We all like to think of ourselves as idiosyncratic, unique and rare. We’re taught from an early age that no two people are the same, that no one else has our exact same fingerprints, and that we’re all truly one of a kind. We get offended when we’re compared to whatshisface or whatshername, quickly listing at least 5 things off the top of our heads to defend our identities and characteristics from being categorized or shared.
Case in point: I’m commonly referred to as a “hipster”. This makes absolutely no sense to me. For one thing, I’m not pretentious (I’m one of the most humble people I know!). I’m neither vegetarian nor vegan (bacon makes everything better). I hardly have any facial hair, I exercise regularly and I believe in good hygiene. Also, not a fan of PBR.
But I could totally see how people come to that conclusion. I’m pretty eccentric. I live in a gentrified part of town close to Silverlake. I shop at thrift stores, my pants are apparently always too colorful and tight, I listen to obscure(ish) music and wear Buddy Holly bifocals (and use the term “bifocals”). I tried really hard to avoid watching Portlandia, just to have one less thing relating me to hipster culture. I failed. But all of that happened before I even knew or heard of what a “hipster” was. And by virtue of saying that, I am a hipster by default. But it was all an accident, I swear!
I’m a first generation American. That’s a euphemistic way of saying I grew up with hand-me-downs and ugly clothes from the Salvation Army. My parents’ sense of fashion came from India in the 1960s, which basically guaranteed that I remain a virgin for life by preventing me from getting to first base…ever. I remember going to school with the ugliest outfits in class, hating then what I’ve grown to embrace today. Apparently, the things that made us weird when we were kids are now cherished and sought after by people trying desperately to separate themselves from the status quo.
They, like the rest of us, are all conformists to some system or another, whether we’re aware of it or not. For most of us, the first system we’re exposed to is school. It’s there where we realize that being different is a great way of getting brandished as a weirdo or an outcast or simply being fodder for bullies. So we learn to relinquish our pristine, untarnished identities for the sake of our social development. As we do so, we succumb to preconceived notions of what is and isn’t cool, as defined by what’s currently mainstream and trendy. We’re blasted by signals from every channel in this world, trying to automate our thinking and behavior, thereby forgoing any need for individual thought or creativity. Some rise to the top of this conformity, becoming pillars of popularity, blissfully unaware of their sheep-like nature. Others try their best to jump on the bandwagon, though fall short due to barriers outside of their control (“This isn’t Abercrombie! I hate you Mom!”). The rest of us reject this process altogether, acknowledging that such a system may be convenient initially, but ultimately detrimental to our identities.
And therein lies the fundamental characteristic to being a hipster – one who marches to the beat of their own drum. Taking pride in one’s identity, embracing individuality and being indifferent to the mainstream and the underground alike. Expressing skepticism towards things that rise quickly to popularity. Expressing oneself creatively without any regard for external approval or scrutiny. A friend of mine’s former roommate once said:
“I’d rather be fake and have someone like me than be honest and have them not like me”.
If you find that to be completely absurd and ludicrous, then you adhere to hipsterism to some degree. What you’ve come to vehemently hate is really just an imitation, a shell, a fad. It’s become commercialized, and as such will be forgotten tomorrow and replaced with some other sub-culture, bastardized for the next generation.
I know that I’ll be labeled a hipster simply for writing this post, but I’ll continue to remain in denial, blissfully ignoring all the telltale signs and instead defending myself to friends and other hipsters alike.