You Read This Article Before It Was Cool

Published August 15, 2012

In the last issue of Grapevine, self-identified hipster Atli Bollason recounts in his article, “Confessions of a Hipster,” his discovery of hipsterdom and then defends hipsters everywhere. I agree entirely that bickering and in-fighting between different social groups is incredibly immature behaviour reminiscent of high school, and that hipster hate in particular has grown tiresome—if for no other reason than the word “hipster” itself has been thrown around so much that it has lost nearly all meaning. But hipster does have a definition, and Atli is quite fortunately wrong about both what being a hipster means and why people don’t like them.
Atli cites ‘The Hipster Handbook’ by Robert Lanham as his basis for what defines a hipster. Although Atli admits that the book was “meant to poke fun at hipsters,” he seems to have missed the point of hipsterism. Hipsters are not just people who like art films, or obscure bands on vinyl, or are vegetarians—these are all fine, wonderful things that many, many people enjoy. Rather, hipsters are defined by a kind of sneering elitism for enjoying these things; that their particular tastes set them apart from the common rabble. Rather than taking part in a particular lifestyle or engaging in and with certain forms of artistic expression for their societal benefit or just for their own sake, hipsters take part in these things as a sort of badge of superiority. It is this distinction that defines what a hipster is.
And this is why people dislike hipsters. Art is meant to be enjoyed by and be of benefit to everyone. Liking certain forms of art does not make you a better person than someone else, yet it is precisely this attitude that is synonymous with hipstertude, and is what people take issue with. It is not, in other words, enjoying obscure art and lifestyles that makes someone a hipster or causes people to dislike them; it’s pouring scorn and ridicule over anyone who does not.
I agree that hipster hate has unfortunately made it so practically anyone who likes the things hipsters are known for liking gets called a hipster—an unfair appellation that is not without its own elitism. This is why I think it’s too bad that Atli has seemed to fall for the semantic trap of believing that anyone who likes these things is a hipster.
I said earlier that it was fortunate Atli got it wrong, and I mean that. Atli strikes me as a sincere appreciator of the arts who does not consider himself better than anyone else for liking the things that he does. In other words, he isn’t a hipster. He’s just a really cool guy.


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