21 May 2008

Most Annoying Hipster Affectation

Jim Jersey Beat started a thread by this same name over at the PPMB, and soon had everyone and his irate mama chiming in to enumerate what they most disliked about those pesky hipsters.

If there's anyone more judgmental than hipsters, it's got to be the punks, but alas, the punks are not always as keenly attuned to the shifting vagaries of fashion as they might be, so a great deal of hot air was expended in denouncing things like trucker hats, white belts and "girl pants," all very 2-5 years ago, if not downright last century. But considerable vitriol was also unleashed toward "ironic" beards and mustaches, phony jihad scarves (well, apparently the scarves are the real deal; the people wearing them, not so much), not to mention "ascots and neckerchiefs" ("Who are we," demands one poster, "Fred from Scooby Doo?").

As someone who's done his fair share of fulminating, especially about the scruffy beards and clothes that have been giving me horrific flashbacks to the 70s, I was surprised, pleasantly surprised, in fact, to discover that most of these things no longer bothered me. I've made my peace with the hipsters, apparently, not that any of them ever showed any indication whatsoever of caring what I thought. But even the beards, which for a year or two had been my bĂȘte noire, have become so much white noise to me as I wend my way through the Williamsburg streets.

Well, perhaps not completely... Last night as I was coming home I walked past the Metropolitan, reputed to be our neighborhood gay bar, but which I had always suspected of being merely another hipster hangout for boys and girls of tenuous or conflicted sexuality. I was quite surprised to see a couple guys rather passionately making out just outside the front door. Surprised, I say, because it's the first overtly gay activity I've ever noticed emanating from the place; previously I'd only ever seen the usual hipster suspects standing around smoking cigarettes and looking angst-ridden.

As it happened, one of the making-out dudes was smooth-cheeked or at least closely shaven, and actually kind of cute, whereas his osculatory partner was a standard-issue beardo. And some of the old revulsion came rushing back: how, I heard myself demanding, could you rub your face up against that?

But I digress. For the most part I no longer find myself thinking badly of hipsters based on facial hair or clothes or even that jaundiced view of the non-hipster world they wear along with their carefully sculpted Weltschmerz and anomie. Live and let live, I say, and as long as I'm living here in the heart of postgraduate sleepaway camp, it's about all I can say, if I want to keep my sanity.

Then Jenna Alive weighed in with one hipster affectation I truly can not abide: smoking. True, not all hipsters smoke, but a wildly disproportionate number do, and when you consider that these are not exactly unsophisticated or ignorant people, but have come from mostly well-to-do families and colleges that the vast majority of Americans could neither afford nor be accepted to, you have to believe that the conspicuous - and highly mannered - consumption of tobacco is indeed a fashion statement. A particularly stupid one, granted, but fashion nonetheless.

Even then, I could stretch my tolerance to include 20-somethings frantically smoking because they're hoping for an early death (and need to cling to something) were it not for the fact that they're inflicting their stink on everyone else around them. Ah, but you've heard me railing in that vein before, so I'll stop right there and reveal that while thinking about smoking, it dawned me that the one thing that really annoys me about hipsters is when they deny being hipsters.

Which they pretty much all do. In fact, serious hipsters actually get outraged and indignant if you so much as hint at the H-word in their presence. "What's a hipster?" they'll snarl, "just some ridiculous stereotype that means nothing at all in the real world."

"So it's just a complete and utter coincidence that you wear the same clothes and have the same facial fair and see the same movies and read the same books as every other 20-something in the neighborhood?"

"People can have common values and ideas without being lumped into stupid media characterizations. Calling someone a hipster, well, that's abusive, it's practically like a form of racism."

I have actually had several conversations with self-denying hipsters than ran along almost exactly those lines, and none ended satisfactorily. After the first or second, I learned that there was no point in pursuing this line of questioning, so I'd just nod my head sagely and let them go on disclaiming their hipsterness. But quietly I'd think to myself, "Other subcultures don't seem to have such a problem saying who they are - punk, hippies, hiphoppers, even emo kids wear their status almost like a badge of honor - so what is the hipsters' problem?

You know what, though? I actually don't care anymore. Or maybe I do, but I'm sleepy and want to go to bed. Tomorrow perhaps I'll find a hipster on the street and ask him to explain this to me, but more likely I'll stay in and watch the Champions League final between Man United and Chelsea. Maybe I'll even start growing a scruffy beard and claim that it's not a beard at all, just the result of my being so preoccupied with vital artistic concerns that I forgot to shave. As Chris Grivet would say, "Ha. No."


Jon Robinson said...

"So it's just a complete and utter coincidence that you wear the same clothes and have the same facial fair and see the same movies and read the same books as every other 20-something in the neighborhood?"

This similar to the way some racists describe Latinos. In my area people will substitute movies and books for parking cars on lawns and don't speak English. You can turn something like that into racism.

janelleblarg said...

Can we start a band called The Standard-Issue Beardos?

Anonymous said...

Larry, are you yourself gay? With such a big voice and a somewhat meaningful standing in the punk rock community I always have wondered why you don't become a spokesman for the community if indeed you are gay, which has been the assumption among most.

Tim M said...

Mind you, as a person who happens not to drink, smoke or do drugs, people have asked me if I'm straight-edge (or queer-edge). Nope. It's not a philosophical tenet around which I base my life. I don't do those things, but I don't go around hectoring others for doing them.

So it is possible to independently have a look without being part of a group that embraces that look. I was dressing sort of New Romantic in 1976.