“Hipsters: The dead end of western civilization.”

This is why I have zero patience for hipsters, notably those over the age of 25. Stop living off daddy’s money, take off the keffiyah, get a job, and grow up. Irony is not a lifestyle. (Via MeFi)

Published by Waldo Jaquith

Waldo Jaquith (JAKE-with) is an open government technologist who lives near Char­lottes­­ville, VA, USA. more »

25 replies on ““Hipsters: The dead end of western civilization.””

  1. I was about to express solidarity with your hipster hatred while saying something generous about them like “at least they’re not as bad as the d-bags from late night shots,” but when I went to google for reference material to link to, I saw the #15 search result was a post on this blog right here. Always one step ahead of me, Waldo.

    Of course, the worst of all possible scenarios would be the one in which the hipsters and the d-bags somehow melded together. Imagine a priviledged white male in his early 20s wearing non-prescription eye-glasses, a golf shirt, boat shoes and a keffiyeh, and you can imagine me committing a hate crime.

  2. I’m reminded, too, of the New York Times profile on trolls this weekend:

    One afternoon in the spring of 2006, for reasons unknown to those who knew him, Mitchell Henderson, a seventh grader from Rochester, Minn., took a .22-caliber rifle down from a shelf in his parents’ bedroom closet and shot himself in the head. The next morning, Mitchell’s school assembled in the gym to begin mourning.


    Someone hacked Henderson’s MySpace page and gave him the face of a zombie. Someone placed an iPod on Henderson’s grave, took a picture and posted it to [the discussion board]. Henderson’s face was appended to dancing iPods, spinning iPods, hardcore porn scenes. A dramatic re-enactment of Henderson’s demise appeared on YouTube, complete with shattered iPod. The phone began ringing at Mitchell’s parents’ home. “It sounded like kids,” remembers Mitchell’s father, Mark Henderson, a 44-year-old I.T. executive. “They’d say, ‘Hi, this is Mitchell, I’m at the cemetery.’ ‘Hi, I’ve got Mitchell’s iPod.’ ‘Hi, I’m Mitchell’s ghost, the front door is locked. Can you come down and let me in?’ ” He sighed. “It really got to my wife.” The calls continued for a year and a half.

    They’re “trolls”? Really? We have a medical term for this—”sociopath”—but why not just “assholes”?

  3. Meh.

    In the late 90s I was marginally part of Harrisonburg’s JMU indie rock/emo scene (mostly art students). Then in 2001 I moved to Austin, where I could see very few differences between an Austin hipster and a JMU emo kid. The trends change a little, but this scene has been around at least as long as I’ve been going to live music shows. I’m sure there will one day be famous authors, artists, politicos that emerge from the hipster scene, just as many Americans today revere Burroughs, Ginsberg, Kerouac, et al.

    They’re just beatniks in another time, by another name.

  4. I wish I could agree. The difference, I think is that other faddish subcultures were formed around an ideal, or a common set of creative interests. They’ve all had goals. Not hipsters. Hipsterism is based solely on image. It has neither a message nor a goal. By comparison, I don’t object to emo kids; while I think they look like dopes, that’s because I’m 30 years old. At least they’ve got a set of ideals and interests behind them that have coalesced into a musical direction and related creative endeavors. No such thing can be said of hipsters.

  5. Going all the way back to the 19th Century, the French used the word “Bohemian” to reflect the lifestyles of impoverished artists and individuals who lived outside of mainstream conventions and were untroubled by it. They were unconcerned with the trappings of mainstream coolness, and thus found coolness in their uncoolness.

    Hipsters, by contrast, are obsessed with cool. The affectation of the Bohemian ethos is, like everything else in their lives, a farce. If you’re spending hundreds of dollars at Urban Outfitters in order to look like you shopped a thrift store, you’re about as Bohemian as the cast of Rent: sure, you may have the trappings, but deep down everyone knows that the audience hasn’t quite suspended its disbelief enough to forget that it’s all just an act people are participating in because they think it’s entertaining.

  6. I understand and appreciate what you’re saying here, Waldo — I think the idea of rich kids trying to look “cool poor” is dumb.

    However, I think the Adbusters stor– er, rant makes some really broad generalizations. It’s judging a book by its cover. I know some really talented, intelligent “scenesters” (they would never call themselves that) who just wear trendy, over-priced clothes. And some of them actually do come from working-class families.

    There are aspects of style that go along with every subculture that’s dumb. Bellbottoms were dumb, John Lennon glasses were dumb, beatnik hats and goatees, punk mohawks — all dumb. Those are all styles that were unnecessary.

    On one point, I will agree with you: there is no unifying cause or movement they coalesce around. Although, very few of them are fans of Bush and the occupation of Iraq.

  7. The word “emo” didn’t exist when I was 22. We had Sunny Day Real Estate to listen to, but we didn’t know what to call it. :)

    Finnegan, there are a few great posts on that MeFi thread that I suspect are more interesting and engaging than that lightweight, ranty AdBusters article.

  8. Have to agree with Waldo on this one. Hipsters aren’t looking to produce anything, but rather consume. They’re professional posers. Posers exist in every scene, but hipsters take posing to a whole new level. They’re easy to ignore since the only people they affect are other hipsters. And that’s how you get rid of them. For all their want of having people not pay attention to them, they really do want people to pay attention to them.

  9. I loved SDRE. “Diary” is in my top 10 albums from the 90s.


    Again, these are broad generalizations. If you mean hipsters as a movement (or anti-movement) aren’t looking to produce anything, you might be right. But if you’re referring to individuals, you’re drawing unfair conclusions. It’s like saying, “Any white kid that listens to hip hop wishes he was black.” How do you know what he’s thinking? Maybe he just likes the music. How can you know what he will achieve as an individual?

    Take my friend Tim, for example. He would never call himself a hipster, but he fits the “party photographer” profile described in the Adbuster editorial. He’s a nice, genuine guy, and a great photographer. Here’s his Flickr.

    Another friend of mine that fits the aesthetic profile moved back to Harrisonburg from DC to resurrect an annual music festival that JMU had dropped after 10 years running. Almost single-handedly, he organized it, built the website, and promoted it, and didn’t get a dime for his work. He brought dozens of great bands, and hundreds of people (many of them “hipsters”) into Harrisonburg for a weekend, generating lots of business for local hotels, restaurants, etc. If it wasn’t for his efforts, none of that would have happened.

    So, making sweeping generalizations, essentially saying “hipsters don’t do anything” or “will never amount to anything” is as valid to me as any other “all X people are lazy” stereotype. Which is to say, it isn’t valid.

  10. I’m curious how many split hairs can be wedged between a valid stereotype and an invalid stereotype.

  11. I see what you’re getting at finnegan. As with any genre or scene, one has to take into account the individuals amount of involvement and immersion. When and how do you qualify someone as being part of culture or scene? Of course I’m speaking in generalizations.

    Part of the problem with the term hipster is that no one wants to be associated with it. How do you qualify someone as a hipster or as a member of any other sub-culture? Where is the line between indie and hipster? I’d liken hipsters to the Mod scene of the 60’s, where being cool was the point, but with hipsters, you don’t want people to know that you’re trying to be cool. I never called hipsters lazy and never said they wouldn’t amount to anything. Posing takes a lot of work. For me, as far as generalizations and to qualify this a bit, the indie scene produces while hipsters consume. And hipsters usually consume on mom and dad’s dime.

  12. Mods are a good comparison.

    The main point I’m trying to make is that we shouldn’t debase or demonize a group of people — especially when we can’t even pinpoint who comprises the group.

    All the “hipsters” I know are either in college or work for a living. They don’t live off mom and dad.

  13. So, a few opinions and observations. As a student at VCU and a resident of RVA, I’d like to consider myself well-qualified on the hipster subject. If it were to completely die out tomorrow, I’d make sure to make August 3rd a holiday.

    With that said, the Adbusters article was a terrible link, albeit a necessary link for the creation of the post. As was said in the comments, the author’s age (mid -twenties) and obvious lack of experience smack the reader throughout. He fails to adequately differentiate the hipster movement from previous regimes, leaving most readers with the valid impression that this is nothing more than a contemporary rendition of “kids these days…”

    However, as you rightly point out, some of the comments from MeFi more than make up for the article’s faults. Both from the simple:

    “Hipsters are just people who don’t make enough money to live in Manhattan – and then they pretend that it’s cool not to live in Manhattan.”

    to the complex.

    The beauty of Nasreddin’s comment here is that while I believe he hits onto the zeitgeist of hipsterdom’s problem (the issue of authenticity), it is still apparent that he himself is part of the movement, a fact he acknowledges by the end.

    The take-away message here is that hipsters are really an evolution of youth culture rather than some ideal-driven counterculture movement. They have no problem with being consumers because they aren’t on principle against consumption, a common complaint which seems to derive more from the critic’s applying it than anyone from the scene advocating it.

    Though I am quite curious, Waldo: How do you justify emos? It could just be that the only ones I encounter are the fashionistas that follow the movement, but I am still missing any central redeeming quality, other than making my skinniness more acceptable in general public.

  14. Back to finnegan, well, are the folks you have in mind actually hipsters or just college kids? Again for qualification, I think there’s a difference.

    All the “hipsters” I know are either in college or work for a living. They don’t live off mom and dad.

    Can’t say those people are really hipsters then by what I term a hipster as being. Again, nailing down a definition of hipster goes along, “I know it when I see it.” Would the people you write of term themselves as hipsters?

    And a point of clarification for topic, I really think “hipsters” came about in the early to mid 80’s. All those yuppie jokers who bought Warhol…. hipsters. I blame cocaine which I’m pretty certain perseveres in the current hipster “movement” (I have nothing official to back that last claim).

  15. Though I am quite curious, Waldo: How do you justify emos?

    *Laugh* I love the idea of me having to justify the existence of thousands of sub-goths. :) But I do follow you. The difference is that at least there is a style of music accompanying it. Not being familiar with the scene, I can’t tell you whether the style of music or the kids came first, but it’s somehow coupled with a form of artistic expression, meaning that it’s a fashion that has some sort of a purpose, that accompanies a contribution to the world.

  16. Oooh, sub goth. Burn.

    Seeing as how hipsters have ended up being a more controversial topic than Bush’s inability to balance the budget, I propose finding a way to quantify the problems of hipsterdom via Richmond Sunlight. Perhaps a new subsection plotting how much time the average party spends at 4th street diner versus the amount of money they spend on actual food. My hypothesis, 2 hours 15 minutes, $2.75 for bad coffee.

    (Is that place even still open?)

  17. For the record, 4th Street is indeed closed. And while hipsters did kind of make that part of their scene, wasting a few hours in that place is a required part of any young Richmonder’s education.

  18. Oh, man. Just when I thought I understood what everyone was talking about, someone implies that it’s possible to both be a hipster *and* live in Richmond.

    Talk about defining deviancy downwards.

  19. Just to clarify: I think Waldo and I may be talking about two different groups when we use the word “emo.” I’m not referring to this “sub-goth” makeup and black hair stuff. I mean pre-hipster DIY indie rocker (AKA whimpy, geeky punks). Like this (I’m actually in the back of the room in that 1998 video).

    Anyhow, I don’t understand how the label “hipster” works, or where it’s boundaries lie. If you can only be a hipster if you’re not in college, does that mean you become one on graduation day? What if you’re a grad student? What if you work less than 40 hours a week after college?

    Talk about splitting hairs…

  20. MB,

    Even narrowing the definition of hipster down to trucker hats, American Apparel v-neck shirts, cut-off jean shorts, and ironic mustaches, Richmond still boasts a major hipster population. I’d say come by and check it out, but people are made better by their ignorance of such.

  21. Surely hipster status is not freely available to those who are merely willing to make questionable fashion and personal grooming choices? Doesn’t it take some commitment to the ideal? Perhaps demonstrated through refusing to live in obviously unhip cities?

  22. I have to admit I’m confused as to whether living in Richmond is pro-Hipster code or against it. On the one hand, cost of living is lower so you can pretend to be way poorer. And Richmond has way more thrift shops, too. On the other hand, even in the Fan, Richmond may still be a little too authentic; its only REALLY ironic when you’re pretending to be destitute while living near Adams Morgan in NW Washington, DC.

    My hypothesis is that Richmond hipsters look down on DC hipsters for not being willing enough to go the extra mile (or in this case, 100 miles south on I-95) to really commit to the destitute Bohemian lifestyle, while DC hipsters look down on Richmond hipsters for being too authentic and, thus, challenging to their hollow inauthenticity.

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