Saturday, March 26, 2011

Why I Call Myself a Hipster and Maybe You Should, Too

or, The Pot Calls the Kettle a Hipster:

I'm a hipster. I wear chunky black glasses, hand-painted Chucks, and a growing collection of ironically worn clothing. My favorite internet radio station bills itself as "indiepop," and was playing Florence + the Machine before they were on the cover of anything besides their own CD. Not only do they play Magnetic Fields on there, but they play a Phil Collins cover of a Magnetic Fields song on there! How kitchy and ironic! Look at my exclamation points! They are also kitchy and ironic! When I smoked, I smoked American Spirit Lights. If I drank beer, I'm sure it would be PBR. I've had more toy cameras in my life than boyfriends. As far as hipsters go, I am not particularly fashionable. My jeans, they are not skinny. And my music collection is far too small and mainstream. But that just makes me a bad hipster, it doesn't make me something else.

The only thing that really separates me from the rest of hipsterdom is the fact that I'll admit it. I may be the only self-identifying hipster around. Every other cultural group (by which I mean, a group of people with a shared aesthetic, musical, political, and fashion sense, along with similar cultural and moral values) has at least some members who self-identify as members of that group. But the thing about hipsters is, no one will admit it.

People say that the last remaining ethnic/cultural group in the US that it's socially acceptable to mock are poor white people from the South. But, no matter how acceptable it is to mock "rednecks," there are plenty of people who use the term as a badge of pride. There are rednecks around to object to their stereotypes. No one complains about mocking hipsters because there isn't anyone who will admit to belonging to that group. And that's how we get art pieces like "Hipster Traps" (

So why aren't all the PBR-drinking, Holga-shooting, thrift-store-shopping New Yorkers pissed? Because they're not "hipsters." A hipster isn't just someone who likes these things, a hipster is someone who likes them for the wrong reasons. It isn't cool to like something because it's cool. It is, however very cool to mock someone else for caring about being cool. Which, I think, is why the most common response to being called a hipster is for the recipient to turn around and accuse the accuser of being a bigger hipster. The pot calls the kettle a hipster. I'm fucking sick of it.

Because if we only use the label to describe people who like things the wrong way (which, by the way, is totally absurd), then we have no self identification at all. And it's not that I think we are doomed without an easy label, but that this total lack of a label implies a kind of lie. Because there is a cultural group. It has its own rules, standards, values, in-jokes, and slang. But we deny all those things when we deny ourselves a group identity. Why not own the term? It wouldn't be the first time an epithet has been appropriated as a endearment. So, hipsters, is anyone with me?

No comments: