Are hipsters a counterculture?
It is debatable about whether or not a hipster is a member of any counterculture. It is known that hipsters simply take all the jewels from other countercultures and adopt them as their own into a miasma of cool, regardless of whether those elements were ever considered cool by those who came up with them in the first place. Additionally, the first rule of hipsterdom is to shun and scorn the word “hipster,” whereas true countercultures generally embrace their name.
They remain as a topic in counterculture because they have an emotional effect on people, and countercultures as a rule create strong reactions one way or the other in the context of the wider society. Another reason hipsters remain as a topic in counterculture is simply because they consider themselves vastly different from everyone else despite the fact that all of them are all the same in their differentness. As a group of people, their cultural ideals can be condensed into an ability to present to the world that they possess esoteric or privileged information as proven by their aesthetic and periodical use of multisyllabic words. This condensation of a cultural belief system is in and of itself counter to most cultures, and is therefore countercultural in its own right.
There can be as many kinds of hipsters as there are countercultures or fringe groups, although a few do stand out, to be discussed later. Regardless of what countercultural element they adopt, the result is always the same: they take something that was once obscure, offensive, nerdy, or just outright ridiculous and use it as an ironic and cryptic message that no one, least of all themselves, can understand.
What follows is a brief summary of a few elements common to many hipsters. Please note that their tastes in unknown and/or crappy art, music, and film are not included in this discussion.
Some might make papier-mâché deer heads or other hunted animals from the previous week’s New York Times and hang it on the wall. They might wear gold lame T-shirts ripped at specific places based on instructions on how to rip them correctly found on the Internet. Just Google “t-shirt ripping” and do-it-yourself (DIY). There is probably a book on DIY on their Salvation Army table that explains step by step how to properly DIY. If they have a table.
Curious tattoo trends. Says local tattoo artist Ruby Santiago, “We get runs of trends. Like three octopi in a row. It’s like it comes from the collective unconscious.” Is it the collective unconscious or is it the fact that The Stranger ran a feature on how cool octopi are last September?
Pabst Blue Ribbon beer and European cigarettes. Maybe a little bit of cocaine to go along with it. Or a lot of cocaine, because a little bit of cocaine has a funny way of turning into a lot of cocaine. They have to be able to stay until closing at Linda’s or Cha Cha’s every night and fit into their skinny jeans somehow.
Wallet chains from the bikers and fedoras from the 20th Century. From the abduction of the Keffiyeh worn by certain Palestinians to the colored handkerchiefs of the SM community, hipsters have co-opted all of it without knowing what it originally stood for. Wouldn’t it be interesting to go up to one of them who is wearing a red hanky in his right hip pocket and say, “Really, I can fist you in the a**?” and then watch his face as he momentarily loses his aloof expression because he has no idea what you are talking about?
Whether they keep their hair in a mullet from the butt rockers, an irregularly chopped bowl cut from the 60’s, or a faux hawk from the punks, hipsters reclaim these styles in the name of hip and incongruously pair them with fluorescent pink Jackie O shades and a Mr. Roger’s argyle cardigan.
Commentary from the street
“They take the skin from the real punks and leave the entrails lying in a heap on the street and wear it like a fur coat. And everything that the punk rockers ever stood for politically and ideologically are left behind,” says Dean, 40, and who identifies as an eighties punk rocker.
This sentiment applies not only to punk rockers, but to all groups of people who have watched in abhorrence as the prized symbols of their cultures are bastardized by a mass of white trust fund kids who talk about how they ought to go homeless just because no one else in their right mind would ever intentionally do such a thing.
Want to know more?
Check out how others define hipsters at Urban Dictionary, check out pictures of hipsters at Look at this f**king hipster (contains profanity), and gain other insightful information from the book and website The Hipster Handbook by Robert Lanham.