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January 09, 2009
I don't think "hipster"
can be defined without
recourse to a negative A glance at the current
definition, e.g. the definition up on wikipedia
"hipster" is interested confirms this -- they even use
in things that are the overworked "alternative".
"outside the mainstream"
So to make this meaningful,
you need to talk about why
the hipster is driven to
alternatives, you need to
get into motivations: Repulsion or
what's the point? Attraction?
The temptation is to posit a Innovation or
flattering goal -- the hipster is Acceptance?
seeking the truly new, on a quest
for truth, enlightenment, wisdom. GOING_UNDER
But there's a strong BOHEMIAN Though, even if you
current amongst the hip buy that the central
that runs against this: a goal is a quest for
fascination with kitsch the new, that still
and schtick that looks an leaves open the
awful lot like an escape question of why you
or a shield-- e.g. the would want to do that.
common resort to irony to SUNDAY_CAMP
avoid meaning or purpose. What's wrong with
Mozart and Sinatra,
There's an implicit
critism of the
And the hipster status quo buried
often seems to in the presumption
be conforming, (Okay, maybe that the newer
just to an there aren't must be better.
alternative any good
standard. alternates for
The distinction can't
quite rest on just the
difference between Just the fact that there's
following and setting a hipster culture belies
trends... this -- it's not a
grouping distinguished by
a lack of any
commonalities: there's a
shared mindset, a current
of thought, a set of
It is at least possible
that being a hipster is
a necessary, but not
| | The hipster then
| trendoid | is just a different
| /----------/---------------\ kind of trendoid --
| | || hipster | one with a potential
| | || | for something
| | || creative | greater, but only
| | || /-------\ | a potential.
| | || | | |
| | || \-------/ |
| \---------- \--------------/
Anna Alice Chapin, quoting an unamed writer
in her "Greenwich Village" (1917):
"... he mentioned various phases which
Greenwich had known. The studio-and-poverty
Bohemian epoch, the labour and anarchy era,
the futurist fad, the "free love" cult, the
Bohemian-and-masquerade-ball period, the
psychoanalysis craze; the tea-shop epidemic,
the arts-and-crafts obsession, the play-acting
mania; and other violent and more or less
transient enthusiasms which had possessed the
Village during the years he had lived
there. Not wholly transient, he admitted.
Something of each and all of them had
remained--had stuck--as he expressed it. The
Village assimilates ideas with miraculous
speed; it gobbles them up, gets strong and
well on the diet, and asks for more."
Hipsters themselves often use the
term with affectionate derision.
One night, at our local el cheapo
taqueria ("Can Cun" on Mission
near Valencia), we ran into an old
friend of Dangerbaby's, the first "fixed-gear": a fixed
guy she knew who was into fix-gear gear-ratio, with front
bicycles. She asked how he felt gear tied directly to
about the craze for fixed-gear the back gear by the
bikes: chain without any
"Well, once the hipsters arrangement.
get ahold of something,
it's all ruined." (If you peddle
backwards on a
you go backwards.)
Without adjustable gears
hill climbing is hard,
which might make you
The year the Neoprint wonder why there are so
machines had just hit many fixies locked up
Japantown, Dangerbaby outside the Ritual
and I were in there Roasters in SF. But
making fodder for then, if you look at the
Christmas Cards... bikes actually in use
traveling down Market,
After we were done, we you'll notice many more
stepped outside the derailleurs...
Japantown center, I
looked up the street It would seem that
and saw two of her the fixie is a
friends walking towards very impractical
us. I said by affectation.
way of greeting "So,
where are *you* guys Though it's claimed
going?" that the lack of
adjustability is well
worth the reduction in
They looked up, saw weight... *if* you're
us, and one of them a rider in superb
replied with chagrin physical condition.
and a cynical drawl
"Yeah, hipsters..." Another reason
But then, hipster is
also used as a term of
approval. I was arguing
with a friend about
whether the (oddly
*named*, at least)
restaurant "Weird Fish"
is really just another
yuppie invader in
disguise, and he replied
"No, no-- it's a hipster
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