I am in the market for a new pair of glasses but do you think I can find a pair of frames that are not ironically large owl-eyed monstrosities? And you know who I blame? Hipsters.
It seems like they are to blame for everything: the skyrocketing cost of clothes in thrift shops, the meteoric rise of Pinterest and Gotye’s three-year peak on high rotation. But our hatred of hipsters goes above and beyond, with countless blogs, newspaper inches and even a national survey dedicated to how annoying we find them.
“Plaid, irony, American Apparel, and the indier-than-thou attitude – no matter how you cut it, hipsters are annoying,” STFU-Hipsters writes on a blog hosted – ironically or not – on Tumblr, a hipster neighborhood.
Mens’ comedy site The Awesome Cave goes even further.
“Hipsters are assholes. Plain and simple. I once saw a hipster walk into a woman’s public bathroom and flip up all the toilet seats, just because he was a hipster,” blogger Danny Horgan writes.
The cleaner at my work does this. Next time I see her, I’ll have to check whether her hair is in a bun for health and safety reasons or ironically, and just a little tussled as if to imply intellectual rigour.
A new Lost Generation?
I can’t help but look at hipster attributes and recall another famously wanky subculture: the beat poets.
Disclosure time: I am a poetry fan and partial to a bit of beat poetry. I will leave something for City Lights in my Will and I own a copy of Ginsberg’s Howl, though mostly I have used it just to impress sexy women at parties.
John Clellon Holmes, in his signature 1957 piece on beatniks for Literary Kicks, said the word ‘beat’ implied a post-war feeling of having been used or of being raw.
“Perhaps they have not noticed that, behind the excess on the one hand, and the conformity on the other, lies that wait-and-see detachment that results from having to fall back for support more on one’s capacity for human endurance than on one’s philosophy of life,” Mr Holmes wrote.
“So it is a generation with a greater facility for entertaining ideas than for believing in them.”
Ironic detachment perhaps? That sounds familiar.
A couple of years ago, everyone hated emos (remember them?). They’re still around, of course, but don’t seem so annoying now that we have hipsters to hate.
How fickle we are.
Though hatred between different subculures is hardly new, as demonstrated by Keith Moore’s description of a 1957 brawl between British “teddy boys”, or Mods, and Sydney’s working class “bodgies”.
The Daily Mirror reported: ‘Even hardened local residents said it was frightening to see the bodgie pack backing, filling and deploying their six cars — like tanks on manoeuvre before challenging the sailors aboard the liner Orsova to ‘have a go’.
“Just as the bodgies were about to leave, three seamen appeared on the wharf. One escaped but two were knocked to the ground whereupon the bodgies began ‘laying in the boot’. With the police arriving, the bodgies hurriedly departed the scene. An observer overheard one exclaim ‘I nearly broken my — foot on the —.’,” Mr Moore reports.
The omitted words are not explained in the text but from the context, we can assume they were probably rude ones.
An embarrassment of subculture choices
There are an astonishing number of recognized subcultures, and that’s not even counting counter-culture or what we 1990s kids used to call alternative culture, before the term was inevitably co-opted by shoe manufacturers.
Wikipedia has a short list, including some you have probably never heard of, like Junglist (one who loves Jamaican jungle tunes), Stilyagi (think the musical Grease, but Russian) and Otherkin (vampire lovers).
When I was a teen, I oscillated (wildly, as fellow Smiths fans may remember) among the goth, geek and LGBT subcultures – though to be fair, in a redneck town of less than a million people, those of us not into football, cars or cows had to stick together for safety.
Petter Holme and Andreas Grönlund took subcultures into an incredibly nerdy realm in 2005 with their paper for the Journal of Artificial Societies and Social Simulation in the UK.
The subculture you belong to plays a vital part in the formation of your personality, they reckoned. And to prove it, they charted social and personal development alongside milestones in the subculture the young person was in.
They charted fads over time and made what looks like a ThinkGeek shirt design.
Then marked out how personal connections are made within a subculture (producing a lovely goth graph).
And looked at patterns of adoption for fashions. Hipster graph, amirite?
Nikola Božilović of the University of Niš wrote a fascinating piece about what drives us into one subculture or another.
She said subcultures often spontaneously arise without any planning.
“(Subcultures’) raison d’ être is the escape from anonymous everydayness imbued with boredom, spiritual emptiness and impersonality.”
Oh, is that all? Well, whatever.