About Me

I am a nineteen year old student living in the Bay Area along with my sisters (ages 24&17) and my dog, a stud of a boxer (age 8). I am originally from Nevada City, CA but after spending some time at 4 year in Seattle and not liking it, I didn't want to head back to school in good ol' Nevada County, so I moved to the Silicon Valley, where there is much more going on. I do however miss aspects of Nevada City, including being surrounded by pine trees a good 95% of the time, the historic downtown, and of course, the beautiful Yuba river. I love the outdoors, eating lots of good, healthy foods, and crafting whatever I can get my hands on. At Seattle, I was studying civil engineering, but I am changing my course and thinking about following in my dad's footsteps as a lawyer. But, who knows, I'll most likely change my mind 6 times before I graduate. That's me in a nutshell: I like the sun, eating, math, and crafts. What a combo!

Friday, June 21, 2013

Popular Culture: The Nonconformity Essence of the Hipster Subculture

“People don’t like to be labeled. Who wants to be predictable? Who wants to be hipster? The most hipster-y thing you can do is living your life constantly evading being labeled as a hipster” (The Daily Texan:Defining and Exploring Modern-Day Hipster Culture”). [1] This idea is certainly an oxymoron; in order to be a hipster, one must completely try not to be a hipster, thus, making oneself more and more hip.  For this reason alone, it is arduous to pinpoint the obvious essence of hipsters. So, although not apparent at first, the core value, or “essence”, that holds this subculture together is each individual’s strong sense of independence, or nonconformity. Furthermore, this essence can simply be as seen as the rejection of mainstream consumption and behaviors.

One way to assess a group’s culture is through its behaviors with style and fashion. The easiest ways to spot hipsters is by the way they dress and even more, where they purchase their clothing. Hipsters, more often than not, buy recycled clothing either from vintage or thrift stores. Most likely, one will not see a bright yellow Forever 21 or bulging Old Navy bag grasped in the hand of a hipster, as this subculture greatly opposes the consumption of mainstream products. This disapproval is directly seen in the hipster essence; by purchasing and wearing pre-owned clothes, the hipster makes the bold point of defying mass-made products and in turn is viewed as rebellious, or as a nonconformist. Last week, I visited my twenty-six year old cousin who lives in the Mission neighborhood in San Francisco, notoriously known for being a freethinker locality; he too himself would be considered a hipster.  The two of us got to talking about the bohemian lifestyle and oxymoron in being a hipster. He put it simply: “ I don’t mind being called a ‘hipster’; I don’t see it as a negative thing. Really, I think it’s kind of cool because I see it as people think I have some sort of fashion sense”.  He went on to tell me that he enjoys buying items not found at huge department stores because it is more fulfilling to wear clothes that not everyone owns and that have some kind of story. From his words, one could infer that being a hipster simply means having a distinctive sense of style even while not wearing the most popular brands, and in turn demonstrates the hipster’s desire to resist prevalent products.

Hipsters oppose mainstream ideas of dating and the systems of physical attraction. In America, media has formed ideas of what beauty is and what a woman or man should look like. However, the hipster subculture has changed the dating scene to whereas it is now acceptable for a man to be as thin as his girlfriend, wear tight jeans, and a deep V-neck tee. As well, it is completely acceptable for females to be in a relationship with these types of partners. The typical athletic, sporty male and bleach blonde, bronzed female are seen as unappealing to individuals of this subculture. This directly demonstrates the hipster essence of bohemianism because they are redefining the guidelines of dating by opposing the present standards. Having androgynous attributes in a partner are not seen as common by Americans. As stated before, Americans have general standards for dating, where the man is masculine and the female extremely feminine. Yet, these cross-sexual features are completely acceptable in the hipster subculture. For instance, my hip friend hates when her guy roommate works out. She finds it unattractive for guys to “bulk up” and admittedly prefers a scrawny, lean look in a partner. Whereas most females would prefer a more masculine partner, hipsters have defined a new way of dating and thus have maintained the essence of opposition.

Another approach of demonstrating this subculture’s essence is through the use of an artifact, this being a fixed gear bicycle, also referred to as a “fixie”. The fixie is a bike with no freewheel mechanism; so, unlike a standard bike where the rider can cruise without pedaling, the fixie requires the rider to continue pedaling, even on downhill terrains. Even more, most do not have sufficient brakes but instead demand that the rider pedal backwards to decrease speed. The fixie describes the hipster essence because it is not a mainstream product and goes against many safety standards of the traditional bicycle. Firstly, this bicycle, which is more dangerous than conventional bikes, provokes a sense of adventure. Putting one’s self at risk is usually seen as unordinary, but the hipster, as a beatnik, welcomes the risks associated with a single-gear bike. Furthermore, in a time where most Americans seem to consume further complex products and technologies, the fixie has a “back to basics” mentality because of its simple, single-gear makeup. This “back to basics” mindset can be seen in the hipsters’ overall essence of nonconformity because they oppose the popular idea of expending more and more. The fixie is a hipster's best friend; it is his/her means of transportation, recreation, and even expression of style and fashion. All the while, it symbolizes the subculture’s desire of originality.

To be called a “hipster” is offensive, for it has negative connotations and is similar to being labeled as a poseur or phony. Trying to be “hip” is unhip because it means one is striving to be in a group that does not like to be a group. Hipsters are individuals with unconventional perceptions in music, art, tastes and styles. However, they are easily spotted. For example: they wear vintage Americana tees, listen to unknown bands, ride a fixed-gear bicycle, and consume Pabst Blue Ribbon brews. Describing the appearance of a hipster is straightforward; conversely, it is complicated to say what core values this group holds if its members do not like to be associated as members of the hipster subculture. It is difficult to understand this subgroup because it is an ironic crowd of individuals who even though they oppose the label associated with a “hipster”, they also equally oppose the ideas of mainstream consumption. While hipsters conform in their own subculture, they are viewed as innovators of the most recent and latest cultural views and styles; therefore, the hipster essence embodies all things unconventional.

[1] http://www.dailytexanonline.com/life-and-arts/2012/02/07/defining-and-exploring-modern-day-hipster-culture

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