Are You a Hipster or Scenester?

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Posted April 13, 2011 by Anthony Mariani in Blotch

Via Harper’s, a.k.a. the best magazine in the world, ever, below is a tasty sampling of multiple interviews conducted with young people as part of research for a paper published in The Journal of Consumer Research. The study “explores the identity of investments that consumers make in the field of indie consumption, which was been culturally branded by the hipster marketplace myth.”

James, 22, a student, said, “In some ways [being called a hipster] is sort of a compliment. I have been searching for an identity since I was a little kid. And to be associated with something that has to do with culture and being in the know about things and maybe having a bit of an edge about you, looking at things critically, society, things like that, being somewhat intellectual: I don’t think those are really bad things.”

Another student, Chris, 20, said, “Pabst Blue Ribbon. That’s the hipster beer. There’s that with everything. It’s exhausting, absolutely exhausting. And that’s why I don’t try to keep up with it. If I was sitting here right now, and I had girls’ jeans on, and a funky haircut, and was drinking Pabst Blue Ribbon all the time, and getting import copies of Swedish psychobilly folk noise pop, whatever the hell, and reading David Sedaris, and watching obscure samurai trash cult movies, if I was going for this just way-obscure, cooler-than-you-in-every-possible-conceivable-way kind of thing, I just wouldn’t really feel like myself anymore.”

(Um, no one under 30 has probably ever even heard of David Sedaris, Chris. I think –– though I don’t know for sure; I’m an oldice –– that the kids these days are into Dave Eggers, Zadie Smith, ZZ Packer, Heidi Julavits, and Jonathan Safran Foer. And that bald guy with the glasses who wrote Running With Scissors. That guy. And maybe Michael Chabon.)

Betty, 22, a customer service agent, said, “A hipster is somebody who cares about the music. They’re really cool looking, and I guess they shop at thrift stores. They’re ‘do-it-yourself’ and very heavily invested in the indie-music scene. A scenester is somebody who does it for fashion and gets their clothes at, like, Urban Outfitters and pays $200 for a pair of jeans, which I think is ridiculous, but that’s just me.”

The confused Scarlett, 22, a booking agent and retailer worker, said, “I’m not gonna lie. I shop at Urban [Outfitters] sometimes; only when it’s on sale, of course. I like doing a lot of the things that are the hipster thing to do, but I do them because I like them, not because they’re the cool thing to do. And because I am immersed in the social scene, where there are a lot of hipsters, people mistake me for being one of them.”

Tom, a 27-year-old bar manager, said, “Do I self-identify as [a hipster]? No, because, like, I’m just a little more anachronistic. I’m not as with it as a lot of people are. I don’t necessarily know every single weird obscure band. I don’t necessarily want to. I mean, yeah, I hang out with, like, a bunch of tattooed indie dorks. So, yeah, I guess I am, but I wouldn’t self-identify. Like, I listen to Lynyrd Skynyrd unapologetically. I [expletive deleted] love Skynyrd!”

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20 Comments


  1.  


  2.  
    Valdy Fox

    Music, clothes, preferred reading or retailers–very little of that can actually identify a hipster. The key is attitude: if you’re an unpleasant, stuck up d-bag with little tolerance or patience for different tastes, views or types of people, while at the same time liking music, art or books that are shallow, derivative or long forgotten, you’re a hipster. Conversely, if you merely /look/ like a hipster, but are really nice to be around and have managed to attract and keep non-hipster friends/significant others, then you’re likely not a hipster, just a cool guy/gal. Stay safe, kids. Use the d-bag test. Only YOU can prevent hipsters.




  3.  
    Jamal Jenkins

    Hipsters should be rounded up and used to power Matrix-style bio batteries, which the rest of civilization can use as a clean and renewable power source.




  4.  
    Anthony

    Interesting, Valdy, but I don’t see “hipster” as a pejorative. “Douchebag”? Absolutely. But a hipster is someone who’s pretty laid-back about life and is creative. And who has taste. Often very good taste. And there’s absolutely nothing elitist about having good freaking taste, though we all may be led to believe otherwise. And I’ve never heard anyone refer to an intolerant person who likes shallow music/art/film as a hipster. Sounds like a redneck or hillbilly to me.




  5.  
    Mats

    It seems that the term “hipster” is a brand thing, slapped on youth culture in much the same way rave or grunge culture was before it. The fact of the matter, is a selection of young urban college kids – have always had an obsessive eye on cultural currency – i.e., music, art, fashion and so on. How are today’s “hipsters” different form the college rock loving, zine reading, indie film going DIY group of kids I identified with in Uni during the early 90′s or the new wave crowd in the 80′s or the punks of the 70′s. The same irreverence towards authority is there, the same sense of irony. Hipsters are nothing special, but rather just doing what 20 somethings have always done.

    If there IS a difference, I think its the fact that we live in such a mediated world now that nothing is particularly “outside” anymore. So you’re really into Swedish Psycho Billy – so what, there are thousands of you just a click away – So there is a deflating sense now that you don’t really own your own youth subculture anymore, but rather simply exist as a target audience for marketers. That, and perhaps consequentially, and I think today’s “hipsters” are particularly politically disengaged compared to past generations – it’s all just fashion, and that is kind of too bad.




  6.  
    Mike Phink

    I agree with Valdy on this one, I think that there are people who definitely look like “hipsters” but are still cool people. It’s the d-baggery of the individual that really throws them over the line and into hipster territory.




  7.  
    Matt S

    The first guy (James, 22) is pretty indicative of what’s wrong with the whole Hipster scene. “Somewhat intellectual” like it’s bad to take it too far. And “being in the know”. In the know of what? If they know something I don’t, it probably not something I’d care to know to begin with.




  8.  
    jeff.prince

    Hey lay off the redneck hillbilly faction. The tag of “intolerant person who likes shallow music/art/film” describes most of society, young, old, right, and left, and not just rednecks. If this weren’t the case, there wouldn’t be any way to identify hipsters.




  9.  
    Anthony

    I guess I should have been clearer, Jeff. I was just looking for a demographic that fits the description, not necessarily the ONLY demographic. Mats: I couldn’t have said it any better myself.




  10.  
    Arrow

    ‘Hipster’ Is the new ‘liberal’ or ‘jew’. It’s just a name. Most of the ‘hipsters’ I know (ie listen to indie music, vegan, etc) use the term to disparage other people un-ironically.

    When did bike-riding become ‘hipster’? When did pabst become worth drinking? I used to smoke american spirits bc I thought they were healthier.




  11.  
    ShunkW

    I am over 50 and know EXACTLY who David Sedaris is. It’s Amy’s brother….And I guess I was a “hipster” in the ’60s because I started out on PBR…Which was not really very popular in Texas….LOL…If you want to see a funny ad by Amy check out her MS Office (VERY non hipster) go to Youtube and search for Rabbit Rescue.




  12.  
    Kimster

    @ Mats (on the politics note):
    Maybe it’s just my experience, but I always see that its the Hipsters showing up to protests, the hipsters making conscious choices to purchase fair trade/organic/eco-friendly/local/vegan, and the Hipsters listen to obscure bands that often have very political messages or underpinnings and the act of listening to local bands is a stick-it-to-the-man against giant media conglomerates and corporate power. The basis of why they ride bikes is because the use of them doesn’t pollute and they buy clothes at Value Village because they’d rather not contribute further to consumer culture and the consumption ethic. And they’re into intellectual topics because dammit, society is pretty anti-intellectual these days so somebody’s gotta keep it going! There are some exceptions (the Urban Outfitter types. Those are Scenesters anyway) but true Hipsters do what they do as some of the most political statements out there, and whether or not they make it to the polls doesn’t change that. In fact, these days you vote with your money so they’re doing just that everyday of their lives and it makes them more political than most of us. Might just be my experience though…?




  13.  
    Roy

    A real shame that hipsters and legions of others don’t make it to the polls. Helps explain why most office holders here in Texistan are fascist throwbacks.




  14.  
    John Gutts

    Hipsters are conformists.




  15.  
    Mark

    This whole hipster thing is ridiculous. Why hasnt someone opened a clothing store aimed at ‘hipsters’?
    They are just another group trying to not appear like one…




  16.  
    Anthony

    There IS a clothing store. Ever hear of Hot Topic?




  17.  
    Jack

    Hijole! Are y’all still doing this? I thought this article killed off this whole thing: http://nymag.com/news/features/69129/




  18.  
    Jill

    I am 16 and I know who David Sedaris is.




  19.  
    Anthony

    Jill, you’re growing up so fast.




  20.  

    I think the most influential asian celebrity is Tom Truong.





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