How Do People Afford To Be Hipsters?

We’ve all heard this idea that “hipster has lost all meaning” and “we don’t really know what a hipster is,” but come on, we know what they are. It’s the guy at the party who is trying so hard to be cool it’s physically painful to watch, and won’t stop talking about the film project he’s working on and all the people he saw at this other, presumably cooler, party the other night. The conversation (monologue) will last a good twenty or so minutes until he rides off into the sunset on his bicycle, rarely to be heard from again. We know these people, we see them every day, we watch them post the pictures that they took on a film camera, printed out, and then scanned to put on their Facebooks/blogs (because they need 3-step processes to fully encompass how much of a tool they are). They are individuals, and yet they’re all the same person. The girls, waify and distressed looking, wearing the kind of outfit that you imagine a heroin addict would put on if told to go to a fancy party and smile really big. The guys, in some combination of bespoke suits your grandfather would wear and things left over from the skate park that closed last year. And smoking, always smoking.

So we know what they are. But my question, and it’s one that troubles me deeply, is how the hell do they afford this lifestyle? I mean, let’s be honest, out of a hundred hipsters that refer to themselves as “photographers” and have Tumblrs full of pictures of homeless peoples’ shoes, a maximum of three of them have ever actually sold a piece, let alone at a decent price. Logistically speaking, and especially in an economic climate like this one, it is just unfeasible that such a kind of person would exist — let alone en masse. How strange, a cultural movement based on imaginary jobs, affected personalities, and expensive bicycles. Hipsters are truly the fops of the 21st century, only in a society that doesn’t allow for an entire class of people who are the human equivalent of marshmallow fluff.

I have had so many conversations with people I consider hipsters — let’s be honest, with people who, in the resigned moments of self-reflection, admit that they themselves are hipsters — about how expensive living in cities can be. Rent, food, clothes, everything is an exercise in Jenga-like budget and balancing. And they, without a trace of irony, will tell me that they don’t shop at “nice” or “expensive” stores, only “normal” ones like Urban Outfitters, American Apparel, and the like. Perhaps there is some society-wide joke I am missing out on, but as a 23-year-old, those stores are the definition of expensive. Sure, they’re not designer-level expensive, but it’s 40 dollars for a shirt and all you can be assured of is that the quality will be relatively shoddy. They are disposable, trend-driven clothes that should have the one-time-use price points of Forever 21, but because of some misplaced notion of “cool” bestowed upon them by hordes of unwashed white people, they have somehow become something so much more.

And rents, in a similar vein, seem to be in a similar vortex of illusion. Apartments, lofts, spacious abodes in big cities are shared by a few hipsters whose collective income — from all outside perspective — could not break the 1,000 dollar-a-month mark. Of course, it is the pinnacle of rude behavior to inquire as to how they pay for this, how much money they make, what the actual source of their income is, or how long they plan on trying to break into the film industry, so one is just left to wonder.

Of course, to some degree, we all know the answer. Pampered people who were raised in a culture of participation ribbons and being told that they were special, funded by parents who would cut 50,000 dollar-a-year checks so their children could “find themselves” at liberal arts school were bound to create monsters. You have a bunch of children told all of their lives that they were “special” — never, of course, clarifying that one has to earn the term “special,” that we no longer believe in divine mandate — and now they are spit into the world that demands hard, often unrewarding work. Nose to the grindstone stuff. And of course, there are probably a lot of exasperated white parents in cardigans subsidizing a lot of this behavior, these apartments, those clothes. There is a lot of hoping that the children will hit their early thirties and have some kind of revelation and become a productive, valuable member of society. And I will freely admit, when I was working days at a cafe and nights babysitting so I could avoid taking out loans, and would visit people’s Wes Anderson-directed lofts in the big city, I would get incredibly jealous. I wished I could effortlessly live a life that must, in some other plane of reality, cost an incredible amount of money. But that jealousy was fleeting, and so, I would imagine, is their lifestyle. TC mark

image – Shutterstock

Chelsea Fagan

Chelsea Fagan founded the blog The Financial Diet. She is on Twitter.


More From Thought Catalog

  • Alien in a Foreign Land

    I have recently moved to Williamsburg, I am not a hipster and have found the basic everyday costs of living to be more expensive than Manhattan.  Therefore, I have come to only one conclusion to the question you pose.  Trust funds.

  • victoria

    The irony that there’s an American Apparel ad at the bottom of this page….

    • Amanda

      Just noticed that and was going to point out the same thing…

    • Mildred Bonk

      My friends call thoughtcatalog “that hipster blog thing”

      • Sama

        Lol! I get a hipster vibe off this website too…on the other hand, this article speaks mighty, mighty truths. 

      • beatrice

        a lot of the writers on tc are “hipster” like but none of their articles ooze of it (cept for ryan o conn)

  • Samie

    alternatively, hipsters occasionally work when they’re not busy drinking out of mason jars and trying to find ‘authenticity’ in their lives of fabricated reality. 

  • Travis Baugh

    maybe they actually have jobs and actually do sell their art and actually live in a cheap housing situation and you are just wrong on every point

    • Guest


      loves it <3

    • macgyver51

       I picture you saying this as I would picture my 13 yr old cousin arguing with her parents about being grown up enough to make her own decisions… Dressed as a hipster

  • Polly Ester

    i feel more sorry for the people who take photos using analog cameras for the pure fascination of the workings of photography and the people who ride bikes because it’s simply better on so many levels (fitness, expense, environment); in other words, the people who have this now pejorative phrase brandied at them for no good reason apart from yet another case of putting people in boxes with labels on.  

    • Polly Ester

      ooh, i sound angry. i’m not really. just fed up of this zeitgeist.

    • Travis Baugh

      fucking hipster trust fund babies riding bikes instead of paying for gas and using $20 thrifted cameras instead of $5000 DSLRs

    • Tom

      Spot on! Totally agree here.

  • Feedbag

    Well that was unimaginative. Of course there are some overpriviliged trust fund kids out there living an unrealistic, self-absorbed (if a little enviable) lifestyle. But there are also a lot of young people who actually work for a living, make art / take photos to distract themselves from their working lives and still get slapped with the hipster label by lazy writers because they dress semi-fashionably.
    Hispter-baiting in all it’s forms is more hipster than hipsters now. Nice contribution.

  • Anonymous

    Maybe the clothes are really nice hand-me-downs? I’m lucky enough to have a really wasteful cousin that gives me clothes all the time. I never buy clothes, so I can have a shitty job [a CNA] and afford gadgets that I want!

    I’m sure that won’t last… once my cousin gets mature and stops tiring of her awesome clothes.

    • Anonymous

      If you’re wondering how SHE affords it, she’s a bartender with fake boobs, and I suspect she has other stuff on the side that I’d rather not accuse her of…

  • Anonymous

    “Hipsters” don’t shop at Urban Outfitters or AA – they largely shop at thrift stores.  Furthermore, many “hipsters” do have jobs other than being “photographers.”  I have a lot of friends that I’m sure you, Chelsea, would consider “hipsters,” who work full-time jobs as writers, sales associates at boutiques, editors, etc.  This whole article reeks of some sort of deep-rooted dislike and borderline jealousy of a group of people that the author seems to want to be part of.

    • Anonymous

      and you know what, fuck you Chelsea Fagan.  What are you doing with your life?  Writing for a fucking blog that only has a few good authors (see Mitch Swenson’s articles). 

      Sorry some people enjoy going to Liberal Arts colleges that sure, cost a lot of money.  But have you ever thought that our parents are actually *happy* to pay for our schooling when we worked our asses off to get to that college in the first place.  God forbid people did things they enjoyed, like make art (which by the way, many would view as “productive members of society”).  Just because I have no interest in being a uptight, greedy Wall St. Millionaire or Lawyer doesn’t mean that I’m not a “productive member of society.” 

      You’re a bitch*

      • Travis Baugh

        c-word is a bit much bro

      • Anonymous

        switched it for you. 

      • Guestropod

        wow, from cunt to bitch – good job, A++

      • Anonymous

        I’m not going to deign this mess with any justification, other than to say calling a woman a “cunt” because you disagree with her is truly the response of a petulant child. 

      • Tom

        Right on.

      • Anonymous

        Honestly whatever.  I shouldn’t dropped the word, hence the reason why I switched it.  But you can’t just say that because parents send their kids to liberal arts colleges, which by the way I don’t even attend, it makes them less productive members of society.  Don’t you find it interesting that being a writer, you are in a sense, bashing those who pursue their love of a craft that you are inherently part of?  

      • Tom


      • Cass

        hahaha editing “cunt” to “bitch” as if it makes the misogyny any less apparent get over yourself

      • Anonymous

        do you even know what the word means? Chris Brown is a misogynist – I am not sir.  I don’t believe in gender-identifying words, hence why I would call a girl a bitch, a boy a bitch, a girl a cunt, a boy a cunt.  Why don’t we settle on ass-hole, since that’s as word generally associated with men.  This article makes Chelsea seem like an ass-hole.  Am I still a misogynist or just a name-caller now?

        Quite frankly, I don’t care.  This argument is trivial and a waste of time, much like the KONY 2012/Invisible Children argument.

        I just found it quite interesting that the author of this article itself is bashing parents and their children for attending Liberal Arts colleges (among other things, like using film cameras instead of much more expensive DSLR ones), when her whole career is based off of a typical Liberal Arts education. 

      • macgyver51

        edit-(this was the original destination for my comment.)
        I was going to be nice and ignore your hipster drivel, then i saw the
        C-word. You sir, are a blight on the human community. Only someone who
        got mommy and daddy to pay for an expensive useless degree so they could
        pursue their hobby as an actual career would stoop to that kind of name
        calling. You may not work for Wall St. or or a law firm, but you talk
        just like them. Just because you blog and take pictures in your spare
        time doesn’t mean you’re any less depraved, its apparently in your
        nature regardless.

      • Anonymous

        for the record – it’s talk just like they do, not them.  My “useless” degree is coming in handy for one thing – correcting your poor grammar. 

      •!/ZachAmes macgyver51

        Bless your heart.

    • Ross Sciarrillo

       Says the offended hipster who’s friends have real jobs like “writers and sales associates”.

      • Anonymous

         Lol I’m not even close to being a “hipster,” or at least not the one that Chelsea seems to be describing.  Why isn’t being a writer or a sales associate a “real job?”  I used sales associate as an example because many people I know hold down jobs as sales associates, waitresses and the like to be able to continue their passion in writing.

        I mean why isn’t writing considered a “real job?”  Literature is an art that has been traced back to Sumerian times.  Sure all writers are bringing in $50,000+ a year, but who the fuck cares? Does that make the job less “real” than something else?  Art is one of the most important things in our world’s history – how can that not be considered real? 

        Ironic that being a writer isn’t considered a “real job” by people reading articles by writers on ThoughtCatalog.

      • Ross Sciarrillo

         Sorry you’re so offended bud.  And thanks for the history lesson on ancient Sumerian literature! That was a really cool story bro!

      • Anonymous

         You’re welcome!

      • Anonymous

        The complaint is not the type of employment, but rather a lifestyle that conspicuously lacks any sort of time consuming, income generating labors.

    • Anonymous

      A group like the collective offspring of wealthy New Englanders living on the paychecks of their parents until their late 20s? Yes, everyone would love to be that rich. Consider every-fucking-body in the boat of jealous, and wanting to live comfortably on minimal effort


    and now they are spit into the world that demands hard, often unrewarding work. ”  yep

  • Anon

    haaaaaaaha. Shut up y’all, this post is truth. especially the “we don’t know how they afford it and we don’t ask because it’s rude ” thingy.  

  • macgyver51

    Atlanta has a “thrift store” called Rag-O-Rama in its hipster section. Its basically actual thrift store clothes that they’ve marked up 5-10 times the original price. Its always packed, and it always fills me with sadness/contempt/anger.

    • Tanya Salyers

      we have rag o rama in columbus too!

      • macgyver51

         I wonder how that changes the nature of things, to know that such an authentic shop is a chain!

  • Raymond Thimmes

    My sympathies to the parents.

  • Sam

    You generalizing, bro?


    • Ross Sciarrillo

       y u mad tho

  • MP9090909

    This story reeks of jealousy.

  • Anonymous

    how do people afford to be writers ?

    • Anonymous

       By living VERY cheaply. =) It’s worth it, though.

    • Extremeknibbs

      I’m a freelance writer and I have a livable income, you just need to find a publication that will give you decent monthly pay (and have a flexible definition of “decent”).

      But mainly: Target, thrift stores, and not eating lunch. And no car, no kids, and no dental insurance.

  • Ross Sciarrillo

     Says the offended hipster who “worked his ass off to get into a liberal college”.

  • AE

    Trust funds are definitely the answer to this painfully played out question which you so refreshingly brought back to the surface. Seriously, can’t we stop beating this dead horse? Rich kids are what they are, so why don’t you quit your broken record whiney bitch routine and move forward with the idea that EVERYONE IS DIFFERENT & SOME OF THEM ARE RICH, SPOILED SNOBS. 

    • JoAnna

      not all hipsters are rich… i’ve been called a hipster, i live in a cheap apartment in the east side of austin (pretty ghetto) and i pay for my community college using scholarships. all of my nice clothes are bought on sale, thrifted, borrowed, or stolen. my expensive bike pays for itself in the money it saves on gas.

  • macgyver51

    I was going to be nice and ignore your hipster drivel, then i saw the C-word. You sir, are a blight on the human community. Only someone who got mommy and daddy to pay for an expensive useless degree so they could pursue their hobby as an actual career would stoop to that kind of name calling. You may not work for Wall St. or or a law firm, but you talk just like them. Just because you blog and take pictures in your spare time doesn’t mean you’re any less depraved, its apparently in your nature regardless.

    • Tom


  • Sam

     “Grrrrr! All these people look like they’re having more fun than me! They must be lazy or something.”

  • Tanya Salyers

    Harsh.  Why so angry?  This was filled with bitterness, and perhaps jealousy.

  • Charles Reinhardt

    I’ll tell you how I afford it. I sit in a fucking office all day. 

    • Charles Reinhardt

      Also: author is hipster. 

      • Patrick

        Also: author has a Tumblr (a ‘hipster’ media platform).  

    • AMA

      A-effing- MEN.

  • S.

    yes please, let’s have this NEW AND INTERESTING discussion again. 

  • Anonymous

    Hi, I’m a hipster.

    Or, at least, if you saw my style of dress, and then asked me what I did for a living (freelance writing), you’d probably conclude that I must be a useless fop like the ones you so enthusiastically trash here.

    The reality is that I actually do fully support my dog and my less-than-plush lifestyle on a writing income, without any parental help. I could also tell you that I worked all through college to pay my own tuition, but my guess is that you wouldn’t really care about any of that, because you’d rather have someone to look down on. For your sake I hope you learn early how immature it is to judge people based how they dress.

    By the way, I afford my “lifestyle” by shopping at Target, thrift stores, and King Soopers. Thanks for asking.

    • Ross Sciarrillo

      “Hi, I’m the exception to the rule, therefore the rule does not exist”

      Fixed that for youu

      • Anonymous

         “I like stereotypes, so imma gunna keep using them to judge people even though I know they aren’t always true.”

        Seems legit. Keep up the good work.

      • Ross Sciarrillo

         wait who said anything about stereotypes being ALWAYS true?  You seem confused?

  • Anonymous

    Chelsea, this article is awesome and hilarious. You have successfully trolled a large portion of the readership by asking them that very question that is very truly “the pinnacle of rude behavior”  , in a clever, public way. Apparently white guilt and defense of the ancient sumerian art of creating literature are all anyone needs to live a happy and comfortable life in the big city. Also, you’re just jealous (thats what their parents told them to say when someone called them a ‘weirdo’ in high school  and they didn’t like it)

  • Mwah

    What is some people’s problem with the culture that is considered “hipster”? All I see between the lines here is a hint a of jealousy that some people’s parents DO believe they’re special and support them in their choices, regardless whether studying liberal arts or medicine.

    Not everybody chooses to live a life of mediocrity in their cubicle and die unnoticed. This article is close-minded, unimaginative and unoriginal. Negative two stars out of ten honestly. Personally I’ve been identified as a hipster, which should be taken in stride as any other label (as a side note, what “mainstream” trend is ever NOT hated by the mediocre crowd who refuses to distinguish themselves?) and I’m in school studying medicine. My parents love me and have always supported my dreams and goals.

    There is so much to say about this article but taking into consideration your self-victimization you’re not going to hear any of it anyways.

    • Anonymous

      So you’re making the argument that people who follow what you call the “mainstream” hipster trend are super original, and people who don’t want to follow the trend are mediocre and don’t want to distinguish themselves? That’s…”special.”

    • Lillian

      My parents loved me and supported me in my choices, even when I went to music school. I was always told I was special, always told that I could do whatever I want. However, I would never be complaisant to be living off of their support while “finding myself.”

      I think it’s a common misconception that the norm is to rot in a cubicle. I think that society places a lot of value on having that cool job that you love and want to do forever, whether that be a financial analyst, an engineer, a musician, an artist, a travel editor, a fisherman, a whatever.

      I think the letter writer’s concern with hipsters is the lack of expressed, obtainable goals and the motivation to achieve them that will lead to a financially sound and fulfilling future. Without ever facing adversity in obtaining something, one loses a lot of that drive.

blog comments powered by Disqus