Anatomy of a Hipster

By Theresa Iker '14Staff Writer

We all know who they are. They wear skinny jeans, Chuck Taylors and oversized non-prescription glasses. They listen to obscure, appropriately undiscovered bands—which they would promptly abandon if featured in an Apple commercial. They have ironic tattoos, perhaps of mustaches on the sides of their fingers. They are hipsters. But do these descriptions of tastes and fashion adequately address the anatomy of a hipster? Are hipsters authentic and can they be described as constituting a larger, meaningful movement? These questions and many more were answered at the Pomona Student Union’s “Skinny Jeans, Irony, and Influence: The Anatomy of a Hipster” panel on Oct. 26. Panelists Robert Lanham, author of the “Hipster Handbook,” Douglas Haddow, author of “Hipster: the Dead End of Western Civilization”, and Mark Greif, co-author of “What Was the Hipster?” each offered their differing and sometimes downright oppositional perceptions of hipsters.

The engaging and often hilarious discussion took frequent digs at hipsters, who were described alternatively as racists, the unwitting “foot-soldiers of capitalism” and dangerously isolated. “No true hipster would self-identify as a hipster,” argued Lanham. Similarly, though perhaps in earthier terms, Haddow asked, “How many people would self-identify as an elitist asshole?” Perhaps this slightly negative twist would explain why half the audience, many of whom were suspiciously wearing plaid and tight pants, left in the early part of the panel. Overall, however, the panelists discussed a rising trend of a more positive perception of hipsters. Greif alluded to the new labeling of what he called “green hipsters,” who are concerned with sustainability and environmental advocacy, rather than “white hipsters,” who were primarily associated with suburban white flight and the gentrification of urban neighborhoods. He also pointed out that the use of the term “hipster” has steadily become less pejorative, an observation that was exemplified when an audience member self-identified as a hipster as a preface to her question. The panelists also raised many interesting points regarding the hipster’s role in consumer culture and activist movements. If not completely optimistic regarding hipster consumerism, the discussion did acknowledge this group’s buying power and ability to facilitate social change, as seen in their environmental activism and involvement in the Gay Pride movement. The underlying and cautiously positive theme appeared to be that, if not isolated by the exclusivity of their fashion statements, dietary habits, and urban neighborhoods, perhaps hipsters can form a movement with a message.