Deciphering Culture

The hipster — the “dead end” of Western civilization?

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"fuck u hipster cookie cutters / leave"

Walking to the Zen Center in San Francisco, I passed by the first piece of anti-hipster graffiti I’ve seen. The nearby Lower Haight neighborhood is a hipster preserve and maybe this indescript portion of Laguna Street is feeling a wave of hipster-fueled gentrification, which made me think of the slew of anti-yuppie graffiti that appeared in various neighborhoods in S.F. during the ’90s &  ’00s as that wave of gentrification crested. And yes, it’s true “yuppies kill culture” or at least replace it with a whole new set of aesthetics, which made me think  of the recent trenchant critique of the hipster subculture.

We’ve reached a point in our civilization where counterculture has mutated into a self-obsessed aesthetic vacuum. So while hipsterdom is the end product of all prior countercultures, it’s been stripped of its subversion and originality.

 

Take a stroll down the street in any major North American or European city and you’ll be sure to see a speckle of fashion-conscious twentysomethings hanging about and sporting a number of predictable stylistic trademarks: skinny jeans, cotton spandex leggings, fixed-gear bikes, vintage flannel, fake eyeglasses and a keffiyeh – initially sported by Jewish students and Western protesters to express solidarity with Palestinians, the keffiyeh has become a completely meaningless hipster cliché fashion accessory.

 

Two quotes from Hipster: The Dead End of Western Civilization by Douglas Haddow in AdBusters 79 — a well-written and influential piece of cultural commentary that echoes a common perception of those of us outside the hipster circle that it is a counter-cultural movement devoid of cultural critique. And Haddow’s description of a hipster is pretty spot on except it leaves out the small hipster hat and scruffy beards on the male members of the hipster tribe (and at least here in San Francisco, they seem to be self-identified as DJ’s as often as not). While I’m not sure this is the first subcultural movement devoid of cultural critique, it may well be the first not orchestrated by commerce or politics. From all I can see it is a fundamentally grassroots movement and the lack of substance may be just what hipsters are looking for.

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Written by Jeffrey Callen

July 25, 2011 at 8:02 pm

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