Once reserved for the disaffected upper-middle-class millennial, the hipster trend has experienced widespread adoption in design, decorating, eating, dressing, marketing, and huge sales for associated products over the last decade. Fortunately, for some of us, “Brooklyn, where the hipster trend originated, has moved on from the term and the ethos,” and so, hopefully, will the rest of the country—Fortune Magazine is guessing soon in a recent article on investments that maintained valuations of hipster-modulated firms is peaking. Couldn’t happen quickly enough for me.
Hipsters have characterized the intellectuals and the underemployed who embrace a seemingly (but not) low-cost, retro style—ruining the lifestyle of restaurants, pubs, and fashion that I enjoyed before the steampunk absurdities of hipsters. Hipsters have a pretension to an “authentic culture” even while it is a borrowed observation from their daddy’s or granddad’s era. But, unless you’re Actually Frank Sinatra—and you’re not—everyone else looks utterly ridiculous in a fedora. I roll my eyes at you. Without authenticity there is no message or reaction to the widespread society that had in the past stimulated a rebellion of creative energies.
The originators of subcultural authenticity were truly reacting and carrying forward a message and viewpoint. The beatniks and hippies were reacting to society-level characteristics (conformity, political and cultural conservatism), and the punk and grunge folks (Slackers? Generation X?) developed a cultural rebellion, reacting against a perceived stultifying corporate culture (especially through music, though not exclusively). Hipsters today, on the other hand, form around preferences more than broad ideologies.
Hipsters are a more general taste culture, embodying a number of differing critiques of modern society in a more encompassing but less articulated way, perhaps because of the interwebs and Instagram. Rather than a subculture, they are more accurately a “consumer taste culture.” For, although hipster is a trend nominally based upon anti-consumerism, it is more accurately a movement driven by consumerism with a shellack of “anti-,” the exact opposite of authentic subcultures. Hipsters fit perfectly within the values of a large part of the mainstream, the so-called “Bobos” or Bourgeois Bohemians who believe they “self-curate.” Rebellion and societal change come not by activism and agitation but, for the hipster, through the style of things bought.
Don’t misunderstand, my axe-to-grind is not with hipsters’ inauthentic anti-consumerist consumerism. We are all consumers operating under a set of consumerist assumptions validating a chosen lifestyle. So, I, too, am a consumer and a consumerist. I simply don’t like or appreciate the chosen style of the hipsters. And I don’t like it’s spillover effects that have destroyed my preferred lifestyle in most public settings. Hippies weren’t my thing either, though I had older friends that were hippies, but their “style” didn’t bleed over into good restaurants and mass merchandisers.
My preference is for a more future-oriented and more sophisticated and cosmopolitan taste and culture, a sense of luxury and upscale affinity (you don’t need to be rich to do this). I cringe at a hipsterism that tries to eschew modernity with: craft food and spirits, rustic plank flooring and thick wood tables, fedoras, thick-rimmed glasses, Paul Bunyan beards and mustaches, plaid shirts and skinny jeans with cuffs rolled up, converse sneakers, fashionably unkempt hair—everything that has no air of authenticity and implies a fake sensibility of rustic individualism with eyes fixated on past superficial styles to comfort a present that seems to offer no future.
And the restaurants! Can we get our restaurant groups back from this muck? How about some textiles, padding, sound-deadening and color—the Pantone color chart goes beyond browns. And, please, can we fire all the “Mixologists” and rehire those who admit they’re all bartenders? I love a great bartender, but I despise “Mixologists.” I have a lot of “-ists,” and they all went to school forever and busy themselves saving lives, and they charge me a fortune—well, so do the “Mixologists.”
Ah, but one thing that both hipsters and I like is PBR, a cold can of Pabst Blue Ribbon. My go-to beer had always been micro-brewed beers. Then that became so passée as every city in every state had every Millennial and GenXer and Late Bloomer who came to despise the corporate world in which they succeeded turn to the generically hip path of supposedly cool entrepreneurship. Micro-brew became “craft beer,” or rather generic-brew with pseudo-vintage stylings and absurd flavoring. So, for me, it came to be PBR on a hot summer day or, otherwise, a good traditional european pilsner.
Moreover, craft beer/craft drinks became a culture or hobby that anoints the drinker with the credibility of “a foodie,” or the food hipster. They’re part of a faux-agrarian utopia of semi-ethical nonsense, bought by people who enjoy feeling part of an elite community through the products they buy, like fried pig’s ear…locally sourced, of course. I’m so tired of paying high prices for proteins that were previously considered low-grade and fatty or tough. I’m fine with farm-to-table, but I’d like to get more than three baby carrots, twelve kernels of corn, and three halves of brussels sprouts on my plate…you can skip the faux-artistic smear of whatever sauce took three days to make and cost me six dollars (there’s so little, I can’t taste it anyway).
If it’s true it’s all on its way out, then smiles and better living (and eating out in the city) are to follow…I hope.
As for the investor class in hipster-centric stocks, Fortune has one bit of advise that gives hope to a more thriving future-oriented culture: “Get out while you can. And ditch the beard.”