The hipster question

Every so often someone refers to me or the Woodchuck crew as “hipster.”

The hipster aesthetic is an ever-changing thing, impossible to pin down (because once a style becomes established enough to recognize outside of the scene, it is no longer truly a hipster thing) and acts like an amoeba, grabbing and digesting whichever bits of cultural flotsam it can reach.  Trucker hats, keffiyehs, feathers in hair: all grabbed from other subcultures, adopted, cast off and instantly transformed into ubiquitous post-hipster de rigeur uniform for people at the mall.  Certain things I do, like thrift store shopping or drinking cheap beer, will always be considered hipster.

And right now hipster has absorbed the trappings of all things woodsy and homestead-related, and so making preserves, drinking whiskey, owning retro camping gear, having a bunch of mason jars and wearing flannel are hipster signifiers and I just have to deal with it.

Somehow I am on Urban Outfitters’ mailing list.  Once I flipped through their catalogue and found this full page picture, which now lives on the fridge.   From left to right, those are the commodified hipster doppelgängers of N, K, and yours truly.  It’s uncanny: N. has long hair and looks like he fell out of the 1990s; K. has commandeered the only chair, is wearing boots and is clearly in charge; and I am spacing out in flannel and a dress with a perfect facsimile of my “can’t be bothered to put in effort” go-to hairdo.  We’re not sure who the sleepy/dead girl is.

The difference is that we have been like this for years and years; actual hipsters assimilate the trappings of this lifestyle when they brush against other subcultures; Urban Outfitters’ customers buy newly made facsimiles of it.

I guess I’m uncomfortable with my lifestyle being described as “hip” because it sounds exclusive, when really there’s not much stopping most people from doing the stuff we do.  For instance: secondhand shopping is not an esoteric art, even though I’ve heard people refer to it like they’d talk about divining or snake charming.  If you’re new to thrift store shopping, just remember these rules: if a 16 year old stranger with a rat tail says you look good in a dress, you look good in that dress.  I don’t care if you are a 6’5″ man, buy that dress.  The concept of clothes having to match is a lie that has been sold to you by sinister and boring shadowy figures of fashion who want to sell more things in more solid colors.  If you feel like a billion dollars in something way off your beaten track, just get it: it probably doesn’t cost more than $5 anyway.  Don’t buy anything new if you could find it used.  Don’t buy anything used if you can’t actually see yourself wearing it or you’ll be stuck with a fierce cropped top short sleeved colorful baggy sweater vest haunting the back of your closet for years like I was.  And always take off one accessory before you leave the house,  just like that one fashionable person said.

There.  Go out and be called a hipster.  Let me know if you need to borrow any retro camping gear; I’ve had it since I was 8.

* “Unhip. Unhip. An old man at twenty-five.” – Bonnie Abbzug to George Washington Hayduke in Edward Abbey’s The Monkey Wrench Gang

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5 Responses to The hipster question

  1. nancy/n.o.e. says:

    That picture is you guys all over! (When I saw it on your fridge I didn’t even notice the dead/sleepy girl)

  2. SuperBad says:

    Nice Abbey quote. I think I recall shopping with you in Urban Outfitters at Lenox in A-town one time? To find some funny little book?

    Also on penultimate post, golf cart was genius – some credit to your mother for that, who with you came up with an entire weekend that was total genius.

    • allifer says:

      Yeah, and Hayduke’s rejoinder to that, which he thinks of later that night, is: “Today’s hip is tomorrow’s hype, kid.” Genius. It was probably the book on Russian criminal tattoos, which has been enlightening visitors via our coffee table on occasion.

  3. Durc says:

    I really like this post and I think I’m going to start refering people too it. For some reason a number of Alaskans have independantly asked me to explain the hipster “thing” to them, which is a little worrisome. Not sure why I get singled out on that one. On an unrelated note, a friend of mine once described the song “Home” by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros as a song about hipster love. I always really liked that.

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