The other day I was called a hipster because I like drinking tea. (I’ve been drinking tea for as long as I can remember.) Then the person also said I eat more as a vegetarian so I am definitely a hipster. (I don’t particularly care for the flesh of land animals so I don’t eat them much. But I do love fish.) They then went on to tell me that because I plan on attempting to bike this summer, all I’m really missing is the hipster “look.” (Skinny jeans are not my thing. I might be thin enough but I’ve got an African derriere and jeans are not my first dress choice.) Lastly, they told me because I write on here — Thought Catalog — “the ultimate hipster website,” I am unequivocally a hipster.
I died laughing. Okay, obviously I didn’t die. But the person was a random acquaintance I happen to run into sometimes at my neighborhood café. I texted some of my friends who told me that the idea of me being a hipster brought them to tears of laughter. I have nothing against hipsters — especially if I might be considered one. But those who know me well don’t consider me one. More importantly, I wouldn’t consider myself one. Still, it makes for a good popular cultural discourse question and has encouraged me to attempt to find a universal definition for the term. To do so, I went through the valid and reliable research method of posing the question on Facebook and Twitter, texting friends and acquaintances, and asking random people at my neighborhood coffee shop this morning about the term.
The following are the randomly selected data responses to the research question, “What is a hipster?”
“A scumbag.” Aras, 24
“A Democrat.” Dane, 24
“A smart, stylish, quick-thinking, counterculture twenty- something person whose clothing speaks of their persona: Tight black stovepipe pants, button-up form-fitting shirt, flashy jacket, and preferably, a small fedora.” Lee, almost 60.
“Hipsters say things like that’s so flame.” Nicole, 28
“A hipster is someone who is trying to hold on to their single and young life before it spirals out of control with marriage and children.” Maame, 25
“Lazy and no circulation in pants.” Simon, 37
“Psh…you don’t know?” James, 30
“Trying so hard to not be something that you are.” Ashlyn, 24
“Twenty-first century hippie, creative, edgy, indie, liberal, progressive, 20-30 year old. Basically the complete opposite of a prep.” Stephanie, 23
“What’s with the skinny jeans? Only other hipsters like them.” Grisha, 27
“Skinny people who wear tight clothes that appear to be from the thrift store but are indeed from American Apparel or Urban Outfitters. They want to give us the impression of not caring but that in itself shows how much they really do.” Beca, 24
“The word hipster has become a pejorative. People don’t wear it proudly. It’s not said in a way that is complimentary. The way that it’s meant is somebody is different just to be different.” Sarah, 34
“Hipsters; the less said, the better.” Ejus, 27
“Independent thinkers, progressive political minds; indie-like individuals who dress trendy, thrifty, and vintage. Earl, 24
“So different, they all look the same.” Steve, late 40s?
“Over-committed to irony, under-committed to relevance.” Kate, 21
“A twenty-first century Bohemian.” Peter, 26
“Oversized glasses to prove they are too cool to care about looking cool. Sara L., 25?
“A hipster is a weak person. It is someone that has accepted responsibility for nothing, yet feels entitled to judge everything. They’re the kid in the back of the classroom throwing spitballs at the classmates working hard. They don’t stand for anything yet criticize everything. Hipsters are the friends that complain about a party being boring, but never take on the responsibility of finding a new place to hang out. All in all, hipsters are just people that believe the world should cater to their needs and preferences without them having to roll up their sleeves and earn it. Hipsters are the reason I miss bullies in schools.” John, 27
“Hipsters can’t be defined because then they would be categorized which is the anti-hipster.” Gillian, 24
Given the data, my attempt to find a universal definition for hipster just became more complex. There is a general sense that hipsters are people who want to separate themselves from the mainstream culture through attire and attitude that includes but is not limited to tight, antiquated, yet trendy clothing, and a sufficient opposition to popular ideals. Of course, this criteria of opposing ideals comes into question if one considers that hipsters may constitute enough of the population to not be perceived as a counterculture but as a sect of the popular culture, even if they seek not to be categorized or defined.
With all that said, hipster sounds like too much effort for this girl who simply likes to follow Coco Chanel’s fashion advice and neither completely submits to the mainstream culture nor seeks to resolutely separate myself from it. Nonetheless, my quest to universalize hipster continues. So friends, let me have it: What are your responses to these responses? More importantly, let your voice be heard: What is a hipster?