If there’s one demographic in St Andrews that everyone seems to recognise, it’s hipsters: these scarf-wearing, iPod-listening, pretentious rich kids patrol our streets every day, sipping their organic chai lattes and turning their noses up at our foolish mainstream ways.
For anyone who doesn’t know what a hipster is, my understanding of it is that a hipster is someone who acts differently from other people, just for the sake of being different, and judges others for sticking too rigidly to “the mainstream”. For example, many of us have perhaps asked someone what music they’re into, only to get the classic response, “Oh, they’re pretty obscure; you probably haven’t heard of them.”
As what was originally a sub- and counter-culture it seems many people would agree they’ve exploded in the last five or ten years, to the point where anything they once did which was original or different is now staggeringly tiresome, or just plain annoying. And it’s become a long-running observation that if anything they do is identified as having become popular, they come back with the tired excuse that “I was into it before it was cool.” Pretty infuriating, right?
Well, I have to say I never really got it.
Maybe it’s because I’m a science student. We don’t get quite so many of them around North Haugh, and anyway, we usually don’t spend much time talking to anyone we don’t have to. But the little insight I have tells me that people who dislike the hipster culture have let the witchhunt get way out of hand.
For all the hipsters I’ve failed to spot around town, I’ve definitely made up for it in meeting people that never stop going on about hipsters. It seems like anything that anyone does can be interpreted as hipsterish, and I myself have been accused of being a hipster on several occasions, directly or by implication.
Here is a short subset of things that I’ve seen explicitly described as characteristics of a hipster:
Wearing a scarf; listening to indie music; maintaining a blog; wearing flannel shirts; wearing converse trainers; having a beard; using a Mac; using Linux; using the wrong kind of Linux; wearing a hoodie; smoking; not smoking; drinking coffee at Starbuck’s; drinking coffee, but never at Starbuck’s; buying records instead of CDs; buying CDs instead of using iTunes; using iTunes; listening to the Beatles; and finally, utilising absolutely any kind of irony.
Now not all of these opinions came from the same person, but I have absolutely honestly seen all of those used. Presumably just about anyone reading this article is a hipster according to at least one definition. I’m guilty of 11 out of 19: pretty indie, huh? I bet that’s more than you.
My laboured point, obviously, is that these people are far too quick to call someone a hipster. The definitions contradict each other. But I just wish that people wouldn’t take it all so seriously. People should go back to doing what they want and ignoring anyone from either side saying they’re too hipster, or too lamestream.
One reason I’m so picky about this is that I’m the president of this university’s Pokémon Society: a society formed purely to watch a 15-year-old TV show and play children’s card games. Your hipster alarm (if you have one) is probably going off around now. Obviously we don’t watch Pokémon because it’s any good; we watch it ironically. But is that really so bad?
“Ironically” has become such a buzzword now that no one’s allowed to do anything self-aware or take a pinch of salt now and then, because otherwise we’re somehow seen as pretentious or fake. The truth in the Pokémon Society is that we enjoy watching the show because it was on when we were kids, it’s nostalgic, and it’s fun to remember how terrible it was. Not because we somehow want to show we’re better than anyone else.
Maybe I’m out of touch as usual with what goes on outside my own front door, and maybe there really are that many people who are that awful to be around, but I’d like to think that as a civilisation we’ve got past ostricising and categorising people just for acting differently. That sort of hatred is pretty much the biggest thing that’s caused human beings misery for the last few millennia, and I don’t like the thought of the ‘hipster’ label as a new, “cool” way of bashing minorities.
So next time you complain about that damn dirty hipster you’ve just seen wearing wellington boots in July, just try to think about whether he’s actually doing anyone any harm. Because just occasionally, it takes a deep breath and a moment of thought to realise that it’s us being judgmental and exclusive, and not the hipsters at all.
Photo credit: Chris Enns