Hipsters and the New Gilded Age

One thought on “Hipsters and the New Gilded Age”

  1. I think your critique is far better than NY Mag’s, but I think there’s a larger point to be made.

    e.g., from NY Mag:

    “Let me recall a string of keywords: trucker hats; undershirts called “wifebeaters,” worn alone; the aesthetic of basement rec-room pornography, flash-lit Polaroids, and fake-wood paneling; Pabst Blue Ribbon; “porno” or “pedophile” mustaches; aviator glasses; Americana T-shirts from church socials and pig roasts; tube socks; the late albums of Johnny Cash; tattoos. Key institutions were the fashion magazine Vice, which moved to New York from Montreal in 1999 and drew on casual racism and porn to refresh traditional women’s-magazine features (“It Happened,” “Dos and Don’ts”) and overcome the stigma of boys looking at photos of clothes…”

    and from you:

    “I define the contemporary hipster as a type of person who is intensely focused on a process of self-making by means of strategic consumption. That is, the hipster constructs an identity by becoming something like a professional shopper, an “early adopter” of trends and fashions, as Greif rightly points out. What the hipster disavows is, quite specifically, an awareness of his class situation.”

    Both of these perspectives do to the hipster exactly what the hipster is doing to himself, which is defining himself by externalities, by brands, and not something specific or unique to his own psychology. You could maintain the integrity of those paragraphs and merely change the proper nouns and you would be defining some other group, e.g. rap wannabes, or geeks, or whatever.

    This shows that the hipster isn’t any different than any other self-branding type, only the store he shops in differs. But the mechanism is the same.

    So to try and understand what the hipster “is” is an act of bad faith. It’s a self-defense. Defining him allows you/me/us the ability to pretend we are doing something different than he is. We get to pretend our identity is somehow more legitimate than his is.

    That the hipster drinks PBR is absolutely no different than the yuppie buying a Subzero refrigerator, or someone’s need to have a MacBook Pro instead of a Windows 7. We convince ourselves that these consumptive experiences are important in their own right (“I need if for graphic design”) but they are always and everywhere ways of broadcasting an artificial identity we want others to accept.

    There’s a word for that, but I can’t remember what it is.

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