Leonardo"s Notebook by Mattheus Mei

I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Being a H(Y)ipster or: How I learned to stop worrying and embrace contrived and pseudo trendiness.

Up until about a year ago, I had never heard of the word Hipster that is until I started dating one; well perhaps not a Hipster but perhaps a Yipster – yeah that’s a new one too.

I spent my New Years vacation with a new group of friends down in what many southerners consider to be one of the premier locales of Hipster Culture and Identity, Charleston, SC. Other Hipster Centers include Ashville, NC; Nashville, TN; Austin, TX; and Atlanta – I’m sure there are many more, but those are the only one’s I’ve been made aware of during my ‘conversion.’

So what makes Charleston such a centre of hipster culture? Well you look around Charleston and you have cultural heritage and a lot of historic buildings in various states of disrepair (and repair) and you couple that with in pouring of capital and personal wealth investment and a layer of chic fashionableness and what happens is practically Marxist.

The Nuevo-conservative-riche flock in to repair old buildings, to aggrandize and attach themselves to the old culture that they see is languishing in the hands of the old liberal elites. This brings in the usual economic sycophants such as high end chain stores and semi-boutiques (which isn’t as bad as the syntax suggests) creating an environment of socio-economic privilege. Property values skyrocket and increased rent drives out the poorer inner city folk whether individual or as a business entity. This is ‘Thesis.’

Then you have a self-deprecating movement of social action that starts usually with the liberal Academics and social upstarts and spreads among a small segment of the population of youth of the Nuevo-conservative elite in response to the plight of the expelled indigenous poor or some other social justice cause, with that same segment outwardly rebelling against their wealth status. This is the ‘Antithesis.’

This is followed by a stripping away of the ‘meaning’ behind the original movement and a general commoditization (See here, here, here and here for examples). Social causes become catch phrases and buzzwords with only slight relevance other than justification of supporting the subsequent lifestyle. This is the ‘Synthesis’. Consequently it's the synthesis that offers the negative connotation to Hipster (see below)

And thus you have the birth of the Hipsters and Yipsters.

I suppose at this point in time it would be appropriate to define Hipster and Yipster.

According to Wikipedia:
Today's hipsters are typically associated most closely with a love of alternative culture, particularly alternative music. They are commonly perceived to be devout fans of indie or independent rock and/or independent film. Hipsters may also enjoy or create DIY crafts, and enjoy any or all forms of fine art including conceptual or performance art. Contemporary hipsters are sometimes associated with leftist or liberal social and political views, a general appreciation of intellectual pursuits, and an ironic appreciation of lowbrow or lower class culture and subculture.

And a Yipster, according to the same fine folks at Wikipedia:

Yipster is a terminological hybrid of the words, "Hipster" and "Yuppie" borne out of the geographical and cultural proximities between two gentrified neighborhoods in Brooklyn, New York: Williamsburg and Park Slope. The word's significance is based around the idea that cultural features associated with "hipsters" (Williamsburg), such as particular interests in music, art and fashion, blend with the economic advantages of "Yuppies" (Park Slope), which simultaneously facilitate and promote such interests to the extent that members of both groups are identified by them.

And then there's also the negative connotation associated with Hipsters which is also found in Wikipedia which is due to the Synthesis listed above (and perhaps from over Yipsterizing of this particular subculture):
Use of the word hipster in present day slang has developed distinct negative connotations, including: identifying that a person may be superficially following recently mass produced, homogeneous, urban fashion trends, overly concerned with their image and the contradictions of their identity, potentially anorexic, disingenuously appropriating a pseudo-artistic image or "a collage of other urban identies" from the past. Similar to other social groups, hipsters have been accused of exercising peer pressure to persuade other members of the group to adopt certain attitudes and ideas. Though many hipsters are seen to identify strongly with the perceived rarity and exoticness of their particular fashion and tastes, the phenomenon of moving into city centers and adopting "new" urban attitudes toward fashion, design, and culture is currently a major social trend and is the subject of numerous reality and home improvement television shows. Often in its negative connotation, 'hipsters' are considered apathetic, apolitical, and self-entitled by other, often marginalized sectors of society they live amongst, including previous generations of bohemian and/or "counter-culture" artists and thinkers.
These persons are also known as Hipster Douchebags in local parlance. Unfortunately it's very difficult to differentiate between and actual Hipster like many of my friends and a synthetic d.b.
So where do I fit in exactly? There’s not an established litmus test… If I had to judge myself, I would say I am between the two really (and completely disdainful of the quasi-third group), and outside of them all at the same time (oooh, paradoxical).

I am a liberal, I appreciate independent film and music, I have an appreciation of intellectual pursuits, and a truly ironic appreciation of base and common culture and subculture.

I suppose what differentiates me and perhaps many of my friends including my special someone from the rest of hipsterality (a complete paradox in and of itself) and our contemporaries is the origin of our ‘ironic appreciation of lowbrow or lower class culture and subculture’

Unlike many hipsters (i.e. the synthetic crowd), my/our ironic appreciation of such base and common culture doesn’t arise from a privileged life of mere voyeurism and contrived imitation.

I am that which they imitate, meaning I am of a meaner stock. And where as they strive to devolve or appear to devolve, I’m constantly striving to move ahead. So my ironic (sardonic would be more appropriate) appreciation is more for the fact that they’re obsessed with a culture and a life completely alien to them yet that I’m all the more familiar and comfortable with, so yes, I can laugh with them and at the same time laugh at them.

Also that statement ‘striving to move ahead’ isn’t necessarily true for hipsters as much as it is for yipsters. But Yipsters still have the constraint of desiring seemingly voyeuristic imitation. After all Wikipedia did say they were a blend of Yuppies – people who aren’t trust fund babies, but who are upwardly mobile in their pursuits of success and Hipster. So am I just a yuppie for attempting to better myself while retaining a sometimes disdainful grasp of my meaner origins or something else? I don’t know, what do you think?


Hipster Bingo is from a that justifies this post: commoditization and Social causes becoming catch phrases and buzzwords with only slight relevance other than justification of supporting the subsequent lifestyle

Recognizing a Hipster is from The Fed of Columbia University.

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Mattheus Mei said...

After examining the Bingo Picture and Artist Rendering of "have you seen this Hipster" I'm happy to report that though I do wear the one size to small sweaters, on occassion, and I do blog and carry every now and then carry around a digi-camera for facebook momments etc, those are my only hipster accentuations. Praise Jesus!

tumblr hipster said...