Saturday, November 16, 2013

On Hipsterism

How do you define hipster

In 2006, I bought myself a Macbook. It was the first computer I owned that was my very own. Does that surprise you? It surprised me when I thought about it recently. Yes, I used computers before then, but I was happy to share whatever computer was available. When I graduated and had plans to become a teacher, I figured I should have easier access to a computer. I also had the money to buy a good quality product. That was it.

It was around that time I started seeing that I was heading in a different direction than a lot of my contemporaries. It wasn't intentional. I just preferred knitting to playing video games and listening to music via ear buds. I thought it was fun to plant vegetables because I could be outside getting dirty. I didn't know that what I was doing was actually a trend and that there were people calling it "voluntary simplicity" until later.

Which is why when I saw this video some time ago, I was mildly alarmed when I saw a little bit of myself in it.

Don't get me wrong; I love this video. But it got me thinking that maybe those young homesteaders, people obsessed with bicycles, and foodies were all just hipsters trying to be cool and different without genuine appreciation for the things they were doing.

The genuine appreciation is key, isn't it? My dad has a mustache, but he's not a hipster. First, his is not the mustache of a gold miner. Second, he comes from a generation in which mustaches were normal. His mustache isn't ironic. 

I don't knit out of irony either. I don't make things from scratch to be that funny and/or weird person. I don't even do it for bragging rights (usually). I just think it's fun, and it's far more emotionally and financially rewarding than buying everything pre-made all the time.

I kind of doubt anybody thinks I'm a hipster, but I'm concerned that the word hipster has come to mean pretty much anything anyone between ages 16 and 40 does. I look around at the people I like a lot, and I think someone would probably call them hipster because the people I like a lot tend to be passionate about things that don't exactly fit into mainstream pop culture.

While searching for the video above, I came across this excellent explanation of the difference between a nerd and a hipster, which comes down to earned appreciation rather than cultural appropriation. Basically, my friends and I are nerds more than hipsters. Maybe.

He also illustrates that cultural appropriation is a sticky subject, and there's no easy way to determine whether someone is doing something because they understand and embody the philosophy behind it or if they just think it's neat. And, by the way, the people who understand and embody the philosophy behind something might also be doing it because they think it's neat. I might not knit things just to be noticed, but I'm also not doing it for my own survival or to carry on a family tradition. 

The point I've come to is: who cares? Really. There is always a subculture that everyone else hates. Every generation says, "Kids today don't know anything about anything." In 50 years, will we be able to look back and say definitively what a hipster was during this era? Probably not. We won't even care. They'll be absorbed into the amalgam of the 2010s. In fact, given the word's flexible and slippery definition, it's already happening. Hipsters aren't the Harlem Renaissance; there isn't a distinct political or artistic legacy they're leaving behind. 

And if I'm wrong about that, if there is a hipster legacy, then that's even more reason to accept it. I say there are better ways to spend your energy than trying to determine whether or not someone is genuine about their interests and facial hair. If someone loves irony, let them be ironic. Enjoy the things you enjoy and let everyone do the same.

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