In Defence of Hipsters

The Rise of the Uber-Hipster

by George Mckay

Source: Thinkstock

We all have that one image of the classical hipster which comes to mind. Bearded, tattooed, jeans two sizes too small, the list of clichés for hipsters is endless. They are a folk devil within our society that borders on a scapegoat for a lot of societal issues. They are demonised as the height of pretension and the reason for rising prices of food and booze. Why is there such an aversion to the hipster outside of his subculture? What is it that causes such an instinctive rejection of anything vintage? Why has hipster become a dirty word?

The rise of the word hipster traces back to 1940’s use of the word “hip” in Jazz subcultures. The term was meant as a positive one for someone that has opened their eyes to the wonders of Jazz music and everything that came with it. More recently, it is used as a synonym for anything that is not mainstream or popular. Just look at Dan Fletcher’s Time article, which claims the definition of a hipster as “the friends who sneer when you cop to liking Coldplay”. The meaning of the word now has become a parody of itself and is more often than not used as an insult amongst those who deride anything which they deem too alternative.

On a societal level, hipsters are often credited with causing gentrification of many suburban areas so that they no longer resemble the places they once were. This, it turns out, is actually not the case. Recent economic studies have found that in reality gentrification is not the problem in poor communities, a much more pressing concern is concentrated poverty. In fact, gentrification can help to reduce this concentration by injecting these communities with much needed income, which spreads around the area as jobs are created. This, coupled with the fact that almost no poor families actually leave these communities as a result of gentrification makes hipsters *gasp* a good thing.

“But they’re so pretentious!” I hear you cry. You’re probably not wrong, but where is the harm in that? We all have some version of ourselves that we want to present to the outside world, it just so happens that hipsters have a much more flamboyant image to present than most. Yes: they only eat quinoa and kale. Yes: they obsess in vintage. Yes: they drink craft beer which probably isn’t even any good. But there is truly nothing that makes hipsters any different from any other form of subculture throughout modern history.

The very definition of a subculture is that they have defining characteristics which separate them from those in the mainstream, and they revel in and promote those characteristics. It is that characteristic which draws people together. This can be a political ideology, a view of the universe, or a love of the same type of music; a characteristic is a means of identification.


The hipsters have an identifying characteristic of being alternative, of being underground. It is this characteristic which seems to cause the most eye-rolls or underhanded comments. But again, all subcultures have this pretence. For example, Punks channel this pretence into anti-establishment political beliefs, but do not be fooled into thinking that any of this is anything other than pretence of wanting to be alternative. It is in this truth that we realise that the desire to be alternative, to be something other than the mainstream, is the driving force behind many subcultures and that in this regard, hipsters are no worse than any that have come before them.

So why do we all hate them so much? I can come to only one conclusion. Those people who hate everything that the hipster subculture stands for hold this contempt because they think they are better than the hipster for not being hipster themselves. In a sense, the (admittedly manufactured) hipster is not cool enough for those who profess them too cool to function. This is why I find those people who moan about hipsters more annoying than hipsters themselves. At least hipsters are open about their pretension, anti-hipsters use this openness to hide their own. The “We Want Plates” Twitter account is full of a sense of superiority over the establishments it chooses to mock; so much so that they themselves become so pretentious over this defining characteristic of their anti-hipsterdom.

Today then, I coin a term for those people who feel themselves too superior for the “coolness” of the hipster: the “uber-hipster”. These uber-hipsters are infinitely more maddening in their attitude to the everyday hipster that they become a bigger scourge on the planet than the harmless hipster. There is a way to defeat this new monster of society, and it is something that can only be achieved if we all work together, regardless of subculture and say: “live and let live!”

Twitter: @georgemckay_