Every once in a while, I’ll be on the phone at work, interviewing a Ph.D. psychologist or whatnot, and the source will take on a slightly sheepish tone and ask if I’m also the Andrea Bartz who cowrote Stuff Hipsters Hate. It happened today, and before I could steer the subject back to mother-son relationships (a not entirely unrelated subject, if you think about it), the person on the other end of the line blurted out, “So what is a hipster?”
Later in the day, a good friend (who, despite her disparagement, lives in an up-and-coming Brooklyn neighborhood and wears skinny jeans) complained that Yelp had added a hipster quotient to its rating system. Now, Nabewise.com, a start-up that’s basically TripAdvisor for neighborhoods, already has a hipster rating, and I think the whole thing’s a grand idea. People like my hipster-loathing friend (she loves me, don’t worry) know what areas to avoid. People like me don’t get stuck at slightly scary biker bars in the Mission District because no one pointed us toward Tenderloin (which, let’s face it, we should have hit up based on the area name alone.)
I’m circling in on a grand point, though, which is that hipster’s only a derogatory term if you mean for it to be. As I explained to both the source and the bud today, there are really two ways to define a hipster: There’s the hipster aesthetic, which I and plenty of my friends fit — living in the gentrifying hood, wearing silly hats, camping out in dive bars and DIY music venues, pursuing creative endeavors, etc. Then there’s the hipster attitude, this absurd smug superiority wrapped around apathy, self-created romantic drama and an inability to actually accomplish anything. That’s what we’re harpooning and that’s what people mean when they’re using it disparagingly, I think. Sometimes it is a compliment — the New York Times cheerfully lauding the “hipster” exhibits at PS1, or whatever.
Now, I understand that it’s becoming passe to toss around the h-word (in New York, at least — I’d argue that the middle states’ curiosity is still piqued). But no one’s stating the obvious: Even if we stop using the term, so-called hipsters aren’t suddenly going to fling the fedoras from their shaggy heads and slip into button-up shirts and bootcut khakis. Call them what you will, but ten minutes on Montrose Avenue tells you that hipsters* aren’t on the decline, even in uber-hip over-it-before-you-heard-of-it Bushwick.
In short: Decrying the use of, or declaring the death of the hipster is the ultimate form of hipster snobbery: “God, you still care about hipsters? So 2008.”
*word meant however you take it