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By Rebecca Fiedler
They can be found walking around college campuses in their vintage clothes, listening to the strange music of obscure artists through their headphones.
Many people follow their style precedent, yet many find them too egotistical to stand. They are hipsters, and they are taking America’s thrift shops and record stores by storm.
According to “The Indie Cred Test,” a humorous book on the indie and hipster culture by Henry H. Owings and Chunklet magazine, what sets a “hipster” baby apart from any normal infant, among other things, is that when having a diaper changed, the hipster child will likely stare at the popcorn ceiling and make connections to a Stephen Hawking theory.
As opposed to normal bedroom trappings, a hipster child will have their room decorated with “black and white photos of infamous heroin addicts.” It also offers a statement to hipsters.
“A lot of people just despise you. You’re living in the last days. You’re the butt-end of postmodernism, the ultimate shipwreck of American culture, the embodiment of self-absorbed nihilism with a dumb haircut,” said Owings and Chunklet in the book.
In a chart on Cracked.com written by Amaya Perea and designed by Randall Maynard, Perea interprets a number of things that hipsters say as really meaning, “I think I’m better than you.”
Further down the page, past the big chart, a satirical pie chart, anonymously presented on the page, declares that over half of a hipster’s persona consists of “unwarranted self importance.”
Dr. Lorynn Divita, associate professor in the department of family and consumer sciences, categorizes hipsters as a type of “style tribe,” just as “goths” or “preps” are types of style tribes.
She credits hipsters with being the first to bring to modern popularity vintage T-shirts, trapper hats, Buddy Holly glasses, the mountain-man trend including big beards and flannel shirts, handlebar mustaches, and, most recently, three-wolf-moon T-shirts.
“One thing that separates true hipsters from ‘wannabes’ is an appreciation of the very obscure; a knowing about the trivia involved with various aspects of music or art or beverages, even,” Divita said.
Hipsters, she added, are no different than any other style tribe. The hipster movement contains three distinct groups that are characteristic of a style tribe: those people who are innovators of the style, those people in the majority, and finally those people who are “wannabes” or posers.
Davita said that one trait that sets hipsters apart from other style tribes, however, is their affluence.
“They don’t really stand for anything, unlike some other groups,” Divita said.
Divita said the common theme of being a hipster is an appreciation of irony. Everything they do is adopted in an ironic sense.
“When the mainstream adopts it,” she said, “it’s without irony. They’ve seen it and gotten used to it, and they think it looks cool.”
Jake Patterson, a Common Grounds coffee shop employee and self-proclaimed hipster, said he had difficulty defining the hipster style and that to him, it is a collaboration of things that can’t be put into words.
“The idea of a hipster or ‘hip’ culture is the rejection of whatever the social norm is,” Patterson said.
Holden Whatley, Patterson’s co-worker and another self-proclaimed hipster, said the hipster culture is a primarily college-aged movement for people who reject being labeled, but do not want to lose recognition within their own culture.
Divita described hipster style as an evolving trend. After people in mainstream culture saw hipsters wearing some of their signature hipster clothes, those in mainstream culture began to follow suit.
She said that after a while, people began to develop a taste for hipster style, then the hipsters had to move on.
“I can tell you only one thing about ‘coolness,’” Divita said. “Once everybody’s doing it, it’s not cool.”
In terms of the music aspect of the hipster culture, however, Whatley finds that hyper-accepted, popular music doesn’t dissuade him. It actually makes the music more comfortable to him. What bothers him is when bands that he was really into and whose music he had a personal connection with become popular.
He says that he accepts “his” music becoming popular because it’s music’s job to grow up, but he feels less connected with a band once it takes off.
“It’s not because everyone knows about it and now it’s not cool,” Patterson said in regards to losing connection with a band’s music that has become popular. “It’s just more of a personal thing.”
Divita said being insulted or feeling hurt or angry when a trend one has a personal connection with becomes popular is not unique to hipsters. She said there is a big tendency in any style tribe to regard anyone new to the scene as less authentic.
Patterson said hip culture is about being more aware. He doesn’t see it as narcissism.
Patterson said he disagrees that rejecting popular culture is necessarily a factor in the hipster style.
For example, when he’s at work, Patterson said, sometimes he loves to hear Katy Perry music because he thinks that she’s talented, though his reasons for liking her would be different than someone else’s. He really does like to listen to her, Patterson said, because he likes her music and not to mock her.
Whatley said that he intentionally pushes himself outside of his comfort zone and listens to new types of music.
For a while he said he dumped out a lot of his iTunes library and put late 1970s to 1990s hip-hop on his iPod so that he wouldn’t have his comfort zone of musical styles and would be forced to explore that type of music.
Eventually he found himself only wanting to listen to hip-hop. After he learned more about it and gained a respect for it, he was able to appreciate it.
Divita said all style groups think that they’re better than everybody else, not just hipsters. All style groups have an egocentric viewpoint, she claimed.
Hipsters, she added, are one of the most recent tribes to spring up; that’s why she believes the narcissism stereotype is put on hipsters.
“I think they’d be disappointed to hear they’re more like everybody else than they’d want to imagine,” Divita said.
Whatley said the stereotyping of hipsters as narcissists is natural because of what hipsters do, which is things for themselves.
“‘Hipster’ means that you are — to break down narcissism — self-oriented,” Whatley said. “Thoughts of self, thoughts of one’s own perspective on things, thoughts of one’s own preferences, thoughts of how other people view and receive you as a person.”
Patterson said that people might think that, as hipsters, he and Whatley reject “mainstream style” people, but that he has many friends who don’t share his particular style.
He claimed that it’s more important for a person to be true to who they truly are; their specific interests are not as important.
“Don’t ever hide,” Whatley said, advice for anyone in the mainstream culture. “Don’t ever tell yourself that you need to follow the social trend, this norm, to be accepted, loved and respected by anyone.”