So what or who are hipsters? Why is being one all the rage suddenly. The alternative lifestyle, the obsession with everything fashionably vintage, the fixation with everything retro, the starbuck’s attraction, the organic lifestyle with all its paradoxes. Why is suddenly everyone following the same trend of NOT following the mainstream. But what is mainstream according to them? What is so bad about the ‘mainstream’ that motivates in them ( for the rest of the article, the ‘them’ are the hipsters, although its really complicated and difficult to identify one as hipster so we will stick to the idea of a persona who is the perfect hipster) the feeling to detach from the general and the mundane to lead a lifestyle that is so deceptively sub-cultural ( specifically in the contemporary times).
But lets get back to the popular idea or belief of what it takes to be a hipster or be a part of the hipster culture. Its a very complex identity, to begin with. Largely because its a very urban and cosmopolitan phenomenon to voluntarily want to deviate and detach from everything corporate and ‘mainstream’ capitalistic, pop culture obsessed city life. Its like a smaller version of the romantic movement that the literary geniuses experienced and aspired towards in the 19th century in art and literature through a sense of nostalgia. The essence is the same, as far as I have gathered ( fleeting moments of clarity ) but obviously there is a vast difference when it comes to the causes of that engagement. Popularly the hipsters seem to be associated with having an authentic taste and appreciation for everything that concerns life. They represent a sensibility that embraces authenticity, patronisation for the organic mode of living, appreciating the independent, exclusive experience of life that can only be achieved by stepping outside the social mainstream. The history of the hipster culture can be traced back to the 1940’s postmodern world where the younger demographic population found themselves engage with the question of their identity as pitched against the new found understanding of the world globally. It can be understood as an existential sort of engagement with life and identity and with the emergence of a literary scene that articulated such feelings through music, art, cinema and more fittingly with a kind of sub culture that involved a very organic experience of life, of spirituality and non conformity with the realities of the time. It eventually came to be associated with appreciating indie music, fetishization of authentic tastes, styles and behavior, simplistically speaking. This is is understandable because of the genuinely valid reasons for that kind of an engagement with life, the post war world, the lost of trust in humanity, the complex social scenarios, the turbulent, political times, the social realities etc.
The question at hand is how it got revived just recently and when did it become fashionable to be ascribed as a hipster in the present times. Sure the present cosmopolitan, global world is full of complexities to the point that it can lead to disorientation with your immediate surroundings, sure the fact that social media has take complete control over our lives now and we seem to have multiple identities at multiple platforms of social communications ( social, networking sites, internet, google having taken over our lives) and that we no longer have a simple, uncomplicated, straightforward, clean and unmitigated, ‘organic’ lifestyle anymore. It is very easy and understandable to aspire for such an experience of life in the modern world. But my problem with this sudden fixation for that idyllic state of being is that it has become very cliched, superficial and now very fashionable. The idea of the hipster has become loaded with such cliches, again becoming the product of a pop culture encouraged ideal, which it conveniently chooses to ignore. It has become fashionable to be a hipster and every second person claims to be one without even realising what the word means and the lifestyle it connotes. The rebellious nature of the hipster culture which was the original point, to voluntarily retire from the supposed degeneration and disappointments with the society now becomes replaced by a identification of something fancy, all appreciating, happy- go- lucky, eco-friendly and almost pseudo everything. I am not devaluing the work of the actual hipsters ( although i am not sure they call themselves that) who actually strive for a kind of lifestyle that appreciates authenticity, here. The interest here is with trying to trace the history of the hipster culture and understanding when and how it became ‘cool’. How did it move from a subculture that acknowledged creativity, wit, intelligence, art and music to something so popular and so fashionable. Honestly, I don’t have the answer or maybe i have too many wrong ones. The point is to make people aware of the institutionalised nature of the hipster culture. If you wear glasses, fake of unfake ones, if you tattoos, have your own garden, use a fountain pen, shop from the local farmer’s market, have an instagram account and a polaroid camera, go to starbucks every week, and think that you are one than you’re probably not a hipster because the hipster himself/herself does not encourage popular conventions of communication and the act of labeling.
There are even ways to become one, there are lists of things -to-do to become a hipster, available online. And that’s something that hipsters don’t do. And that’s where I lost my ability to understand one.