Let 2014 Be the Year We Retire the Word “Hipster”
The most meaningless word in the English language needs to be laid to rest.
Hey, have you heard this joke?: How did the hipster burn his mouth? ...He ate pizza before it was cool! Or how about this one: How many hipsters does it take to screw in a light bulb? ...Some obscure number you’ve probably never heard of. Oh, one more: What did one hipster say to the other? ...Wait, you mean you don’t know???
Yeah, here’s the thing. Those jokes are fucking terrible. They’re just predictable and hacky and in 2014, they rank somewhere on the comedy scale between Gagnam Style parodies and quoting Anchorman. Calling someone a hipster as the punchline of a joke is slightly lazier than doing a Borat impression and just a bit more obnoxious than making a Harlem Shake video. It’s lame, it’s not clever, and it needs to die. Immediately.
Here's where we're at with this: An endless sea of hipster memes.
Now, you yourself will likely read this article and share it on Twitter or Facebook with your own clever brand of snarky commentary like, “Oh look, a VICE writer hates the word ‘hipster.’ How ironic.” (Just kidding, you will absolutely not read it. You will just see the headline and blindly share it as a means of pushing your own hilarious and unique criticism of things you disagree with, as is your inalienable right as a member of the internet. Way to increase that personal brand, you semi-anonymous maven of the internet, you!)
So before I’m forever branded as the public attorney in the case of hipsters v. the rest of the world, let me be clear about this: I am not — at all — defending hipsters or hipster culture of any kind. In fact, I’m on board with pretty much any hatred or prejudice against groups of people based on their eyeroll-worthy cultural or fashion choices. Find me some schmuck with a Skrillex haircut or wearing those stupid harem pants that make you look like you crapped yourself and I will relentlessly mock that person all day without repeating myself. If said schmuck is doing both simultaneously, I’d better clear my weekend.
The problem is that we’ve lumped too many subcultures and stereotypes into the definition of the hipster. As a result, the word, as an insult, has become completely meaningless. For example, those dorks who dress like it’s 1932 and wear suspenders and buy handlebar mustache wax, those people are defined as hipsters. Young liberals who listen to 6 Music and write their screenplays in Starbucks, they are hipsters too. So are white kids who listen to hip-hop. Bearded dudes in flannel shirts, girls in rompers with birds on them, people who shop at Urban Outfitters, people with black-framed glasses, rockabilly couples, Prius drivers, bike-riders, Pitchfork readers, vintage store regulars, vinyl collectors, folk rockers, art school students, trust fund kids, vegans, ex-punks, anyone between the ages of 22 and 35, and any of the 2.6 million people who live in Brooklyn. All hipsters, apparently. If everyone is a hipster, then no one is a hipster.
Hipsters, as portrayed in a movie I didn't see.
No one wants to be branded as a hipster so they just kick the word over to a similar-but-slightly-different sub-type of hipster. Who are we even really talking about when we talk about hipsters? Any semi-educated reasonably young person who didn’t play collegiate sports and doesn’t buy Costco-brand jeans? Great, we’ve narrowed the field down to eleventy million people. Some of the hipster stereotypes don’t even make sense...
Hipsters have tattoos. Have you been to the beach lately? Apparently there are tons of overweight 45-year-old Puerto Rican hipsters named Angel who like to blast Pitbull from their boomboxes and have terrible photorealistic tattoos of their infants.
Hipsters love Instagramming everything. Yeah and so do my 14-year-old cousins and 150 million other users who think they’re amateur photographers because they can use a Valencia filter.
Hipsters like brunch. OK, who the fuck doesn’t like brunch? Brunch is delicious. Brunch includes eggs and pancakes and bacon and I’ll be damned if I’m going to stand here and have bacon’s good name dragged down to this level.
Hipsters like things ironically. Oh...do they? Right, because irony is soooo cool.
Dammit. See, right there, I fell into my own hipster-bashing trap. It’s just so easy. Too easy. That’s the problem. I’m not saying I’ve never called someone a hipster. I have. Plenty. Mainly because I will take any opportunity to dump on ridiculous trends like harem pants. (Not to keep dwelling on those, but they are really fucking stupid.) But every time the h-word passes through my lips, I want to take a shower on my soul where I use any brand of soap but Tom's. I feel like I handed in a term paper that I mostly copied from Wikipedia. I hover above my own body and I look down and say, “Dan, you can do better than this.”
I want my mockery to count, goddammit. I want it to mean something. I want to cast aside the clichéd shackles of some universally overused catch-all phrase, pull back, and really let someone have it with the specificity of a surgeon's knife. I want to look someone in the eye and tell him his facial hair makes him look like a muppet porn star. I want to meet a woman with one side of her head shaved and ask if she got into a fight with her hairdresser.
So while I usually end up bailing on my New Year's resolutions (see: unused Bowflex), in 2014, I’m going to resolve to retire my use of the word “hipster” starting immediately after this sentence and will work harder to be more specific and pointed with my mockery of overly pretentious culture.
I invite you to do the same. And start today. That way you can say you stopped saying “h*pster” before it was cool.
Follow Dan on Twitter: @danozzi