Hipsterdom: It Affects Us All… But Not Really
Published in Blog Archive, Culture Bully. Tags: Music.
On Saturday Jay Smooth laid down his latest in a long string of increasingly thoughtful commentaries via his video blog, Ill Doctrine. This time around he reviewed the subject of “Hipster Rap,” citing acts such as The Cool Kids, The Kidz in the Hall and Kid Sister as few examples of the burgeoning sub-genre. One of the issues he mentions, apart from the unnecessarily tight pants, is the insincerity often associated with hipsters due to their tendency for sarcastically adopting culture, sporting it as some sort of ironic decoration. But this isn’t exclusively a problem amongst the hip hop or African American communities, my friends…it affects whites too…
Jay’s thoughts have an upbeat, welcoming feel that isn’t generally associated with hipsters in certain circles. In contrast is the article Hipster: The Dead End of Western Civilization in which Douglas Haddow furiously detracts from any and everything associated with the ambiguous term. “An artificial appropriation of different styles from different eras, the hipster represents the end of Western civilization – a culture lost in the superficiality of its past and unable to create any new meaning. Not only is it unsustainable, it is suicidal. While previous youth movements have challenged the dysfunction and decadence of their elders, today we have the ‘hipster’ – a youth subculture that mirrors the doomed shallowness of mainstream society.” Clearly he doesn’t think that they’re “just like us”…whoever we are.
Haddow, no matter how harsh, is correct in the connection he identifies between the hipster and mainstream (pop) culture. But typically, ideas surrounding fashion, style and trends have been given birth by an acute few only to be later adopted on a mass scale. As such I think that he’s really putting too much emphasis on this wave of hipsters and their ability to crush our already degenerative culture. In all fairness this generation’s hipsters have no more long term control over the market and culture than the nü metal-heads of my generation. Both subcultures were started as something unique and honorable without a concrete classification – and both were manipulated into something that could be sold to a mass audience. No matter how much it might pain anyone to even remotely consider this: Crystal Castles, while at an entirely opposite end of the musically spectrum, isn’t too different than a band like P.O.D. or Limp Bizkit in this scenario; same goes for The Cool Kids.
Haddow continues, “Hipsterdom is the first ‘counter-culture’ to be born under the advertising industry’s microscope, leaving it open to constant manipulation but also forcing its participants to continually shift their interests and affiliations. Less a subculture, the hipster is a consumer group – using their capital to purchase empty authenticity and rebellion.” Well…yes and no. Other counter cultures have thrived within our modern advertising landscape, some also sporting rebellion at affordable prices, but he is right in saying that hipsterdom is the first to be under continual manipulation; but that has a lot to do with the term itself constantly shifting. Certainly it could be argued, as Haddow does, that this change is provoked by the mass marketing machine behind the trend, but couldn’t it also be instigated by the “non-culture” itself? Probably not, because then hipsters would have to be given credit for evolving on their own, even if it is a transformation into something offering an even shallower tribute to past counter-cultures, but all the same – it would still reflect something close to organic growth. Right? The hipsters might just outgrow themselves in time, like every other generation has, so I’m thinking that it’s probably a little overdramatic for Haddow to conclude that “The hipster represents the end of Western civilization – a culture so detached and disconnected that it has stopped giving birth to anything new.” Like Jay says, they’re just a culture who likes what they wear and listen to, just like everyone else…it just so happens that at this point in time hipsters are both adored and criticized for being this season’s “it.”
If I were twenty five when Korn was all the rage (who’s to say they aren’t still?) I would have thought the entire generation of youth buying the albums of like-sounding bands, wearing far too much black and piercing far too many body parts to be a bunch of culture-crushing, soulless marketing-slaves. But having lived through those years as apart of that generation I’m fairly content with knowing that my tastes changed, and so too did my sense of fashion and curiosity surrounding body accessories (though I kind of miss my nipple rings). As such, I’m not quite ready to start throwing stones at those skinny pant wearing, PBR drinking, fixed-gear bike driving hipsters because they’ll probably move on too. I’m under the belief that whatever comes along next will transition us away from the current state of trend just as hipsterdom did to emo and garage rock-chic. But while we’re here, I see no problem with cranking up some MGMT and watching the hipster parade march on by.