The Indirect Persecution of Hipsters
Rita A. #655321
The hipster concept isn’t new.
In the late 1950s, white easy-listening music lingered on radio airwaves and dominated record sales. The humble nuclear family revelled in the post-war peace and smiled on. Boy were they unprepared for the 60s. Young men let their hair grow, straightened it then combed it forward like the French—whom by the way, always seem to be at the forefront of fashion. Some young men even wore a little eye makeup! Cool. They tossed aside t-shirts and jeans, turning instead to tailored suits or green parkas. They drove scooters and shook to African beats, hopped up on “uppers.”
*Later, they would learn the dangers of drugs. Recreational drug-use had been, until then, uncommon.
The Mod subculture flourished, peaking in the mid 1960s. It influenced young local bands such as The Who and TV shows such as Ready, Steady, Go! Polish-American pop artist Andy Warhol dived into popular music by managing a new house band called the Velvet Underground—both are AMAZING, by the way. Waif supermodel Twiggy’s boyish asymmetrical cut, stick-like eyelashes and mini-dresses twisted around mainstream fashion. It exploded onto the mainstream then imploded into itself. The authenticity and freshness of the Mod subculture was neutralized by commercialism.
Up until the early 1990s, Seattle music fans had been neglected by most bands on tour so they holed up indoors, away from the relentless rain, and played music for their friends. They scoffed at overplayed, brain-numbing 80s MTV pop, rap and hip hop that was nauseatingly sexual—ahem, Madonna, Michael Jackson; music was now for the eyes, not the ears. Seattle musicians turned instead to the glorious classic rock of the 60s and 70s for enlightenment. No glitter, spandex, hairspray or hair crimping for these guys.
Eventually the flannel a la Neil Young, thrashing of long hair and stomping of heavy-soled boots to loud, real angst soon caught the dreaded spotlight. The media slapped every Seattle band with the label GRUNGE, ignoring the blatant diversity of their sounds and influences. Commercialism looked to cash in by generalizing the term to other things, some ridiculous e.g. grunge pilates, grunge cars, grunge fashion—a pricey replica of Eddie Vedder’s 30 cent corduroy jacket sold for around $300! Worst of all, talentless, imitation bands began sprouting up, eager to cash-in on the “well-spring that had long dried up.” And just like that, commercialism exploited and imploded another authentic subculture.
Mid 60s London and late 80s/ early 90s Seattle are but two examples.
Some Hipsters of the 2000s wear skinny pants, combat boots, fedoras and black wayfarers. Some ride vintage bicycles and listen to indie music like MGMT until it becomes too popular and must immediately be abandoned. It’s forever evolving. In my opinion, there are two types of Hipsters: (1) conforming and (2) non-conforming. The former labels those whom dress—aka conform to be—like the average Hipster. They may listen to Florence and the Machine on vinyl because it’s cool…for now; they are quick to follow up on ‘underground’ trends. The non-conforming Hipster purposely dresses and does what is different, unique compared to one’s environment e.g. the abandonment of 50s specs if dubbed mainstream ‘cool.’ These non-comformists are fiercely independent. They are ‘Hipster’ in spirit.
“I ain’t no Hipster.”
No one admits to being a Hipster. Its negative connotation is a product of the mainstream media’s disapproval of an alternative to the moronic crap they force down our throats everywhere, every day to keep us dazed and unaware of what’s truly out there; critical thinkers are dangerous! This same stigma was created to subdue threatening subcultures like “hippies” (pacifists) and “tree-huggers” (environmentalists). In my opinion, there’s nothing wrong with any one of them as long as no one gets hurt.
Personally, I was upset that for 15 years of my life I missed out on great music because I didn’t know it existed. It was hidden deep behind ubiquitous hip hop and pop that we’re tacitly told is current and great and “everybody listens to it.” I gave up on music. I didn’t think I was a music person until my guitar teacher played Van Morrison’s “Gloria” at full volume when my pupils began to dilate and chills ran up and down my head and shoulders as I ‘levitated.’ I was finally awake.
The Hipster spirit—minus the alleged pretentious attitude—should live on, albeit with a different label.
On second thought, no label at all.