The Hipster Phenomenon Essay
The first thing that hits me is the overwhelming smell of alcohol (most likely whiskey and Pabst Blue Ribbon), body odor and a hint of urine. Next is the Smith’s blaring from speakers towards the back of the “dance floor” hooked up to the DJ’s Mac laptop and finally the flannels. Almost everyone in the room has on some type of flannel shirt, blouse or scarf rolled up just enough to give a sneak peek of their full sleeve tattoos. Yes, I have found myself in a hipster dive bar in the center of Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
Living in the East Village of New York City, I have been forced to examine the question; Am I a hipster? Even contemplating the question is ironic in itself because it seems as though no one will admit to being a part of this tragically trendy, cigarette smoking subculture. I find myself immersing every aspect of my life in the hipster culture while rejecting it all at the same time. What is the cultural significance of this hipster phenomenon? Do hipsters mirror American culture in the sense they are a group of broke 20 something’s lost in the melting pot?
There are many different views in our society today about this particular sub culture but no one seems to be able to pin point the impact it is having on our culture. The significance of the hipster phenomenon proves to be an iconic American subculture defining a generation through their societal views, fashion and lifestyle propensities. Nostalgia plays a large role in the views of the hipster. Being apart of Generation Y, the current hipster has prolonged childhood as long as possible.
Some call it lazy, others are calling it a social revolution but the question here is, why? Why are people getting married later? Why are 26 year olds still living with their parents? “Maybe it’s only now, when young people are allowed to forestall adult obligations without fear of public censure, that the rate of societal maturation can finally fall into better sync with the maturation of the brain. -a theory put forth in the 1940s by the psychologist Abraham Maslow” (Henig, 2010).
In my opinion the American economic downturn fuels the hipster yearning for nostalgia of their childhood and is responsible for why many 20 something’s have yet to become responsible adults. “Gen Yers have been told since they were toddlers that they can be anything they can imagine. It’s an idea they clung to as they grew up” (Hira, 2007). Now that the economy has crumbled before our eyes hipsters long for the past when the American Dream still seemed like a possibility. They turn to living in the moment and making themselves happy because “Gen Yers were not promised a healthy, happy tomorrow.
So they’re determined to live their best lives now” (Hira, 2007). The 90’s were the glory days for the hipster so they emulate it in their life especially in fashion choices like the flannel shirt and trends like old video games such as Nintendo. These uninspiring economical times resulted in uninspiring ideas, which is why the hipster regurgitates trends that have already happened. They are the nostalgic for times of good ideas and good fortune. Views of the hipster are directly correlated with the economic state the country is in right now.
The entire movement mirrors it in the form of the culture of a new generation trying to cope with the fact that jobs are limited, the cost of education is higher than ever and student loan interest rates are skyrocketing. There is no promise that anyone will get a job straight out of college to pay back those expensive student loans. All inspiration has been lost and replaced with stress. The future had become a threat instead of a promise. “To be a young American today is to experience both excitement and uncertainty, wide-open possibility and confusion, new freedoms and new fears” (Henig, 2010).
As a result, this new generation of hipsters’ number one priority is making themselves happy first. They question everything and feel a sense of entitlement because the promise of the American Dream seems to have been dangled in from of their face and taken away. They are a group of broke 20 something’s lost in the melting pot who crave authenticity in the world of mass market. This generation has been spoon fed trends through technology since birth so of course they rebel only finding it is sold back to them.
They view everything as commercial and are constantly trying to find something obscure that no one has heard of. “These conflicts for social dominance through culture are exactly what drive the dynamics within communities whose members are regarded as hipsters Only on the basis of their cool clothes can they be “superior”: hipster knowledge compensates for economic immobility” (Greif, 2010). To tie the view of the hipster together, they yearn for authenticity but are then fed back these trends through mass marketing schemes.
They question everything because the future is uncertain and are selfish lost and broke finding solace in fashion to create an identity. Marketers have now caught on to the hipster point of view of this generation. They are changing the branding of their companies to attract the hipster psyche. This proves that the hipster has become mainstream resulting in cultural significance. “Logos are always a product of their times, and almost every company rebrands themselves in the face of trends, condensing their fonts to complement our shrinking jeans.
Everything has to be ‘vintage’ style, type has to be centered, all-caps, or written calligraphically. There are lobsters, birds, ribbons, anchors, crowns, arrows, crests, and the famous X everywhere” (Wilson, 2012). In true American media fashion, the free spirited, nostalgic points of view adopted by hipsters are now being mass marketed and fed back to mainstream American population. Stores like Urban Outfitters mass produce hipster clothing and make it available to everyone with help of the Internet and e- commerce websites.
Even McDonald’s commercials are promoting the carefree, hunt for authenticity hipster lifestyle with young fashionable 20 something’s eating chicken nuggets while on a road trip. “Beats of the ’50s and hippies of the ’60s and ’70s, both of which had an admirable authenticity about them even if you didn’t care for the particulars, eventually gave rise to “the millennial hipster,” which “came to be represented as an uberconsumer of trends and as a new, and rather gullible, target market that consumes cool rather than creating it” (Wilson, 2012).
This proves that in order to sell to this generation marketers must take cues from the hipster way of thinking. Speaking of marketing toward hipster points of view, no industry is better equipped then the fashion industry where everyone prides themselves on being trend setters and their ability to tell the masses what is and is not socially acceptable. In recent magazine and Women’s Wear Daily articles fashion professionals have attributed much of their inspiration from street style. These street style are those of the trendsetters and early adopters known as they hipster set. WWD mostly chose to profile grungey offerings from smaller labels like Pas de Calais, Bullets to Bandages, and Cheap Monday — hipster brands. It should come as a surprise to absolutely no one that many young “downtown types” wear a lot of flannel” (Mavrody, 2012). So, are hipsters fashion industry obsessed or is the fashion industry obsessed with hipsters? I feel that the relationship goes both ways. Hipsters are referred to as such because they are “hip” and cool. They are the early adopters and trendsetters. This is where fashions are tried and configured into trends.
Cool hunters and fashion industry experts interpret these trends and eventually mass market them and sell them back to the public. For example the look of the moment is a “girly version of grunge”, according to WWD. This was created from the nostalgia of 90’s grunge mixed with modern fashions. It all comes full circle in the end to make up the current American culture. To view a hipster in their natural habitat you must travel to the hip downtown spots such as bars and restaurants in the East village and Brooklyn. They are found here, on the corner of overpriced and dangerous because this is where there is young energy.
These real estate addresses have become home to the hipster because they started off cheap. Cheap enough they people living pay check to pay check could live like college students and artists. They didn’t care if it was dangerous and now they are hip bars cafes and stores everyone. It is now a desirable place to live. In conclusion, hipsters mirror American culture due to the fact they are a group of broke 20 something’s trying to deal with a terrible economy. Hipsters are significant because they are changing the way products are marketed and have an entirely different point of view than the generation before them.
Hipsters are ambiguous and obscure taking influences from the past and making them their own creating a social revolution making it acceptable for the public to be unclear, unfocused and a little creative for the first time redefining societal norms.
Henig, R. M. (2012, August 18). What is it about 20-somethings?. Retrieved from http://www. nytimes. com/2010/08/22/magazine/22Adulthood-t. html? pagewanted=10&_r=1&adxnnlx=1334163640-ohoQn0Eig1EMd8mFHC9O3g Hira, N. A. (2007, May 15). Attracting the twentysomething worker. Retrieved from http://money. cnn. om/magazines/fortune/fortune_archive/2007/05/28/100033934/ Greif, M. (2010, November 12). The hipster in the mirror. Retrieved from Mavrody, N. (2012, April 05). Wwd’s vile tribute to grunge and kurt cobain. Retrieved from http://www. thefashionspot. com/buzz-news/latest-news/173149-wwds-tribute-to-grunge-and-kurt-cobain http://www. nytimes. com/2010/11/14/books/review/Greif-t. html? pagewanted=2;_r=3;ref=review Wilson, M. (2012, March 02). What McDonald’s and IKEA would look like, if reborn as hipster brands. Retrieved from http://www. fastcodesign. com/1669321/what-mcdonalds-and-ikea-would-look-like-if-reborn-as-hipster-brands