A hipster is defined in the media as an individual whose primary objective is to be counter-mainstream. A hipster identity is inextricably linked to distinct fashion sensibilities and unique material objects -- all of which are not popular until a trendsetting hipster acquires them. Then they become hip, cool, and the new hot commodity.
The issue? No one self identifies as a hipster. Who are these elusive trendsetting people who have started a salient youth sub-culture? Do they even exist?
Hipster is both trendy and popular and heavily criticized in the media. Mainstream clothing stores have adopted ‘hipster-style’ clothing posing an identity crisis. Does the term hipster refer to the magically invisible (possibly imaginary) trendsetting individual who is constantly finding new styles and new things? Or does the term refer to the individual who likes the vibe of hipsterism and starts wearing and accumulating commodified hipster-style clothing and objects?
- The meaning of the term has evolved over time. Initially it referred to someone who “didn’t fit within conventions” but now it’s become conventional and has “lost its novelty”. It is even considered a “cliché” by some students.
- The change in meaning of the term has also contributed to its use as an insult. The term hipster is associated with someone who “tries” to be cool and unique but fails. It can also be associated with a “white, rich” person who is “living off of their parent’s money”. These associations contribute to an understood negative connotation.
- Ultimately students identified the term hipster as highly relative and subjective in definition. However, the universally recognized features of hipster culture were its associations with material objects and clothing.
Hipster culture reveals the paradox of a non-conformist identity that is based off of material culture. The critiques of hipsters as failing to be unique demonstrates the difficulty of forming an identity that is based on being completely individual and ultimately reveals that humans are social animals.