Wednesday, June 6, 2007

On Hipsters and Yuppies

I am sure that many of you could guess that coming to New York has been, in many ways, a huge culture shock. I am not one of those midwesterners that came to New York and was shocked by everything in the city; I mean, I did grow up outside of D.C. and I study cities for heaven's sake[1]. I think that one of the most surprising things that I have found is the hipster culture. Now, this is something that I knew existed (because Ann Arbor tries its best to be a miniature New York), but as is true with most things about culture shock, one can intellectually know that something exists and, yet, still not be prepared for the living with it on a daily basis.

Luckily, the New York magazine Time Out which, as far as I can tell is marketed to the young, urban professional that doesn't want to be considered a "yuppie" but probably is one, has done a feature issue on hipsters. The folks at TONY (get it: Time Out New York, how hip &mdash err, I mean &mdash not hip of them) are even kind enough to provide a quiz: What's your hipster dirtbag quotient? They provide this so that their readers can find out if they are a hipster and warn: "Imagine the horror. You've cheered this issue only to discover you're one of them. Find out."

No joke, when I took this quiz, I was informed of the following:

What's a Moz?
We hate to be the ones that have to break this to you, but unless khaki-colored, baggy cargo pants, Yanni and a pleasant disposition come back into style, you're consigned to a life of unremarkable blandness. We're sorry.

Now, I could choose to be offended as I sit in my khaki-colored cargo shorts (no joke), but, then I decided that I am not going to be concerned about it because these people are soooooo far out of my league, I actually am not even cool enough to get the joke because I am actually sitting here typing and wondering, What exactly is a Moz? (any help in comments would be greatly appreciated) So, I guess that we have it, I am officially not cool enough for New York.

Wasting enough time on the internets, I do not have time to read the entire issue, I am lucky that I found this article first, because the author is kind enough to explain to me what a hipster is:

Under the guise of “irony,” hipsterism fetishizes the authentic and regurgitates it with a winking inauthenticity. Those 18-to-34-year-olds called hipsters have defanged, skinned and consumed the fringe movements of the postwar era—Beat, hippie, punk, even grunge. Hungry for more, and sick with the anxiety of influence, they feed as well from the trough of the uncool, turning white trash chic, and gouging the husks of long-expired subcultures—vaudeville, burlesque, cowboys and pirates.

Of course, hipsterism being originally, and still mostly, the province of whites (the pastiest of whites), its acolytes raid the cultural stores of every unmelted ethnicity in the pot. Similarly, they devour gay style: Witness the cultural burp known as metrosexuality. As the hipster ambles from the thrift store to a $100 haircut at Freemans Sporting Club, these aesthetics are assimilated—cannibalized—into a repertoire of meaninglessness, from which the hipster can construct an identity in the manner of a collage, or a shuffled playlist on an iPod.

I may just not be cool enough, but it seems (from the quiz, this one article, and the headlines of the other articles) like the entire TONY issue is devoted to this very irony. I mean, I think that what hipsters love to do most is make fun of other hipsters.

Hipster 1: [Affecting disaffected tone] I can't believe how many hipsters are moving into Greenpoint.

Hipster 2: [Nonchalantly] I know, pretty soon it is going to be exactly like Park Slope.

Hipster 1: Didn't you used to live in the Slope?

Hipster 2: Yeah, but that was sooooo four years ago before all the hipsters moved in.

So, in the end, like most postmodernists, the editors of TONY who pastich pastiche and find authenticity in nothing because everything is authentic. I find it truly frustrating at times and believe that all potential criticisms which the hipsters try and destabilize through irony are simply left intact like:

The hipster who keeps up with the antics of Hilton, Lohan and Spears does so sneeringly, and her knowingness introduces one degree of difference between herself and the Midwestern housewife who buys Us Weekly at the Wal-Mart checkout line.

On the other hand, I could live with no one but the urban professionals who swear that everyone is there to serve them and only them. If you want to know about this group of people in our neighborhood, for whom I have so much disdain I must refrain from writing because it would simply turn into a rant, listen/read this story from Marketplace about the changes that corner-store merchants have made to keep pace with the changing socio-demographics of the neighborhood. At the end, the final woman interviewed (who I can only guess shops at either the Park Slope Food Coop or at Wal-Mart says,

The fact that they have so many low-end products that totally don't appeal to us make me feel like they're like, in this transition of trying to serve two different populations of people.

How dare those store owners who have been able to put together a living in this neighborhood and trying to live the American dream sell those [gasp] low-end products! I mean, they need to decide &mdash poor people like them or rich people like us

Given the choice, give me the hipsters.

[1] I must also acknowledge that it is nice to actually live in a city, considering this fact. And, honestly, I think that I had much less culture shock moving from A2 to NYC than I did from Houston to A2. [return]


dave3544 said...

like it. there is no way you could be a hipster, you're just too damn nice.

wobblie said...

This is as good a place as any for some hipster jokes.

Q: How many hipsters does it take to screw in a light bulb.
A: [with appropriate tone of disdain] sigh, you don't know?

Q: Why do are hipsters lousy in the sack?
A: They're always complaining about the 7" they don't have.

Having spent a fair amount of time in Williamsburg, let me share with you the think I hate most about hipsters: hipster baby clothes. Clothes which will be puked/pooed upon should not cost $30 an item. And seriously, how not-punk is selling a Ramones or Dead Kennedys onesie for $40? WTF?

Mike3550 said...

Dave - Thank you!

Wobblie - Agreed. I have walked by some of them and I swear my jaw must be agape when I look at them. To the point where I am positive they notice me gawking at them. Of course, I guess that was probably the point...

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