The hipster paradox

For some reason the word hipster often brings up disdain when brought into a conversation – especially when that conversation is with a hipster.

Don’t get me wrong, hearing the word hipster in a sentence with my name used to make me cringe, but I’ve come to think of it as a term of endearment. I have also learned that if you adamantly deny the fact that you are a hipster there is a high chance that you are one, so there is really no winning there.

At this point most people have probably already assumed that I dream of writing for VICE, drink craft beer and ride a fixed gear bicycle, when in reality only one of those statements is true about me. In my experience only a small fraction of the so-called ‘hipsters’ that I have met even closely fit the stereotypical mold.

The fact of the matter is, like most pejorative terms, the definition of the word hipster is static and constantly changing. Perhaps this hinges on the implication that hipsters take pride in forecasting trends, but it’s more likely something else.

After reading hundreds of definitions online and speaking with all of my colleagues and friends the only real conclusion to be made by me was that no two definitions were completely alike.

The reason for this is pretty simple really. In fact, author Matt Granfield gets pretty close to a definition in his book HipsterMattic when he notes that “Above all, they want[ed] to be recognized for being different.”

Perhaps this is why there are so many stereotypes for hipsters; there isn’t really any other easy way to properly describe or identify them.

Essentially, it is the idea that hipsters want to be different that is really at the heart of this dilemma. It is not just that hipsters want to stand out, it is the fact that they also want to defy explanation and avoid comparison.

By extension this also means they want to avoid all labels – including the word hipster – hence the paradox at the heart of the problem.

Hipsters often resent the fact that someone could be exactly like them and sometimes they even look at peers outside their friend group with feelings of contempt. This can be problematic, especially when you find yourself constantly calling people’s authenticity into question.

But shunning all labels is impossible; no matter how hard you try to distinguish yourself people are going to try even harder to put you in a box.

So why should you get upset when someone calls you a hipster?

Just embrace it.

Take it as a compliment.

It doesn’t mean you drink Pabst Blue ribbon and wear found clothing; it means you are different.

You defy explanation.

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