Recently I’ve become more aware (or perhaps just more sensitive) to my having been given some sort of official stamp of “HIPSTER” administered by an ambiguous but clearly certified/accredited/licensed inspector—employed by the one and only nefarious and clandestine Hipster Labeling bureaucracy undoubtedly responsible for such matters and the like.
My reaction tends to go from defense— “Honestly! I have never been able to drink black coffee until I was 28 and not for lack of trying! I’ve tried my whole life to drink bitter unenjoyable beverages!”
Or, “I have two older sisters, I was raised being told how to dress!”
to calling out improper definition—
“You know, there’s this sliding definition of this word “Hipster,” based solely on appearances and dress and—ignorantly, I might add, having nothing to do with the actual culture, where it REALLY lies.” And usually I’d direct their attention to an article published in the NY Times and written by a prominent assistant professor at Princeton University:
which is still a great article, but successful in enlightening people to truth, it (usually) does not.
And when those both fail, I curl up in a ball behind the coffee shop counter that I work and cry.
As can obviously be inferred, I’ve gotten into many an exhaustive discussion over this word and have come to conclude TWO things about Hipster…coterie, not to be confused with couture, which—as it stands, apparently must be addressed first to understand what Hipster is not, in order to best understand what it is.
THE PROBLEM WITH DEFINING HIPSTER SIMPLY BY STYLE AND DRESS:
I get it, it’s relatively easily and of the least effort to look at someone and—based solely on their appearance, throw out the classification, “Hipster,” quick to forget that YOU aren’t in the employ of the true one and only nefarious and clandestine Hipster Labeling bureaucracy. But it’s here—on even just a basic level of language and word definition, that the problem lay therein.
If “Hipster” were something so easily defined as such, why do we have such a sliding scale when it comes to this word? If to the small town American man, someone wearing a…western shirt with nothing else matching western attire is a hipster, and to that western shirt wearing man, another wearing a scarf is hipster, and to scarf man the guy with a mustache and all of the preceding is a hipster, and to moustachioed man the guy that has all of the preceding AND a vest is a hipster, and to vest boy the guy wearing everything AND suspenders is a hipster, and to suspended boy the guy wearing all the preceding AND glasses is a hipster, and to visually challenged guy the guy wearing everything preceding AND TO TOP IT OFF, wears a tie tucked into his button down western shirt—THAT’S a Hipster, well, then…we’re screwed and will never be able to properly define Hipster.
We’d be as pigeon-holed into improper definitions as, say, I don’t know, the head of a Dynasty of Ducks defining homosexuality as something so simple and obvious as preferring men’s anuses to women’s vaginas…
THE DEFINITION OF HIPSTER.
Well, so I hope it’s evident now that a definition based solely on people’s opinions of other people’s looks makes an actual definition, does not.
So what is a Hipster? And—more importantly, what is “Hipster coterie”?
As I said above, I’ve concluded two factors that seem to define both the Hipster, and the coterie of thus. They can easily be summed up as two basic desires (that—with some self inspection, can be seen as almost inherently human desires): The desire to know that I MATTER; and the desire to convey that YOU MATTER.
I hope you had a chance to go through the NY Times article on Irony cause it not only brings up some valid points, it also helps to define an aspect of Hipster coterie that is very much at it’s heart. Why live in irony? Why pick up weird hobbies?
Self-protection and preservation? YES.
To stand out uniquely in a way so as to know—truly know, that regardless of you learning to play the tuba or perfecting your micro home brew, you ARE unique in and of yourself, and—more importantly, YOU MATTER.
MOST DEFINITELY YES.
I bring this point up first because it is indeed that vulnerable place that I’ve not only noticed, but recognize in myself.
And those that know me know I wear it on my sleeves. I’m a walking example of a desire to know I matter. And—looking back over my whole life, my style choices (even the “what the hell was I thinking wearing JNCO jeans, Nike high tops, a screen print shirt and flannel with a terrible perm, glasses and braces” choices), I can say that everything was done with a desire to be “me” (even if I didn’t know what that me was) and more at the heart, to know I matter. Me. I have value.
Just because it looks differently when it’s a grown man who chooses to look like this:
do not mistake that at the heart is the same man who—if he truly understood, accepted, and lived knowing at his core that he mattered, that he has value; well…he still may dress like that as a means of self expression, but perhaps not doing so out of a means of discovering love and value and worth.
**This should also be expressed on the flip side of those who bow and bend to style and cultural trends and looks that ebb and flow, they too are looking for the same worth, value and that they matter.
THE DESIRE TO CONVEY THAT YOU MATTER, WE ALL MATTER:
While it can be said that being a Hipster could indeed be a means of self protection and preservation, on a larger scale, perhaps this is sign and not the substance of a much more important facet. Perhaps never taking a strong opinion about anything that really is important, is not only a means of self preservation but a means of innately knowing their own desire to matter, and wishing to convey to others that they matter too. Perhaps what looks like “tolerance” and not wishing to offend is really just the means of a deeper desire to convey to the whole of humanity around them that we all matter. Perhaps to be offensive is to alienate those you wish to show acceptance to—which is ALL. Which also—should be understood that—while not right, the only people unaccepted are those who are themselves, unaccepting.
Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean to say the means themselves are right and should be seen as such. No. Look, I’m someone well aware of their faults to a fault. You will never hear me say that there’s nothing wrong with me. But you will also never hear me say that there’s nothing wrong with everyone else either. And that’s the point itself. I’m not right. And they’re not right. And the whole world isn’t right. And so the means can never quite make the mark.
But perhaps there is something to be said of at least trying—even if it’s faulty.
Perhaps the deeper substance behind the flash and mustache should be given a second look and a second thought. That we all desire to know that we are loved and accepted. And if you (even innately) know that about yourself, you desire to show that to and for others. And that may be conveyed with words like “tolerance” and “coexist” and never wishing to call out any one’s faults, or it may come across as an underlying recognition of EVERYONE BEING NOT RIGHT. That we’re all not good, but that’s whyit’s good. Because you cannot truly convey love and acceptance, you cannot truly know yourself that you matter, that others matter if you were perfect, or if your faults were overlooked. It’s in the faults that we know we are truly loved. It’s in falling short that I know I matter.
And it’s he who has been forgiven much that loves much.
Yes. Even to the ones that make big deals out of nothing on Facebook. Yes. Even to the guy that makes it a point that you’re ordering anything but a black coffee and never smiles while serving you your beverage (I’m looking at YOU, *not so* Happy Coffee). Yes. Even the Wal-Mart shoppers. Yes. Even the people that call you Hipster.
Yes. Even the people that preach love and grace but their actions convey anything but.
If being a Hipster means that I not only struggle with mattering myself, but desire to show that others matter. If it means that I know my own faults and that I will always fall short and never make the mark, then I am sensitive that perhaps others are of themselves as well, and I don’t need to draw attention to their shortcomings and so on.
Look, my dad always said that the closer you get to light, the bigger the shadow you cast.
What are you gonna focus on, the shadow? The not thing? Or are you going to recognize that that not thing, that no-thing, that nothing, is simply a by product of YOUR interaction with the light? And perhaps when the light sees YOU, it SEES YOU. And it knows that the shadow you cast ISN’T YOU.
Why continually focus on the things that aren’t people, the things that don’t matter when what’s truer is focusing on the person, on the things that do.
And if that makes me a hipster, then, well, shit.
Consider this my “coming out of the Hipster closet” moment.
I’m a hipster.
And if we’re still simply relying on the appearance of a person to define them as a hipster…
then, well, I do enjoy being stylish. I mean, this doesn’t put itself together…