a cork board

The Peculiar Youth Movement of Hipsters
PMpFri, 08 Jun 2012 13:05:10 -040005Friday 1, 2010, 1:05 pm
Filed under: the ether | Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

 I’ve been looking at the hipster trend and trying to understand it. I’m faced with this precarious dilemma because I sit next to a hipster at work…so I’ve been trying to understand this whole culture now that I am faced with it daily. I feel like old age is catching up with me because I’m trying to understand them kids, lol. Of course a hipster will rarely agree with you and say, yeah, I’m a hipster. That’s sort of the definition of a hipster, right? They are supposed to be into things that are not mainstream. And if hipsters become the mainstream (which they are) then they never want to be that. A hipster will say things like, I was into that waay before hipsters. They listen to indie bands, watch indie movies and LOVE documentaries and foreign films, they eat at off-beat, non-corporate restaurants and generally don’t support “the man.” Oh, and they wear thick-framed glasses, plaid shirts, mustard-colored sweaters and love second-hand clothing. Hipster culture is nothing new. It’s been done before, waaay before they did it. The more I think about it, the whole hipster identity is really just a newer and more up-to-date/for-the-times version of youth trying to find their identity. We’ve seen them and been a part of them in history books and in our very own youth. The 50’s had the beatniks, the 60’s/70’s had hippies, the 80’s had punks and new wave and the 90’s had grunge. They were all movements in their own right, they had their own individual qualities that made then unique. As decades pass, we see more of them blend together to make new movements. But they all had one theme in common…they were all anti-comformist. As a young person, we always wanted nothing more than to carve out our own identity to make sure we turned out nothing like our parents. Youth movements normally have a tone of independence and rebellion that naturally permeate them. They usually disband once corporations learn how to make money off of them. At that point everything they had stood for becomes exploited and a new movement must be born in the underground and make it’s way into the mainstream to start the entire cycle again. Let’s take a moment and look at some of the different youth movements from the last 50-60 years. I am only going to skim the surface here for comparison sake.

 The beatniks were before my time. I’ve sort of read Jack Kerouac’s On The Road. I say “sort of” because I got about ¾ of the way through and had my classmate give me the gist of the rest for my book report in college. Anyway, I should understand beatniks. But I don’t fully comprehend them. Because I do spoken word, I get a lot of jokey comparisons to beatniks. People think I perform with a beret while smoking and snapping my fingers. Beatniks were an underground youth movement that started in New York. They wore turtlenecks, berets, striped shirts, black clothes, smoked cigarettes and were big on music and poetry. They wanted to carve out their own identity and redefine a generation while creating their very own culture. There was an understanding that those who were outside of the circle were never going to be able to understand the movement. Beyond that, I do not know much else. The term “hip” came out of the movement. And like most of the movements, once people learned how to profit from this subculture, it relatively disbanded and/or evolved.

The hippies were also before my time. That’s where the term “the  man” comes from (to my knowledge). “The Man” was the face of government and corporation. The hippy era was about love and peace and coming together and having a voice. They were around in a time of war in America and unrest in the world, but they didn’t want war. They wanted a fair and just government and they wanted everyone to come together in everlasting peace. They were into off-beat music. They wore bell bottoms, peace signs, big sunglasses, headbands over center-parted hair and took a lot of drugs. They would protest peacefully and they knew who they were. You can spot them now because they still say “man” at the end of their sentences and usually still have long hair. I was at Home Depot last year talking to this guy about laminate flooring. He had long hair down to the middle of his back and a huge, thick moustache and he said, what you wanna do man, is leave about a half an inch all the way around so it has room to do it’s rock’n’roll thing, man. Clearly, the man was a hippy many years ago. But I digress, hippies were peace-loving people with a purpose. They started to fade from media when their style became super-mainstream.

 The punks were anti-establishment all the way. They wore leather, spikes, mohawks, boots, had a shitload of piercings and wore loads of black. They had their own brand of music and were a lot more in your face than hippies about what they didn’t like. Oh, and they took a lot of drugs too. They were peace loving when it came to their own community but if you were an outsider, then you were the enemy and there was no way you could ever understand their way of life. And you know, they didn’t give a flying fuck if you understood or not…all the better if you didn’t. Punks are unique in this ideology in the sense that they are still around in a major way because they created a subculture so strong is has stood the test of time. They never disbanded. So, long live punk rock.

 Now, I really do not know much about new wave except that they existed. They didn’t even make it on my list until a friend of mine brought it up and, in effect, made me add a new paragraph to my list. All I know about the new age is that they were into electronica music, wore bright (sometimes neon) colors, outladish hairstyles, were very fashion-forward, could sometimes be dark and loved to have fun. Oh, and they experimented with a lot of drugs. Come to think of it, New Age is the closest youth movement to Hipsters for the most part that I can think of. The main difference would be that New Age had some edge to it, while Hipsterism feels like a very dull butter knife. Anyway, I’m not even going to try and speak much about them because of how little I know. I just HAD to make mention of the whole new age youth movement.

 The grunge era was when I grew up. We wore plaid. We had holes in our jeans, wore our hair long, listened to garage rock and took a lot of drugs. We had no shame in wearing clothes bought at Goodwill or Salvation Army, because we often couldn’t afford better. We wouldn’t conform to the ideas of what was considered popular. We had the mindset that we didn’t care about pop culture, but didn’t care enough to be “in your face” about it and were content in being on the fringe of pop culture. That is, until grunge became pop culture. I always remember reading a story about a designer who interviewed Eddie Veddar because he was so fascinated with the grunge movement. Eddie was wearing a plaid shirt he said he had paid $0.75 for at a thrift store, and that was awesome. Then, in some crazy effort to appeal to the youth and profit off of it, designers started selling grunge. That same designer was selling the same plaid shirts for $75 instead of $0.75 and you saw anorexic models dressed like Kurt Cobain. It was really odd. And after that happened most grunge kids were kind of like, fuck this, it’s become EXACTLY what I hated in the first place. The grunge generation is obviously still around, but since it was less of a movement and more of a way of life we are much harder to spot.

 Now, onto hipsters…the perplexity that got me off on this whole dissection to begin with. I think I am starting to understand you, hipsters. A hipster is like a beatnik, a hippie and a grunge kid all rolled into one, right? Wrong, a hipster is so much more than that. Thanks to the rapidly growing world of technology and the media explosion of the 2000’s, hipsters are nerds too. Hipsters are tech-saavy. They wear plaid, holy skinny jeans, tight shorts, second-hand clothes, listen to indie music, are anti-conformist and have all of the dressings to be your standard youth movement. They just think “mainstream” is the worst thing in the world, like seriously. But what makes them unique is more than the gadgets. It’s pretentiousness. I can’t remember hearing about beatniks, hippies, punks or grunge kids ever looking down on people or scoffing their noses up at people. They actually didn’t care. It was all the better if you didn’t get it. Hipsters don’t care much if you understand them either, but they adopt the very same ignorant mentality that drives away the underclass. They come across as so pretentious and arrogant in their ways. Another thing that sets them apart is their fashion sense. It’s not uncommon to find a hipster who is into ideas of pre-packaged beauty and models and fashion shows, which was what youth movements of yesteryear were against in so many ways. Hipsters turn their noses up at anyone who doesn’t understand how to use a tablet, wears baggy jeans, dressed without fashion sense or likes The Avengers. They have stayed true to not liking most things mainstream. But they want so badly to be a part of the underground that they make an effort to find the unbeaten path. Where it seemed like we more naturally found our own way before.

 I don’t know what I’m driving at with comparing the youth movements. I think I’m just trying to understand hipsters and their need to belong. We have watched the youth movements evolve over the last 60-someodd years somewhat cohesively. But this millennium has brought about some serious changes to what the youth want to represent. If this is where it is now, can you even begin to imagine what tomorrow’s youth movement will look/sound/act like? And how will hipsters perceive the next group of disenfranchised youth when they’re all grown up with kids and mortgages? The simple fact that I’m pondering these things makes me wonder if it’s just a sign of me getting older. I’m 30. This is the age where the youth start to make less and less sense to me and my generation and we feel like the ones before us had it right. At least that’s the way I always viewed that mindset when I was a youth. But hipsters stand out from all of the others to me. They stand out as something completely different than all the other youth movements. They seem to embody a lot of the ideas they pretend to revolt against. They seem like a really confused bunch who enjoy pop-culture just as much as they pretend to not like it. I think hypocrite is the word I’m looking for. But then again, maybe I just don’t get it.

Also, I’m sorry for some of my sweeping generalizations here. I, for one, know that within every trend or phase or movement there are exceptions to the rule that normally represent the REAL heart of the culture. I can only speak as to what I know, what I’ve been exposed to and where I’ve been. And what I’ve written here is simply what I’ve been exposed to when it comes to these underground-to-mainstream movements.