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“Hipster” is a media stereotype commonly associated with young middle-class adults who share certain interests or values in alternative cultures, mainly independent label music, film and art. Today, the term is predominantly used as a pejorative label to describe someone who outwardly seeks nonconformity through niche consumerism and boycott against mainstream culture.
Hip is an American slang term vaguely meaning “fashionably current.” But since the term doesn’t refer to one specific quality (similar to “cool”), what is actually considered hip is ever-changing and therefore impossible to define. The term “hipster” was originally used in the 1940s to describe someone actively engaged in Bebop music and swing jazz social scenes. In his article “A Portrait of the Hipster” published in June 1948 issue of Partisan Review, American literary critic Anatole Broyard wrote:
“The hipster--once an unregenerate individualist, an underground poet, a guerilla--had become a pretentious poet laureate. His old subversiveness, his ferocity, was now so manifestly rhetorical as to be obviously harmless. He was bought and placed in the zoo.”
Portrayal in the Media
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the term “hipster” was mostly used in news articles and reviews in referring to the Beat Generation artists and similar aesthetics. Beginning in the late 1990s, the term became closely linked with trends in contemporary music and bohemian fashion scenes, particularly in major cities across the Americas, Australia and Europe. In 2000, the term “hipster” was introduced to a broader audience in Malcolm Gladwell’s best-selling non-fiction The Tipping Point as a marketing catchall referring to the young and influential consumer demographics. In 2003, bloggers of FreeWilliamsburg published a book titled “The Hipster Handbook,” satirizing the codes and value system of twenty-something residents in Williamsburg, Brooklyn area.
In the 2000s, the connotation of a “hipster” went through a period of major transition from a neutral term used to identify oneself with independent music scenes to a derogatory, self-exclusive label in describing someone who tries too hard to be cool, similar to the usage of the term “tool.” The first Urban Dictionary entry on “Hipster” was submitted on Sep 29th, 2003, defined as the following:
a person who exclusively identifies themselves with a group of hip urbanites by doning the requisute dress, attitude and lifestyle. a person who attempts to rebel against society as a whole, and assert their individuality but only succeeds in becoming a unoriginal drone of the smaller sub-culture and thus becoming regimented by the sub-culture’s mores.
There are at least one thousand definition entries linked to the keyword “hipster” on Urban Dictionary, most of which consist of non-conventional derivative terms created by the few. Out of 52,567 word entries that begin with the letter H, the term “hipster” is the fourth most popular words after “horny,” “high school” and “harry potter” (as of September 2011).
Around the same time, a number of internet blogs and online communities became closely associated with the indie music scene, such as LiveJournal, Pitchfork and FreeWilliamsburg among others. Other notable publications in the late 1990s include the launch of Urban Hipsters comic series and Epinions review of Williamsburg, Brooklyn in New York City. With the launch of MySpace in August 2003, the online presence of indie music and DIY cultures continued to grow.
In 2003, several LiveJournal communities bearing the word “hipster” emerged: TheHipsterBookClub, a community blog dedicated to sharing and discussing influential book titles was launched in October 2003; Hipster Review, an album review blog “by hipsters, for hipsters,” was launched in August 2004; and Hipster Scouts in February 2005.
While the majority of “hipster-themed” blogs came to be written as satires or hate groups, numerous LiveJournal communities and blogs launched in the early 2000s confirm that the term was once used to identify oneself with a larger group of indie culture enthusiasts. The earliest known anti-hipster community on LiveJournal was launched in October 2004 with Kill All Hipsters.
There are over 526 Facebook pages and profiles containing the word “hipster,” many of which are anti-hipster or satire groups. Some of the more conspicuous anti-hipster groups include “Die Hipsters,” “Hipsters Suck,” “I Hate Hipsters,” “Hipsters who Hate Hipsters who Hate Other Hipsters for Being Hipsters” and “Burning cardigans in front of Hipsters and watching them cry,” all of which have thousands of likes. There are also Spanish-language Facebook groups like “Hipsters que creen que lo han descubierto TODO y que tú solo les copias” (Hipsters who think they have discovered everything and copying them yourself).
Resurgence in the Media
The anti-hipster sentiment began to run rampant as early as in 2003, quickly entering the American media’s zeitgeist. By 2009, the phenomenon of “hipster-bashing” has been reported on as an urban trend, particularly in the gentrifying neighborhoods like Brooklyn, New York and Oakland, California:
On May 13th, 2013, Public Policy Polling released data from a poll of 571 registered voters across the United States finding that 42% of Americans disprove of the hipster subculture. Additionally, 46% of those polled considered hipster culture “soulless,” taking aspects from other cultures out of irony instead of genuine appreciation and 27% believed hipsters should be subjected to a tax for being annoying. Despite this, half of the voters polled between the ages of 18 and 29 considered themselves hipsters. In response to the results, residents of Fort Collins, Colorado argued that real hipsters would not identify themselves by the label. Brooklyn, NY-focused blog Brokelyn offered a tongue-in-cheek response, understanding why people would dislike the stereotype.
October 2007 saw the launch of Hipster Runoff, an indie music, fashion and culture blog run by the pseudonymous blogger Carles, who became known as an influential online publication reporting on emerging trends within the so-called “hipster culture.” Similar to The Hipster Handbook, the blog became well-known for its tongue-in-cheek style of writing and ironic use of the term “hipster.”
The renaissance of Hipster parodies came with the rise of Tumblr, a microblogging service that came to be heavily geared towards young, creative-professional internet users. Some of the earliest parody blogs and arguably self-parody blogs launched in 2009 include Look At This Fucking Hipster, Hipster Bingo  and Stuff Hipsters Hate.
- September 2008: Hipster Suck
- March 2009: Look At This Fucking Hipster
- April 2009: Hipster Bingo
- July 2009: Stuff Hipsters Hate
- October 2009: Hipster is the New Homeless
- January 2010: Hipster Puppies
- Jan 2010: Unhappy Hipsters
- June 2010: Fuck Yeah Hipster Kitty
- June 2010: Hackney Hipster Hate
- August 2010: Hipster Hitler
- February 2011: Hipster Ariel
- February 2011: Hell Yes Hipster Disney
- May 2011: Hipster Fables
Hipster Olympics is a YouTube comedy sketch uploaded in August 2007 by Brooklyn-based troupe POYKPAK, who portray five Williamsburg hipsters competing in rounds of hilarious faux-sporting events like racing to the ATM for cash and speed shopping for the most obscure records at the flea market. Within first two months of YouTube upload, it received over million views and nearly 2,000 comments, even spawning a number of sequels.
Advice Animal Characters
Hipster Kitty was the first advice animal image macro series to provide commentaries on Hipsterdom, based on a painting titled “Allison” by artist Craig Wheat. The image was lated posted on Tumblr with a caption poking fun at the jaded mannerisms of hipsters, spawning an extensive series of jokes centered around the hoodie-wearing feline. The meme inspired sequels like Hipster Ariel featuring a hip version of the Disney character Ariel the Little Mermaid and other Hipster Disney Characters image macros.
Time Travelling Hipster
In April of 2010, a certain photograph dated circa 1940 of a crowd in British Colombia province of Canada caught the attention of the Internet, after a viewer noted that one of the people in the photograph looked out of place. Since then, people have photoshopped an exploitable image of the subject into various historical scenes and old photographs, building on the myth of a Time Traveling Hipster.
Interior Semiotics is a viral video uploaded in May 2010 on YouTube, later gaining widespread popularity in early-August 2010. The video depicts a young art school student engaging in a bizarre art performance, which includes opening a can of SpaghettiO’s, rubbing them on her shirt, and proceeding to finger herself and urinate in a can. Due to its prominent display of “hipsters” watching the performance, the video quickly became an example of the ridiculousness of hipster culture.
Throughout 2010, thick-rimmed glasses like the Rayban Wayfarers became used as an iconic add-on accessory to turn any character into a know-it-all “hipster.”
Hipster Edits refer to a series of image macros that have been revised to poke fun at the ostensibly meaningful quotes and monologues often found in “confessional photocards” that initially became a popular theme in artist communities like DeviantART and LiveJournal and later carried over to Tumblr. A Hipster-edited image typically consists of a picture taken with mobile photo apps like Instagram and an original caption, accompanied by a buzzkilling revision denoted underneath in red text.
Search queries for “hipster” have been consistently increasing since the early 2000s and began to accelerate in 2009, eventually superseding the search interest in the term “hippie.”
FreeWilliamsburg – The Williamsburg, Brooklyn Based Culture Publication