Film & Media Studies Theory

Whitman College – FMS 387

The Death of the ‘Authentic’ Hipster

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I guess my post didn’t actually go up the first time, but here it goes again! Although now I feel very unoriginal given the two posts below (oh the irony).

original hipster

The philosophy of “the hipster” is primarily focused on the idea of individualism and the rejection of all things mainstream or pop-culture. The hipster strives to be unique and ironic, hobo and chic, intellectual and unpretentious (although, as Gilly pointed out, the attempt to be unpretentious leads to quite the opposite). Such a culture is fundamentally rooted in its opposition to the mainstream media, in its direct attempt to assert individualism by not caring what mainstream society proclaims as the norm. In theme with this, hipsters tend to have fairly liberal views, and are strong supporters of most causes that would seem to overturn the prevailing political structure; such causes as gay rights, the right to abortion, and the environmental movement. Everything that a hipster stands for necessarily screams “opposition” and “individualism.”

The one mistake that the hipster made, though, was to look so darn marketable.

Free-People-Americana-13urban outfittersfree-people1

Although you will almost never find a “true” hipster who will admit to being a hipster, there is no denying that hipster culture is everywhere in contemporary youth culture. Ironically enough, nowadays there is nothing more clichéd and mainstream than the hipster.  Storey claims that, “Youth cultures…always move from originality and opposition to commercial incorporation and ideology diffusion as the culture industries eventually succeed in marketing subcultural resistance for general consumption and profit” (Storey, pg. 82), and the hipster culture was by no means an exception. A movement that originated from the attempt to be unique, rebellious, and anything but ‘commercial’ has turned into the most marketable fashion for anyone aged 15-below 30.

This cultural hegemony was initiated by the very mainstream capitalist entrepreneurs that hipsters claimed to resent. Take Urban Outfitters for instance. U.O. is currently one of the most popular brand names in youth fashion, and it blatantly markets to this hipster culture ideology. Yet U.O.’s CEO Richard Hayne, a man who has known conservative tendencies, has become one of the 300 richest men in America because of his capitalization on “hipster culture.” Although Hayne had to make some sacrifices in order to market his brand, as Gramsci points out, “such sacrifices and…compromise cannot touch the essential” (Gramsci, pg. 76). For Haynes, all he had to do was keep quiet about his personal political views and private donations. The ultimate irony of the present-day-hipster, though, is that it is now the ultimate mainstream culture, something that used to be the very thing that it opposed. The true hipster movement died the day that its interests became fashionable, and thus economically profitable.

As a fun endnote, here is a video about the evolution of the hipster. Enjoy!


One thought on “The Death of the ‘Authentic’ Hipster

  1. Yeah, hipsters are pretty much the perfect example of the incorporation of a subculture.. I had no idea about UO’s CEO, but that doesn’t surprise me a ton. Anyway, I wonder how dissident “original” hipsters really were. I see hipsterism as primarily about fashion and appearance. Maybe that’s because of the prevalence of the modern day stereotype of hipsters, but how political were/are they really? Individualism and opposition for hipsters seem to have such a limited scope compared with the counterculture in the ’60s; they’re more about standing apart from the crowd through jumping on “progressive” bandwagons (though did they create these bandwagons?) rather than rejecting capitalist culture. Probably because their existence hinges on capitalism (as the funny movie says, they’re part wealth of the yuppy). Such a contradictory subculture! So much fun to critique!

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