can be seen as an integration of a particular trend that had previously been exclusive to certain subgroups of society.
This begs the question of whether or not the people in the mainstream are hipsters as well, since it seems as though the mainstream trends lag behind those of the various subcultures. However, if we think of the mainstream as a subculture of its own (as contradictory as that might sound), we see that anyone and everyone that keeps up with the trends can be classified as a hipster in their own right.
I now come back to my original point: it really doesn’t matter who gets seen as a hipster since we’re all followers of trends, whether it pains us to realize this or not. It’s a trend to have a cell phone, to have a Facebook, etc. and in doing so we’re all succumbing to the trends of today.
That being said, it’s quite possible that your great-grandmother might not fall under the category of a hipster but, for the most part, everyone that’s within the generation of people up-to-date with technology, music and fashion are hipsters. Why? Because they’re trend followers. The hard part here for most people is to just accept the fact that they’re a “hipster” and move on to more important issues in life.
It’s about time people today started accepting that their tastes and interests are, in turn, what makes them unique. These tastes might cause someone to fall under the category of mainstream or some other subculture but, in the end, it boils down to one thing: just be who you want to be and don’t let a simple, seven-letter word stop you from doing so. You’re already a hipster anyway.
Zachary Risinger is a second-year English major. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.