Hipster History

Monday, November 08, 2010

Mark Greif, co-founding editor of the literary journal n+1 and frequent contributor to The American Prospect, discusses the rise and fall of the contemporary hipster. Greif also participated in a writers' debate on the topic, published in What Was The Hipster?: A Sociological Investigation (n+1 Foundation, 2010).

It's so easy to malign the hipster, but we want you to take the high road. Do you consider yourself a hipster? What's good about the hipster? Post below!


Mark Greif

Comments [42]

Kezia Kamenetz

Marc Grief's piece was interesting, in terms of the cultural artifacts he talks about and the evolution he talks about from early hipsters to later hipsters.

But he seems to be missing the big point: people call others hipsters, primarily, because of an attitude/personality the person has, namely a pretentiousness and arrogance where anything mainstream is seen as bad and hyper-specialization on any esoteric or artistic subject is lauded.

I think it is good for the mainstream culture to be rejected, and I think a lot of the art that hipsters make and support is really beautiful. But I hope that hipsters will evolve to see that arrogance is just a form of insecurity, and if we really want to reject mainstream culture we should embrace everyone as they are. More here:

Nov. 10 2010 07:30 PM
LimeriTweets from Brooklyn

Williamsburg Hipster Limerick

Williamsburg hipsters are fancy & spry
So I thought I would give it a try
..When it was as I feared
..I shaved off my beard
But kept my perspective quite wry.

Nov. 10 2010 07:07 PM
john from office

Hipsters are trust fund babies, who think they are experiencing street culture. Would never survive in real street culture.

White guys with money, not worried about finding a job, so it is ok to be excentric.

Nov. 08 2010 12:31 PM
Edward from NJ

The likelihood that you are a hipster is directly proportionate to your level of anger at being called a hipster.

Nov. 08 2010 12:25 PM
old myself

Julia -- I'm sure Brian WANTS what you say to be so... don't shut out the old timers, for they remember the real new york, and from that may the 11211 ashes rise

Nov. 08 2010 12:24 PM
Julia from Williamsburg, Brooklyn

I've never heard Brian sound so old and out of touch. People are fascinated with pin pointing this culture group when the truth is its a reclaiming of the best parts of the decades past. I grew up in NYC and until I moved to Brooklyn and found this area of youth, beauty, individual style and appreciation for ideas and art I thought NY had turned into just a gray place with unhappy people. I'm an artist (no, not a tattoo artist although you're all fascinated with that too) I don't have a lot of money but have everything I need to fill my days and nights with stimulating talk, music, food and art where you can still get a $4 drink! The kids who haven't found themselves or a community of peers should come to Willamsburg village and find both. But all you apathetic slackers who didn't send in their census clearly don't care about the community so keep wearing AA and being called a hipster, you'll be left out of everything that really matters.

Nov. 08 2010 12:19 PM


Point well made and taken. Song is great and you rock!

Nov. 08 2010 12:11 PM
thatgirlinnewyork from manhattan

mozo: perhaps someone may have called cake "hipsters" at their peak, but you'd have to go back to the 90s to find that out. that apple has recently co-opted their music to shill the nano only means that a bunch of 20 year olds in the ad world think we're not paying attention. i liken that to those who think a jacket from 1999 is considered "vintage". those people are not hipsters, but simply clueless.

Nov. 08 2010 12:09 PM
Jeremy from washington square

Hipsterism is at basis a term for young, mostly white urbanites who are profoundly ambivalent about their own affluence. They have money to spend but they are also vaguely disturbed about unfettered "yuppie" consumption, so they ironically consume. Irony thus becomes not merely an aesthetic but also an ethic, and provokes disdain when the actual term 'hipster' is applied.

Nov. 08 2010 12:00 PM


Thanks -- will check it out!! But aren't Cake hipsters themselves?

Nov. 08 2010 11:59 AM
Richard Storm from Hell's Kitchen

Not sure if you should blame the low census returns from Williamsburg on this group. I worked the census and the group that across-the-board refused to have any contact with us were the Orthodox Jews.

Nov. 08 2010 11:58 AM
tony from williamsburg

Calling all of the young people in williamsburg who dress in a specific way hipsters is like calling all black people the n-word. it's derogatory and it's an attempt to make a scapegoat out of a group of people who are connected by something they might not define themselves by. the group of people you're trying to characterize as connected are NOT. you would do better to describe the culture of hipsterism than to define people as hipsters. by using the word, you assume that the whole of the people in the area are exactly the same, which isn't the case from so many different perspectives: education, political views, artistic views, race, age, and background.

Nov. 08 2010 11:58 AM

while i was born an raised in Brooklyn and lived in greenpoint from 92/02 during my early 20's i did filled out my census form b/c is good for Brooklyn, i did see over the years, lots of out of town young
people moving in and they seamed to have embrace brooklyn, they should have filled out their census form, not to mentioned be better well read, or at the very least know which 4 counties are part of long island....

Nov. 08 2010 11:58 AM
Denise from Queens

I think the hipster of Williamsburg is closely related to the "trust-afarian". Also reminds me of meeting a classic hipster (trucker hat, ironic tee, tight jeans, beat-up van) who was actually a corporate lawyer. Yuck.

Nov. 08 2010 11:57 AM
Sonne Hernandez from Bushwick

the hipster is the ultimate imitater who spend their time being carefully who is overly conscious of themselves to the point that can't see past themselves

Nov. 08 2010 11:57 AM
thatgirlinnewyork from manhattan

mozo: you left out cake's "rock and roll lifestyle". the best!

(long intro--be patient):

Nov. 08 2010 11:57 AM

and u must know how bad our post office is

Nov. 08 2010 11:57 AM
sbrand from Maplewood, NJ

A joke:
How many hipsters does it take to screw in a lightbulb?

It's a really obscure number. You probably haven't heard of it.

Nov. 08 2010 11:56 AM
Robert from NYC

I remember when I was and organ student learning BACH my Professor would say, if it's nice do it twice, referring to the fact that the Maestro often did it more than twice in which case it wasn't so nice! So, if it's nice say it twice?!

Nov. 08 2010 11:56 AM
Leah from Brooklyn

The hipster-ish hipster parodies are my favorite part of this meme. Hipster Hitler, Dino Hipsters, LATFH blog...hilarious.

Nov. 08 2010 11:55 AM
Betty from Williamsburg

I think of hipsters as being people who are pretentious, jaded, and generally snotty. I live in Williamsburg and like another commenter, I never received a census either!

Nov. 08 2010 11:55 AM

Great topic. I think part of what explains the concept of "hipster" (as opposed to slacker, hippie, punk, bohemian,etc) is a mass-psychological paranoia about appearing ridiculous, only what reads today to many people as "ridiculous" is "trying not to look ridiculous." People from my generation (people who grew up in the 80s and 90s) are much more anxious about their coolness as something achieved, not about their coolness as something they don't yet have.

Nov. 08 2010 11:55 AM
thatgirlinnewyork from manhattan

the idea of a "hipster" originated in the pacific northwest? what is this caller smoking??

underfunded people in many areas of "the arts" (to say nothing of other metiers) have shopped in thrift stores since, at least, the mid-20th century. please.

otherwise, this is such the worn out subject, brian. are you in need of suggestions? happy to help

Nov. 08 2010 11:55 AM

Best rock songs re hipsters:

"I Was A Punk Before You Were" -- The Tubes

"Youth Culture Killed My Dog" -- They Might Be Giants

"New York" -- The Fabulous Pop Tarts (video is hideous)

Nov. 08 2010 11:55 AM
Mike from Tribeca

"Hipster" is label that is given to one, like calling someone an artist. A true hep cat never immodestly refers to themself as a hipster or an artist -- those labels are given to them by others. To do otherwise is living in Squaresville, daddy-o.

Nov. 08 2010 11:54 AM

Brian: I always preferred prose to poetry. Every generation has their own creative class, and it's pointless to old one in higher regard than any other.

The only way to stay relevant is to be open to what the new generation is doing, even if it strikes you as initially unsavory.

Nov. 08 2010 11:54 AM
Leo in NYC

I think that part of the thing is the confluence of upward mobility with an "outsider" self image. The reason that all hipsters reject the label is because they self-identify with those more "real" sub-cultures — they were punks in high school, so they think, "I'm not a poseur, I came by this outsider status honestly." The problem being that the upward mobility and relative affluence generally conflict with the "real" identity (upwardly mobile punks?). And that's why the label stings: self-loathing.

Nov. 08 2010 11:53 AM
Liz from Brooklyn

Is "hipster" just an aesthetic category? Is it just a ghostly other to definite one's self against?

Nov. 08 2010 11:51 AM

Brian -- are you a hipster

Nov. 08 2010 11:51 AM

Hipster: a beatnik without the poetry

Nov. 08 2010 11:51 AM

brian I live in will'burg and never got a census form in the mail. I've wondered if the post office ever mailed them.

Nov. 08 2010 11:50 AM

Mark, why was _What We Should Have Known: Two Discussions_ so bad? That book should never have been published.

Nov. 08 2010 11:50 AM

YEA! What the Park Slope guy said, man!

Nov. 08 2010 11:49 AM

Clay I agree, but renters aren't the ones raising the rents. The last I heard, landlords were the only ones with the power to do so.

Nov. 08 2010 11:49 AM
Edward from NJ

If you're a hipster, you don't think of yourself as a hipster. You think hipsters are the people who do all the sames things as you -- but you don't like them.

Nov. 08 2010 11:49 AM
RLewis from the Bowery

They didn't want to fill out the census, cuz they're living in illegal sublets.

Nov. 08 2010 11:47 AM
Ben from Park Slope

"Hipster" is the laziest cliche in journalism right now. It represents nothing other than a writer who is too lazy to describe what s/he is trying to represent.

Can we just stop it already?

Nov. 08 2010 11:46 AM
Ben from Park Slope

"Hipster" is the laziest cliche in journalism right now. It represents nothing other than a writer who is too lazy to describe what s/he is trying to represent.

Can we just stop it already?

Nov. 08 2010 11:46 AM
Michelle from Bkyn

Def. of hipster = one who tries too hard.

Nov. 08 2010 11:28 AM
Clay from Brooklyn

Hipsters get a bad rap.

Yes, they're annoying, they run up rents with their parents' money and they overdo just about everything.

But, real hipsters - and I'm not talking about the Urban Outfitters brand commercialized and contrived followers who are constantly looking for the next trend - real hipsters are dedicated to art, food, music, and do-it-yourself creativity.They're always looking for something more than what consumerism shoves down our throats and I respect that.

Nov. 08 2010 10:54 AM
Robert from NYC

Phew, ok forget my last post, I just checked it out in the online Urban Dictionary and I got it. I'm not stupid after all. That was close. I know what a Hipster is.

Nov. 08 2010 10:06 AM
Robert from NYC

First, can you tell me what exactly is a Hipster? I see it all the time and don't get it. I've even checked the definition online and still don't get it. Of course there's always the possibility that I'm just stupid!?

Nov. 08 2010 10:03 AM

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