‘I am not a hipster!’
Nuvo magazine recently printed an article shining light upon the roots of the fascinating contemporary subculture of hipsters. “Hipster” was a term first coined by jazz musician and Bronx native Harry Gibson in the early 1940s. Harry “The Hipster” Gibson made a name for himself for his eccentric antics on stage, as well as his deconstruction of racial barriers in the world of jazz music performing with the likes of Billie Holiday, Charlie Parker and Coleman Hawkins. Gibson was the world’s first labeled hipster because he was “hip to the jive.”
Recently, this notion of hipster has drastically evolved from a term exclusive to the world of jazz into a term that defines an individual’s cultural identity, sensibility and mentality.
Hipsterdom has experienced such popular acknowledgement that everyone and their grandma can point out a stereotypical hipster. Ironically it seems the only people this labeling is taboo for is the hipsters themselves. This leads us to unwritten hipster rule number one: no hipster refers to oneself as a hipster. I hate to be the one to say it, but the clichés are almost always true. So if you are currently sitting in your local coffee shop with your 13-inch Macbook Pro, listening to the likes of Daniel Johnston and The Smiths, reading the recent album review on Pitchfork in your horn-rimmed glasses — you are a hipster.
This summer, I worked next to a quintessentially hipster coffee shop where I experienced firsthand the eccentricities of hipsters. What I quickly began to realize was that the most binding force to this culture was music. I learnt through frequent visits to this coffee shop that unless I was willing to get in a heated debate or be preached at — I should leave discussions of music at the door.
For me, the rationale for my music taste is quite simple: if I think the music is good I will like it whether it’s popular or not. However, this mentality is scorned among most hipsters. This brings us to hipster rule number two: when it comes to music, the more obscure the better.
Listening to popular music of the last ten years is a definite hipster faux pas. It is important to listen to new music in which the YouTube play count has not surpassed 250,000.
For hipsters, it is shameful to admit that they once liked Mumford and Sons whose play-count has greatly exceeded such a quota. They’re frequently quoted saying “I liked them before they were popular,” and “they’ve become way too commercial.” Hipsters pride themselves on their musical proclivity so it is important that they are ahead of the trends. So as the media is giving recent recognition to bands such as Japandroids and The Lumineers: hipsters were over them two years ago. Hipsters have moved onto the latest under-the-radar bands such as Jagwar Ma, Parquet Courts and Youth Lagoon. With YouTube play counts far below 250000, they can be left assured that these bands are still clear from every hipster’s nightmare — cross-cultural popularity.