I live near Wicker Park, a hipster cultural epicenter, and I honestly like a lot of the culture around me. I love to bike and the neighborhood is home to more than one awesome mural. But there is a real difference between the hipster culture (facial hair, biking, coffee, weird indie music) and hipster attitude. The ‘non-conformity at all costs’ attitude has become something that I cannot get behind. I agree that deriving your opinions, interests, and passion solely from popular opinion is shallow. But I’d argue that deriving your opinions, interests, and passion solely by seeking the opposite of popular opinion is a self-deluded form of shallow.
While I have some hipster friends who I love, there are things I can’t stand about the hipster attitude. Because the hipster attitude means that you’re trying really, really hard.
Here are six signs that you’re trying way too hard:
1. You complain that most music “just isn’t that deep.”
I once had a hipster friend tell me that my reggae music ‘lacks depth,’ as if there are certain combinations of notes and beats that are inherently deeper. Music is valuable because it evokes emotions and thoughts for the listener. Invalidating what someone gets out their music of choice is more shallow than feeling a sense of power after listening to Kelly Clarkson’s “Stronger” on repeat. So sometimes I like music that makes me feel relaxed and reminds me to appreciate simplicity. Who are you to judge that those emotions are less deep or meaningful than your own?
2. You think that anyone who likes ‘mainstream’ things like fashion, shopping, sports, etc. are unintelligent or somehow inferior.
Originality lies in passion, novel thoughts, and interesting connections between seemingly unrelated things. Lots of people exude passion for football or designer clothing, and can provide some really interesting unique insight into those topics. I will never follow hockey seriously, but I still value someone who can provide insight into what makes a great player, how to strategize in the sport, or why the industry operates in a particular way. Not everyone who likes these things is shallow, and there is a lot of intellectual exploration to do, even within ‘mainstream’ society.
3. You see bad habits as cool.
Smoking chain cigarettes is not cool. I really see no reason to do it other than trying to look or feel badass and getting a quick stress release. Otherwise you’re supporting a terrible industry, harming your health, making your breath smell like shit, wasting a ton of money, and polluting the environment with your cigarette butts. I understand if you start to smoke at a young age and then are unable to quit. I don’t mind if you smoke or drink an inordinate amount of coffee, but doing it in order to make yourself feel cool or alternative is kind of lame. Bad habits are bad because they’re inherently evil, they’re bad because they harm you and others without providing a significant benefit in return.
4. You complain about money while funding the above self-indulgent habits.
It sucks to have money issues and I can truly relate to twenty-somethings that struggle with finances. Affording an apartment, health care, transportation, food, and still getting fun/entertainment is difficult. I have a harder time relating to your inability to purchase produce or pay rent when you can afford a Starbucks-like $4 mocha from your local coffee joint everyday. Or when you smoke a $10 pack of cigarettes every day. There is a serious difference between being poor and broke.
5. You have an underlying discomfort with parts of your identity that look ‘mainstream.’
It’s okay to like the same things as everyone else. If you listen to K$sha, wait all year for the Superbowl, and drive to and from work everyday, that is fine, as long as you’re happy with it. The hipster attitude bothers me because ideally your thoughts, beliefs, ideas, actions, and opinions are based on what gives you inner peace and happiness, and not on others’ perceptions of you. Shouldn’t we like things that bring us joy and intellectual excitement, regardless of whether they’re mainstream or not? If your identity is solely based off of how you see yourself fitting into society, it seems like you might want to get in touch with yourself a bit. But maybe you drink a lot of PBR to cope. ;)
6. You’re constantly worried about how ‘cool’ things will sound later.
After an out-of-town concert, a hipster friend and I were debating where to crash: the back of the car or a hotel. We had made a hotel reservation and it was cold and we didn’t have blankets. I’d rather go for the hotel, I stated. I was met with a sneer and a, “Wow… I thought you’d be down to sleep in the car. Guess you’re not as cool as I thought.” Sorry I am so lame that I ruined your badass story.
It’s cool to do things that are actually badass (i.e. have a positive influence on others or contribute something unique). It’s not cool to do things that make you feel badass and serve no other purpose other than to sound good later (i.e. “yeah, man, we totally crashed in the car, it was pretty hardcore”).