By: Natalie Holme
As I stood on the Brooklyn bound L train platform in the Union Square subway station, I observed the people around me. I was curious, because my sister explained to me that this was the train all the “cute boys” rode. I soon realized that the boys she was referring to were all dressed alike: Tight jeans and flannels, with sunglasses covering their eyes and scruffy beards hiding their faces. These boys, I came to find out, have been dubbed “hipsters.”
A “hipster,” according to www.urbandictionary.com, is defined as “a subculture of men and women in their 20’s and 30’s that value independent thinking, counter-culture, intelligence, and witty banter.”
When analyzed like this, a hipster seems like it would closely resemble a 1960’s version of the same: a hippie. Which led me to wonder — is our generation reminiscent of the 1960’s?
On paper, the two seem to draw several obvious parallels; both the hippie and the hipster revolutions can be looked at as bohemian youth movements, allowing the individuals involved to express themselves through their clothing, music, and drug use. Even the word “hipster” derives from “hippie”, which was used in the early 60’s to describe the beatniks who flocked to Williamsburg and San Francisco. But beyond that, are there similarities? To see how young people today feel about this comparison, I turned to the students of Marymount Manhattan College and the School of Visual Arts to find out what students had to say about this comparison.
I asked them, What is a hippie? “Pot smokers,” said one, “Peace signs,” said another. “Cool clothes, Woodstock, long hair and dresses,” said others. However accurate these responses were, it all seemed too shallow. This hippie lifestyle was an outward sign of an inward movement. A rejection of their parents norms, standards, behavior and fashion. And what about “hipsters?” Again, generic ideas such as Williamsburg, glasses, beards, beanies, skinny jeans, flannels, and the Lower East Side. But what are they rejecting? Apparently, nothing.
Despite the fact that a “hipster” may look “hippie-like” (undone, grungy, and seemingly unshowered) it actually takes quite a bit of money and attention to detail to get that look. Whether it’s shopping at Urban Outfitters, buying expensive glasses and shoes, attending concerts on a regular basis, or keeping up with the latest designer drugs, being a “hipster” is embracing something, not rejecting it. “Being a hipster is liking what’s good”, said Ian Stoner, a freshman photography major with an ironic hippie name. “It’s being aware of fashion and music, even if it’s through following a blog.” Raghib Allie-Brennan, a sophomore at MMC said that by today’s standards, part of being a hipster is looking like you have an “I-don’t-give-a-shit-attitude.” And he’s not the only one who thinks that.
Conversations about the topic turned lively when interviewing more students. Most of them came to the consensus that being a hipster is an unspoken bond, yet they have a whole list of qualifications one must meet in order to be considered a “hipster.” For example, sitting around with your exclusive group of friends, sipping Pabst Blue Ribbon, smoking cigarettes, talking a lot (but not really talking about anything at all). A form of conformity.
So if this is how hipsters are viewed by youth culture today, what exactly do hipsters do that appoints them into a revolutionary status?
Colin Smight, a young advertising student at SVA, dug deeper into the meaning of the cultural group: “The biggest difference between hipsters and hippies is that the hippies were political activists and actually had a purpose and stood behind what they believed in” . MMC’s Chelsea Pollock seemed to feel the same: “Hippies cared more about the earth and the people. They wanted to make things better…hipsters…not sure.”
While the hipster generation seems to be a reincarnated version of the hippies in their rejection of what is mainstream, it seems clear by some of their peers that they really aren’t doing anything substantial or revolutionary. “One is more significant historically than they other,” Smight said, “and what I like about the whole hipster debate is the way it’s critiqued, because the whole movement is becoming more mainstream.”
So, is our generation a reincarnation of the 1960’s? I think not. Not only because there are still real modern day hippies who continue to reject society, but because the hipster movement seems to be about acquiring stuff (music, clothes, accessories, etc.), not rejecting values. It is superficial and fleeting, and sooner or later something new will come along and everyone will want to be part of that movement – not a rejection, but an embracing. Until then, we can let the hipsters have their fun. If only they would smile once in a while like the hippies did.
By: Natalie Holme