We’ve all been there. You’re at a party, enjoying an intellectually stimulating conversation shouted over the music, or you’re swilling a PBR and pretending to enjoy it, when someone throws down that despicable gauntlet of our post-post-modern young adulthood: “Oh Shannon, you’re such a hipster.”
Your heart races, and panic seizes your illegally intoxicated mind. In this one statement, your very authenticity has been called into question; your honor as someone who “only liked this band’s early stuff” or “has totally been watching ‘Breaking Bad’ since season one” is being put to the test. Deep in your heart, you know that you are a totally original non-conforming connoisseur of pop culture and inexpensive canned lager, but this person has had the audacity to accuse you of being that creature whom our bustling subculture has vilified above all others: the hipster.
But what makes one a hipster, anyway? Is it a Tumblr account and dip-dyed hair (of which I have both) or a record player and extensive knowledge of cigars (of which I have neither)? Can you spot one by his or her style of dress (exorbitantly expensive while trying to look ragged and grungy) or distinctive vocal patterns (rife with phrases like “before they were popular” and “I like them ironically”)? Does their unique diet (Chipotle and bubble tea) give them away, or is it their summer plans (a trip to Coachella and smoking bowls in the park by their house)?
The answer, I’m afraid, is that a hipster is all of these things—under one extremely important condition: These things only make someone a hipster when they’re not applied specifically to us.
As everyone knows, a hipster would never call themselves a hipster. That defeats the whole point, no? But here’s the rub: We, whether we know it or not, are all hipsters. We are just cursed with a persistent inability to see it in ourselves. I know, this is some Fight Club-level stuff. The hipster has become the Schrodinger’s Cat of our generation, existing in all of us until someone calls us out and we’re forced to confront our inner hipster and embrace or, more likely, kill it.
But what’s so bad about being called a hipster? If Wikipedia is to be trusted (and let’s be honest, we’ve trusted it enough to use it to write every research paper of our academic careers), hipsters are a “subculture associated with independent music, a varied non-mainstream fashion sensibility … and alternative lifestyles.” Basically, hipsters want to be different, and that desire is a universal one for youth in today’s fast-moving, Internet-homogenizing world.
So I have a controversial assertion to make: Wanting to be unique is not a bad thing, and therefore—stick with me here—being a hipster is not a bad thing. We all want to be different, so why can’t we just let each other be different without feeling the need to slap some derogatory label on people because we’ve made it our responsibility to police the authenticity of others?
I say we stop denying the hipster that lives on in all of us and stop seeing hipster as a dirty word. We’re all driven by the same midwestern 20-something compulsion to distinguish ourselves from the pack, but if every single person insists on making themselves the only one who is truly unique, we just end up being the same in a way that’s entirely shitty.
So go forth, young hipsters. Listen to your Dean Martin records and rock those thigh-high stockings. And if anyone has the nerve to tell you that your interests make you pretentious or douchey, just kill them with kindness and remember that somewhere, hidden away, they’re nursing their own hipster tendencies and are probably still bitter that “Mumford and Sons totally sold out.”
Are you an ironically unironic PBR drinker and don’t know what to make of it? Maybe Shannon can help you figure it out. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.