The term “hipster” has out-stayed its welcome across all media and casual conversations alike. I’m all for labels when they apply. Sometimes, stereotypes exist for a reason. Clichés can be nice and comfortable. Streamline and standard is just a-ok. Categories are nice and neat. But other times, it’s just a simple lack of creativity. It’s also lazy and cringe inducingly inane. Every time I hear or read the term “hipster,” it’s like someone’s right-wing conservative parent saying “those club drugs,” “homosexuals,” “that rock music” or “blacks.” It just sounds…stupid. So please, writers, cultural commentators, casual observers and the general public, stop using it.
Let it be known that I’m not talking about the cultural tourists or the Johnny-come-latelys that used to buy a trucker cap for their weekend slop-fests at Misshapes or Rough Club. Those people actually sucked, but they weren’t “hipsters” either. I’m talking about when someone with tattoos or gauged earrings, or a waxed mustache, or someone otherwise deemed as such, is called a hipster.
In the early and mid-2000s, sure, it was kind of funny to use. The group in reference wasn’t quite emo, nor quite punk or rock n’ roll. What were they? Who were they? Apparently, some of them had trust funds? So some Time Out New York writers misappropriated a word that was once associated with the way back cool kids like Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg, and all those other fashionable jazz agers. They applied it to those wacky modern art kids living in shitty, rat infested lofts in Williamsburg and the coke holes of the Lower East Side. They had funny hair and listened to rowdy music, drank cheap beer, and had the “wildest fashions.” Then Gawker got ahold of the word and, well, then everyone just co-opted it for themselves. Finally, there was a seemingly derogatory term that all could agree upon for those holier-than-thou assholes. Fuck you, dude in skinny jeans. You’re a hipster.
This word bounced around the New York City lexicon for years. It would come and it would go (for a minute), then resurface again when neighborhoods began to change or a new half-assed music scene broke into the mainstream. Myspace died, Facebook exploded. Urban Outfitters and the GAP named some ill-conceived articles of clothing after them and their neighborhoods, Red Bull sponsored their concerts. The “hipster” culture was everywhere. And the underground began to die. Fringe became a bootleg novelty. Anyone could read five Wikipedia pages and sound like he/she knew everything about something. That movie you thought only you knew about? It’s on Netflix. That band you saw perform in an old slaughterhouse in Queens, the one you were certain no one had ever heard of? Pitchfork gave them 9 stars. Things had changed.
By 2010, to say “hipster” was just plain old goofy. New York was a full-blown shopping mall, and most things cool or interesting now belonged to the wealthy and the bridge and tunnels, and to other, less interesting cities across the country. Williamsburg was overrun with shiny glass residential buildings, strollers and over-priced restaurants, and the Lower East Side was breathing its last, sad breath. Interpol and MGMT had long gone down the toilet, and the Barney’s sale had really started to suck. Our beautiful metropolis, once safe from the normal world, was slipping away, it seemed. It became apparent that the era of the “hipster” was finally over.
Now, well into 2013, it’s downright lame to call anyone a “hipster.” Apologies to anyone who finds comfort in this old, and now familiar word, but you’re bright people, I’m sure. Think of something more creative to say. Think back to a time when that was ALMOST all we had to complain about. Recall a day when know-it-all indie kids and their asymmetrical clothes and ugly hair, their stupid glasses and uncomfortably tight jeans were who irritated us the most. Stop and look around at the money culture that has pillaged our once artistic haven where we welcomed those people, hated or not. Its priced-out the very artists that made it what it is (was), and cast them to the outer edges of the burroughs. As the rest of the culturally starved world encroaches ever so more upon us, it has to be asked: isn’t there some strange irony (ha!) in the fact that what was once (and still is?) so disliked is the very thing that almost perfectly characterized a really amazing time in the city? The answer, whether we like it or not, is yes. Surprisingly, those “hipsters” helped define the last good old days of a grungier, fringy New York. Maybe, just maybe, they were fucking cool after all.
So for fear of sounding like an idiot or just because it’s not really relevant or funny anymore, stop saying “hipster.” I’ll take a so-called “hipster” over the dead-eyed, primetime, multiplex, radio friendly pop tunes bore-fests who’ve settled so comfortably in those luxury converted tenements and lofts. I’ll gladly talk to no end with them about their 80s morning cartoons obsession and obscure vinyl, unicorns and coke binges. Give me the insecure and the fashion-disabled, the awkward and the insolent. Please, scoff at me for not knowing of some awful dead poet from Croatia or the filmmaker’s society that lives at the bottom of the sea. Wear your fucking scarf inside, and in the dead of August if you want. Let this be a city where creativity prevails again, even if some of it’s achingly pretentious and annoyingly stupid in every way. If that means we can have just a little bit of that New York back, that sort of cleaned-up but still gritty, nasty, amazing NYC, I’ll take it. At least then I wouldn’t feel like the city of my childhood dreams had finally been put to bed.
I’d rather that.