Could We Please Stop Using The Word Hipster
We often throw the word Hipster around, frequently to describe character or generational traits we dislike. But, does Hipster even mean anything anymore?
“The trailer for Jarmusch’s hipster vampire flick caused a stir when it hit a few days ago.”
“The word “hipster” invariably crops up in discussions about American film-maker Jim Jarmusch, not least because he looks the part.”
The two quotes above are from review articles about director Jim Jarmusch (the first is from Fast Company, the second from The Guardian). Interestingly, both articles lead with comments about Jarmusch’s “hipster” status, then not only don’t explain why they started there, they actually don’t even mention the word again.
Not surprisingly, Jarmusch has his own take on being (constantly) called a hipster, here he is quoted in New York Magazine,
“Throwing around the term hipster is too easy. People always use the word quirky too, which also makes me want to reach for my revolver, you know? Think up a better word. Come on.”
What The Hell Is a Hipster Anyway
It always amuses me when I’m called a hipster (yes, it happens). Sure, I listen to music on vinyl, wear Mister Freedom jeans and (still) subscribe to Monocle magazine. But, Hipsters take photos on film, only wear jeans ironically and subscribe to more achingly cool magazines like Dumbo Feather.
OK, so I also subscribe to Dumbo Feather.
My point is the term hipster often gets thrown around as a jibe, a put-down, something we say about someone else. We see this clearly in the hilarious Patton Oswalt episode of Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee (Jerry Seinfeld’s spectacularly clever online interview show).
Boomers use it to describe the self-doubt and changeability of bicycle obsessed Generation X. Xers use it to describe the entitlement, narcissism and retro-faddishness of Generation Y. Everyone seems to use of those who are too knowingly fashion-conscious and, so on it goes.
You’ve Probably Never Heard Of It
One common hipster trait seems to be an obsession with obscurantism. Priceononmics even tried to predict hipster music tastes by graphing popular acclaim versus critical acclaim. The idea being the more critically acclaimed yet popularly obscure a band was, the more it would appeal to hipsters.
Their pick for the most likely candidate? Vampire Weekend. A good band, but hardly anyone’s suggestion for hipster music of choice.
More interesting perhaps is their prediction that bands most people associate with hipsterism, like Haim and Chvrches, would fall out of favour as their fame rose. But, obscurantism is not a uniquely hipster trait. It was alive and well back when musical tastes were more clearly defined by genre and played a big part in the culture of punk, heavy metal, indie and even jazz music.
In fact, I’d go out on a limb and say obscurantism is something of stage of life thing, with many going through it in their teens early 20s and maybe again later in life as they try to define their identity. It’s a soft form of rebellion.
Has Hipster Become A Meaningless Term
So, Jim Jarmusch’s dark urbanism is hipster, as is Haim’s sunny retro-faddishness and Monocle’s un-ironic preppyness? That’s a pretty wide net, isn’t it?
I agree with Jarmusch. Calling someone a hipster is too easy – it’s time to stop using the word. The meaning is far too broad to be of use, either as a description or even as an insult.
And, what does the photo at the top of this post have to do with hipsterism? Well, you tell me…