Every once in a while I come across a piece of great writing on the internet. These writings seem to have a way of seeping into my subconscious and replicating below the surface. Days after my initial read I am still thinking about it, going over the subtleties, doing my best to add my own subtext, and generally trying to relate the work to my life in an effort to better myself from it. This writing falls into that category. Not music based per se, but I challenge anyone to read it and not be able to relate it to music in some way. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you, The Hipster in the Mirror.
I urge you to read the piece for yourself but I will go on to highlight my favorite excerpts and throw some thinking at you. If I had to summarize the article with a single sentence it would be…
“…struggles over taste (and “taste” is the hipster’s primary currency) are never only about taste.”
Basically the article is trying to figure out why people get so irrationally angry and defensive when the issue of “hipster” is brought up. The author feels the answer lies predominantly with taste. He claims that every social group use differences in taste to separate themselves from other social groups and assert their dominance over their peers.
“…you can see how hipster neighborhoods are crossroads where young people from different origins, all crammed together, jockey for social gain. One hipster subgroup’s strategy is to disparage others as “liberal arts college grads with too much time on their hands”; the attack is leveled at the children of the upper middle class who move to cities after college with hopes of working in the “creative professions.” These hipsters are instantly declassed, reservoired in abject internships and ignored in the urban hierarchy — but able to use college-taught skills of classification, collection and appreciation to generate a superior body of cultural “cool.”
They, in turn, may malign the “trust fund hipsters.” This challenges the philistine wealthy who, possessed of money but not the nose for culture, convert real capital into “cultural capital” (Bourdieu’s most famous coinage), acquiring subculture as if it were ready-to-wear. (Think of Paris Hilton in her trucker hat.)
Both groups, meanwhile, look down on the couch- surfing, old-clothes-wearing hipsters who seem most authentic but are also often the most socially precarious — the lower-middle-class young, moving up through style, but with no backstop of parental culture or family capital. They are the bartenders and boutique clerks who wait on their well-to-do peers and wealthy tourists. Only on the basis of their cool clothes can they be “superior”: hipster knowledge compensates for economic immobility.”
Basically this article brings to light the irony of the pot calling the kettle black. I for one have been guilty of writing off the kid in girls jeans and a plaid shirt in the corner, with his tattered knit cap and oversized headphones. Is their a difference between wearing pre-faded vintage graphic tees that you went out of your way to buy, and just still wearing actual old vintage faded tees, assuming of course you could afford to replace them? I think that I am realizing from all this is that there actually is no difference. The fact of the matter is if I have the means to replace a tattered hat and choose not to do so any sort of clout I have built up in my own mind is irrelevant. Although I feel that I will never be completely ok with buying pre-destroyed clothes in a effort to look working class, I am well on my way to understanding that desire. I’m excited to continue living my life armed with the perspective that this article has bestowed on me.
To summarize be cool to each other. Realize that differences in taste are a good thing. Don’t be ashamed to enjoy a band, there should be no such thing as a guilty pleasure. Be proud of the art that speaks to you and the music you absorb. In my worthless opinion, honesty is the most valuable form of hipster currency. Decide what to be and go be it.
In case you missed it here is another link to the full article on the New York Times Site.
Hmmmm… something musical to add to make this post fit in…
Anyone remember this Kanye video? My favorite one.