Social Question

_Whitetigress's avatar

When one labels another with the brand hipster do they feel empowered?

Asked by _Whitetigress (4354 points ) September 20th, 2012

I’ve just noticed it seems to be used as a generalization of people who are not mainstream enough to “fit in” so they get tagged.

I’m wondering why just because someone is involved in the arts, local music or just anything that seems, “counter-culture” they get tagged with “hipster” these days.

My personal opinion is that it’s a pathetic attempt to put a certain group in the back seat in society. Kind of like high school when the popular people would throw, the “rockers” or “goths” or “nerds” in the back seat of high school society.

Any who, do you catch my drift? Do you personally categorize anyone who is into music, fashion, art, literature as “hipster” or just people you might feel are trying to be different on purpose. If you feel they are trying to be different on purpose, what do you think is so wrong about that?

I have a buddy who calls people in downtown hipster all the time and pokes fun at their physical features and their accessories etc. Thing is, he has does almost everything that they do. I think this tag and generalization has gone too far into his head because of how it’s made fun of yet he’s involved in the sort of “counter-culture” that “general people” (whatever that is) call hipsters.

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13 Answers

DigitalBlue's avatar

Probably. I don’t really have much personal experience with this, maybe I’m too “old” for my friends to have caught onto this trend -but it doesn’t really seem very different from using stereotypes as name-calling at any other time.
Then again, maybe it is regional, because I can’t think of my sisters or any of their friends ever tossing that label out.
Either way, I am sure it isn’t much different than stereotyping “preps” or “nerds” as you said. I think the terms and the stereotypes probably change with time, but it all has roots in the same ground.
I don’t do it, personally, but then again in high school I was the “goth” girl that dated the “jocks” and the “preps” and the “nerds,” so I guess those distinctions have never been especially important to me on a personal level.

bookish1's avatar

It’s an insult that is so commonly used now that it has lost much specificity. However, I have never heard it applied for people who are merely “into music, fashion, art, and literature” and I think you are being far too general with your description.

It’s an old word. You can find it in Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl,” for instance. “Hippy/hippie” was originally an insult derived from the word “hipster” and applied by squares to countercultural folks they didn’t like.

I tend to use the term “hipster” to describe 20— and sometimes 30-somethings who act like children, get by on their parents’ money, and play peasant; that is, they aren’t poor but they think it is fashionable to dress and live as though they are. Also, coming from academia, I’ve encountered a lot of people whom I would describe as hipsters, and who probably would not balk at the title, who are in love with critical theory/literature/film criticism, etc., and use it as an excuse to be cynical, self-congratulatory, and judgmental, without any political engagement in the real world.

Earthgirl's avatar

@bookish I find your description interesting but it’s not exactly the way that I have seen hipster used. I imagine that depending on your viewpoint the term is not always pejorative. By your description the current usage is pejorative. I don’t have such a negative view of hipsters. Unlike the original meaning of the word which you describe very well as being similar to beatniks and artsy types, I think the current usage teases and sort of pokes fun at hipsters for trying so hard to _be _ hip and cool and do all the trendy things and live in a bohemian life style that they end up seeming a little silly. I guess this can be more or less true depending on the hipster. Artists have often chosen to live a Bohemian lifestyle to be free of societal expectations that would detract from their art. They chose to live this way even when they were rich and to suffer physical discomfort and poverty and bad living conditions. But it was out of a deeply held conviction. I suppose you could say that they played at being poor and that is oh so very different from really being poor, but at least they didn’t do it just to be cool. They had a philosophy of a different kind of living. It was a social experiment.

Nowadays young people coming to live in cities want that urban hipster lifestyle, not always of course, but if they do they want to live where the action is. In New York, the neighborhood is always changing. Used to be Soho,Manhattan, now it’s Williamsburg, Brooklyn, next, who knows?

Nowadays I see hipsterdom as a sort of reverse cool in which the hipster glories in being different. For example, it’s ok to be nerdy, it’s ok to wear clothes other people think are weird. When it’s genuine I love it! When it’s not, when the person is just putting it on to be cool and trying to outcool everyone else I don’t love it. But even then, I only find it to be obnoxious, not offensive.

filmfann's avatar

Have you seenThis site?
It seems like they have pegged hipsters as having a definite, though questionable, fashion direction.

effi's avatar

I didn’t even know what “hipster” meant until I read this.

I think people primarily use labels as a way to generalize common features within a group of people. (i.e. “stay-at-home mom” groups together people who share the common element of being a mom and staying home with their children) Most social labels are not inherently rude or insulting; but when someone has been wounded by a particular label and/or by a person who HAS that particular label, it can create a stigma for said individuals. (i.e. A working career woman who has known judgmental stay-at-home mothers would have a negative view of “stay-at-home moms”, even though there’s nothing inherently wrong with that label.)

So, all of that to say, it sounds like your friend is just insecure and has determined in his own opinion that, somehow, he’s superior to people involved in the arts and what-not. I don’t think it would matter what the label for that group was; he would still poke fun.

Labels don’t automatically imply that there’s something wrong with the group it identifies. If “hipster” means “people who try to be different”, there’s nothing wrong with the fact that they try to be different OR with the label! I think your friend has invented the negativity all by himself…

Judi's avatar

I’m do old. Is hipster the new yuppie?

Sunny2's avatar

I think it comes from the word ‘hip’ as from the jazz world. It’s more an attitude. ‘In the know’ and ‘cool’ were also part of the time. That’s from back in the 50’s. Brings to mind zoot suits, reefers. It’ probably evolved somewhat in meaning, but I think that’s where it started.

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Trillian's avatar

“My personal opinion is that it’s a pathetic attempt to put a certain group in the back seat in society.”

I disagree. As far as I can tell they label themselves, and are kind of elitlst snobs. So, not much sympathy for a mis-labled group who feel supreior to the rest of us.

_Whitetigress's avatar

@Trillian Would you consider Kurt Vonnegut a hipster? He definitely felt he had a higher understanding and I’d say literally 90% of his material was elite, sarcastic of a higher understanding than, “the rest of us.”

wundayatta's avatar

I’ve been involved in the arts all my life. I’m a musician. No one ever called me a hipster. And I play some pretty outside jazz.

Maybe it’s because I never wore cool clothes or decorated my body.

I’ve know a number of “hipster” types in my life. I never felt like they were much more out there than I am.

The truth is, you need to know a person to know them. If you judge them based on their clothes, you’re going to get it wrong a lot.

_Whitetigress's avatar

@Trillian I re-read my statement at you. I don’t mean to “come at you” :X I’m simply wondering. I hope to get enough responses from all sorts of people for a book I’m writing about a person who feels the weight of “hipsterdom” on his shoulders. Of course the more sources and input I get the more accurate and less “me only” the book becomes then others can relate more. Thanks!

Aethelflaed's avatar

Yeah, hipster can be used too widely, and to really anything new or different, and become a rather meaningless term.

Sometimes, I am just using it descriptively without really any value judgment (eg, hipster glasses).

But there are other times where it is a pejorative statement, because the essence of hipster itself (in its current incarnation) is judgment of the “hipper than thou” variety. It’s actually really, really screwed up to move into a Hassidic neighborhood specifically because it’s so “edgy” to live among Others and then bitch about how the neighborhood is being gentrified without realized that you are the gentrification. It’s dishonest to put so much work into finding odd things to wear and accessorize with that will prove how little you care, when if you actually didn’t care you’d look quite a bit more like the rest of us. And to see certain things (tv shows, webcasts, bands, books, etc) as not only better if one finds out about it before everyone else does, but have it’s entire worth dependent upon if you “were into it before it was cool” is a poisonous combination of unfounded superiority and missing the point. It’s actually not surprising that such portentous attitudes would be met with hostility and derision.

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