COLUMN: The Evolution Of Hipster-Dom
The Perks (And Problems) Of Being A Hipster
Published: Wednesday, September 11, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, September 11, 2013 23:09
The modern-day “hipster” has undergone many evolutionary transformations throughout its short but dynamic history. In fact, the hipster’s ancestry can be traced back to the dark ages of the early 2000s … back to the days of MySpace, iPod minis, emotional indie rock, and Hot Topic colored pants. I’m no Charles Darwin, but it can be deduced that the “scenesters,” “indie-kids,” and modern-day hipsters can all find a common ancestor in the self-titled “emo-kids” of the early 2000s. The common bond in all of these group labels is a general distaste for the mainstream, along with knowledge of the passing trends. Being trendy in today’s culture seems to have multiple implications and various routes that one can take. It could be possible, however, that through galvanizing efforts to oppose the conventional culture, people belonging to this alleged label are actually just buying into an entirely new lifestyle that has recently become more mainstream.
The year is 2003. You’re sitting alone in your room listening to the new Bright Eyes album that you just bought for your new iPod Mini. You’re not sure why you’re supposed to feel melancholic, but the music you’ve been listening to makes you feel like you’re missing out on something. You’re soon on your way to the hairdresser to get a new cut that hides your eyes under a curtain of layered bangs and later you may go spend the evening at a coffee shop. You hate listening to popular music—who is Eminem anyway?—and you consider yourself to be different from your peers, except those who have a hankering for Eliot Smith and The Perks of Being a Wallflower.
It’s now 2006 and you’re frantically updating your MySpace page. Your new lime-green skinny jeans from Hot Topic currently look great with your checkered Vans. You’re all about concert festivals these days and can’t wait to go see your favorite band All Time Low at Warped Tour next weekend. You may dye your hair black next week just to further this look of non-conformity that you have going for you. Before the day is over, you will probably have taken about 15 more mirror pictures for your profile, as you definitely have to fit in with all other 50,000 of your closest MySpace friends.
Time rolls on and you trade in your Cobra Starship mix tapes for Vampire Weekend records and take a trip to the mall to purchase a few pairs of skinny jeans and a bunch of white tee shirts. Your mantra is “obscurity” and anyone who listens to Top 40 music or reads anything that isn’t by Chuck Palahniuk or Dave Eggers is not worth your time or conversation. The years pass and you’re no longer this particular type of “indie kid” of the late 2000s, you’re a full-blown 2013 hipster. Your friends may sport ironic mustaches, if you’re male you most likely have a beard, and your vinyl and vintage camera collection is out of control. You used to spend your weekends going to concerts of bands like Fleet Foxes and Arcade Fire but now even they are too popular for your image. You must retreat “underground,” as the best bands are obviously the ones that nobody has heard of. You spend your break hours from your job at Starbucks perusing the shelves of Urban Outfitters, all the while still feeling like your cultural tastes are far superior to those of your peers.
What cultural trend erupted that led to this fast-paced evolution of people who oppose the commercial mainstream while also buying into it? While the cause may still be unknown, it is a fact that this general trajectory of people has formed a solidified American counterculture, even if it is one that is very similar to the mainstream in terms of consumption. Buying an overpriced pair of jeans at Urban Outfitters is no different than buying an overpriced jacket at J. Crew. Dedicating yourself to the IFC really isn’t much different than being a diehard fan of The Bachelor. Attending Sasquatch Music Festival is hardly unlike going to Coachella. The lifestyle trends of those who claim to be “less mainstream” than the average 20-something reflect a pattern in the changing marketing and media tactics that companies attempt to sell to this target age. Through this, the culture of obscurity has become a culture of popularity. While the ways in which this particular group chooses to express itself have drastically changed, the cultural mindsets and attitudes have remained constant over a decade from the “emo-kid” to the hipster.