Showing posts with label Hipsters. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Hipsters. Show all posts

Monday, December 9, 2013

Further Thoughts On Hipster Atheism

Hipster culture to me is kind of like the fetishization of fashion itself. Fashion and beauty have been around for centuries, but what hipster culture does is it takes image and style and fetishizes it to the point where it becomes the only thing that matters. And living in New York, I can't help but pay attention to this subculture because hipsters are everywhere. They're unavoidable. If you're a relatively young person like myself in New York, you're going to feel a lot of pressure to be stylish and you will indeed be judged by how you dress, not only by hipsters, but by New Yorkers in general.

Hipsterism I suppose is the primary cultural phenomenon of our day, as was the hippy subculture of the sixties, and the beatnik subculture of the fifties. I guess you can say that I too am a hipster, but I don't fit all the stereotypes. Yes, I do care about how I dress. I do wear skinny jeans. I do have a beard. I do wear a lot of plaid. I do listen to a lot of indie rock and a lot of classic rock. I do like many things that are somewhat obscure. I do like art and film. And, I am an atheist. But - I'm not a trust fund baby pretending to be poor. I care more about science and philosophy than I do about style and looks. I sometimes wear things that aren't cool. I don't keep up with all the trends. I like many things that are mainstream and commercial. I don't wear thick rimmed glasses. And I fucking hate PBRs!

I do however, have somewhat of a love/hate relationship with hipster culture. Once you get into it, you start looking down at people who have no style. This is why hipster culture has so many haters. I've noticed myself numerous times insulting people behind their back who I thought had no fashion sense. But then I also despise people who take that attitude to the extreme and judge people only by what they wear. I don't go that far. I judge people by their personality. If you're interested in the same things I am, like science and philosophy and can carry your own in an intellectual conversation, then I don't necessarily care about how you dress. And conversely, you can be the most stylish mother fucker in the world, but if you're a purely superficial, lame ass douche bag who only cares about fashion and pop culture, then I will have little to no interest in hanging out with you.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Hipster Atheism

When I'm out drinking around town and strike up conversations with strangers, I often want to talk about beliefs. I'm fascinated about exploring other people's worldviews. Lately, most of the young people that I've talked to have all been atheists. This may not come as a surprise given that I live in New York - a very liberal city and a third of all Americans under 30 have no religion, but here in New York the number of atheists/non-theists seems to be much higher than a third. It seems to be a majority.

New York has one of the largest hipster communities in the world, and Williamsburg (which is only a few miles from where I live) is considered the official hipster capital of the world. I don't have official statistics, but in my experiences with the hipster community, atheism or agnosticism seems to be rampant. Atheism seems to be "cool" with the fashionably conscious. It's very rare - almost never, that I run into a young person who actually believes in a theistic god within the context of a particular religion. While I think it's fucking awesome that so many young people are catching onto atheism in numbers that have never been seen before in the US, I certainly want to keep atheism a plausible intellectual position and not just some trend that will be jettisoned once it gets too popular. That's because once something goes "mainstream," hipsters are required to hate it by law, and the growing popularity of atheism might backfire if "uncool" people in backwards parts of the country start embracing it.

Monday, May 13, 2013

If it's possible that there's a greatest conceivable being, is it also possible that there's a coolest conceivable hipster?

It just occurred to me...

Friday, February 22, 2013

Rediscovering My Rock & Roll Roots

They say that everything popular gets recycled, and over my relatively short 30 years on this Earth, I've seen evidence of that. As I've gotten older I've become increasingly aware of the possibility that I could become an old fogey. I've been seeing some signs of it already: my plummeting disinterest in popular culture combined with my constant fascination with "intellectual" things like science and philosophy. It's not that these things aren't or cannot be cool, it's just that they aren't typically associated with things that "cool" people do. But "cool" is an extremely relative term, impossible to pinpoint. I think today because of the internet, it is easier than ever to stay "cool" so to speak, by knowing what's going on. Therefore I don't think that my generation as it gets older, will follow in the footsteps of previous generations that quickly shed their youthful coolness in favor of old fogey-dom once they settled down and had kids.

Back in the early 2000s there was a cultural explosion of a rediscovery of the old school and seemingly forgotten garage and indie rock that had been bubbling under the surface for so many years. It was in response to the nauseous commercial rock and rap metal that seemed to be hammering the final nail into the coffin of traditional rock. Grunge had run its course and devolved into the whiny alternative and anger metal that so permeated everyday life. At this time, I felt like an outcast not quite being able to identify with the culture around me. But when garage rock came back into style along with a renewed interest in 70s rock and punk, I found a bandwagon I could jump on. I had already been into many 60s and 70s rock acts like The Doors and The Beatles and Led Zeppelin, and so the culture around me seemed to be mirroring my interests. It was in a sense, perfect timing.

I remember the summer of 2002 quite vividly working part time at my sister's store on first street in the East Village. The hipster culture was exploding around me. Everyone cool looked like a 70s rock star or an Andy Warhol groupie. I grew my hair out long for the first time in my life because I remember at the time wanting to look just like Jimmy Page. I had discovered rock and roll and it seemed there was no going back. (If only I had actually learned how to play guitar back then instead of waiting years later.) But now a decade later this discovery seems to have faded a bit and I've been somewhat rediscovering my rock and roll roots, perhaps in an embarrassing attempt to stay "cool". But nonetheless, if Iggy Pop and Jimmy Page can still rock on while in their sixties, I think I can too considering I'm only half their age.

Pop culture doesn't entirely disinterest me, just parts of it. The Gangnam Style K-pop phenomenon of last year I feel like I saw from the perspective of a 45 year old dad whose teenage daughter forces him to listen to it on TV - that is to say, I took one glance at it, and then kept reading the newspaper. I've gotten into newer musical acts like The Black Keys and LDC Soundsystem, but it seems my heart belongs to 60s and 70s rock and roll. It's funny how I should so strongly identify with the music of my parent's generation, but even my mom and dad weren't cool enough at that time to listen to the popular music of the day. I've discovered that every decade has music I could like; every decade had its "cool". And although musically I'm very nostalgic, I do prefer the times we are living in. I wouldn't really want to go back to any of these bygone eras, not permanently at least.

The past remains alive in the music it produced, as will the music of today for future generations. So as I enter my thirties I enter a new era in which being "cool" never fades - it just gets cooler. Now you can be cooler in your thirties and forties than you were whilst a teenager - as long as you got your shit together. So for me rediscovering my rock and roll roots is in a sense, rediscovering cool. There's nothing wrong with being into nerdy and scholarly things like science and philosophy while simultaneously staying threaded to all the other cool things our free society has allowed us to produce.

They're both worth fighting for.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Teenage Identity Crisis: A Painful Reminiscence

Now for a momentary digression away from religion, to a painful reminiscence of my adolescence.

I was just watching a show recently about the evolution of grunge and its affect on heavy metal and it brought back some rather painful memories. I came of age in what is known as the "post-grunge" era of the late 90s and early 2000s. Back when I was a teenager at this time, I had sort of an identity crisis. I didn't quite know who I was, and I didn't quite fit in anywhere. At that time there were mainstream super bands like Creed and alternative rock/punk acts like Blink 182, and I hated those bands so much. You still had heavy metal, thrash metal and death metal that were popular, and I hung out with a lot of kids who were metal heads, but I didn't quite fit in with them. I liked some heavy metal, but I never really got into the music as hard core as some of my friends did and I never was a total head banging metal head. There was industrial metal like Nine Inch Nails and Marilyn Manson that I kind of gravitated more towards but I never fully embraced these genres by dressing goth or putting make up on. About as far as I could go was to dress all in black. Then of course there was rap music that was evolving out of that classic, golden era sound that I liked years before and so my interest in rap was waning.

So I was struggling to fit in. I was in a total identity crisis. I wasn't a metal head, I hated the mainstream alternative acts; I wasn't a thug into hip hop anymore, and my interest in industrial metal was never strong enough to make me part of the industrial scene. To be honest with you, I hated the culture of the late 90s. I hated the hairstyles, with their stupid gelled spikes and the lame ass scruffy goatees. I hated the big baggy clothing, the baggy rave pants, and wearing all black because you had to be dark because colors were too gay. I am so glad that era is over and I never want it to come back.

I honestly like the times we are living in now much more. I like the fashion much more and the music. What happened during the late 90s for me is that I started to get into the old school bands. I got into The Doors, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, and then The Beatles and the Rolling Stones and Iggy & The Stooges. I got into the roots bands that all the genres of the day had evolved from. I felt like I should have been born 30 years earlier. Then when the garage rock revival happened, around when The Strokes came out, in 2001, suddenly retro was in. A whole generation, fed up with the music they were being force-fed by the music industry rediscovered the bands of yesteryear and suddenly the culture around me became fused with the bands that I was already listening to. The indie/hipster culture emerged, and I suddenly found my calling. I found out that there were many other people out there like me, fascinated by music that predated our births. And although this new sub-culture was comparatively small compared to the mainstream alternative scene, my identity crisis began to subside. By the time this happened however, I was already out of high school, and perhaps it was a little to late, but it is always better late than never.

As you get older "fitting in" becomes less and less of a concern. I now pride myself on being unique in my own way and don't feel like I fit into any particular subculture. But as an awkward, zit-faced teenager, I didn't have the social skills and confidence to pull of such attitude effectively. If I could describe myself now, it would be a world travelling, cosmopolitan, intellectual, with style. I dress a little retro like some of my rock star heroes, I also spiffy it up with some class. But I'm basically a t-shirt and jeans kind of guy, with the occasional flannel button down. I don't go crazy with the super skinny jeans, but I like my jeans kind of tight.  I'm growing my hair out a bit longer now because I feel that I might as well get the most out of it before I go bald. I pretty much always have a beard or some kind of facial hair, as long as it is not in the stupid 90s style of mustache-less goatees.

There are certain kinds of people who never change their style. The way they were during their formative adolescent years leaves such an impression of them, that they are forever cast in that mold, and unable to change. I have a metal head friend like that. He dresses in the same old metal head t-shirts that he wore back in 1997, and he's got the same old long-haired heavy metal do that he more or less had back then too. Some people never change. Me personally, I evolve constantly. My hair, my style, my interests, are always changing. I'm never the same person for more than a few years and I like that. Now that I'm more confident and more sure of who I am, the identity crisis is over. Long live the '10s!!!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012


If you have lived in New York within the past 10 years or so, you've undoubtedly had to encounter, the hipster. The hipster's goal is to try to turn themselves into a moving canvas of stylistic, visual art, so that they can advertise to the world that they're cool. They pay very close attention to their hair and clothes, and every look is carefully designed to have significance, with an often historical context. For example, a hipster might be trying to achieve a look straight out of an obscure 70s film that garnished a cult following, or they might be trying to emulate their favorite post punk or rockabilly band. Being a New Yorker, I too of course have always been the type that has cared a little more than average about my style. Fashion to me is a means for expression that you give to the outside world. You might be the type that wants to say "I don't give a shit" and your fashion sense might reflect that, but I've always wanted to look cool, even if I wasn't.

Now the origin of the hipster, perplexes me. "Hipsters" or people fitting the generally agreed upon definition, have their roots at least as far back as the 1940s Jazz culture. These music aficionados didn't sport asymmetrical haircuts, or drink PBRs, but they use an in-group slang and were hip to things average folks new nothing of, like heroine. Then there was the beatniks of the 1950s and 60s, who often lived in the bohemian areas of cities in sort of urban communes. They were artsy, often into poetry, into left-wing politics, and had hair styles and facial hair that the "squares" of the day disapproved of. The beatniks evolved into the hippies, who grew their hair even longer and took their style even further than what was considered mainstream. The 70s and 80s brought in a lot of new styles, ranging from the yuppy, to the punks rockers, to the disco style. There was a small trace of the urban hipster in the most bohemian of neighborhoods through out the world at this time. I was a child of the 90s and looking back at the fashion back then I can tell you I would never want to revisit that style. The Hip Hop culture had seeped in, and everything became over-sized and baggy. There was an alternative skater culture that I remember well in the mid to late 90s that I did enjoy. I remember when side burns were in style wanting them so bad before I could actually grow them. They came, but just a little too late.

For me personally, since I was just about the right age at that time, the hipster revival came in the form of The Strokes. When The Strokes came on the scene, they had a style that was so retro, and so cool in such a New York downtown way, that I was instantly drawn to them. I never really got into their music that much personally, but their style inspired me and totally changed my direction fashion-wise. They made tight jeans cool again. I suddenly hated baggy pants and hated name brand fashion. I grew my hair longer, and I began shopping in vintage clothing stores downtown, looking for anything cool and retro that wasn't some commercial name brand ghetto hoodrat or preppy Abercrombie and Finch type shit (commercial retailers eventually caught up with this trend with mimicry, as is always the case when something becomes fashionable). And I wasn't alone. Suddenly all over New York's hipper neighborhoods, throngs of young people were tightening their pants, and adopting the retro styles that The Strokes had laid down for us. From my experience, this was sometime around 2001-2002, and the modern hipster was reborn.

With so many people, especially men, becoming so fashion conscious, it was only a matter of time before the "metrosexual" emerged. Now the metrosexual is not necessarily a hipster, in fact there are many significant differences. While a hipster and a metrosexual will both wear tight jeans, the hipster will often have longer and messier hair (usually in a very deliberate manner) while the metrosexual will often have his hair short and styled. The hipster will often have a scruffy or full on lumberjack beard, whereas the metrosexual will usually be clean shaven or sport a very neatly trimmed beard. The hipster is more retro, more vintage, and the metrosexual is more into designer fashion, often European in origin. They both are often skinnier than average, and might act a little more effeminate than the average male, but the metrosexual definitely takes the time to workout.

10 years after this cultural revival, hipsterdom is not dead as some critics have suggested. The epicenter of the scene in New York moved from the East Village, to Williamsburg sometime on the middle of the last decade. Hipsterdom has become a popular topic for discussion when with friends. I'm often asked, "are you a hipster?" "No", I reply, "I'm a fucking world travelling, cosmopolitan, intellectual. I just have a sense of style." According to legend, no self righteous person, however fashionable, could admit to being a hipster.

Aside from the fashion sense of hipsters, let's look at the bigger cultural impacts. Unlike the hippies, hipsters had no draft to dodge, no cultural squares to rebel against. The war in Iraq, although it paralleled in some of the animosity against the Vietnam War, failed to mobilize the hipsters in large numbers, probably because there was no draft. The 90s culture full of its angry Nu-Metal and Hip Hop was just as sexually charged as any indie rock band. In fact, many of the indie rock bands that came out during, and in the wake of The Strokes, were softer and more romantic in their approach towards sexual relations than the bands of the 90s. The indie rock revival, of which the hipsters are synonymous with, was not a rebellion to push for more violence or more sexuality, that had already been pushed. I will say however, that homosexuality during the last decade has made a leap forward into mainstream acceptance, in part with help from the sexually liberal hipster culture.

What will the future hold for the hipster?

Some are saying that the hipster culture is dead. I just see it evolving into the mainstream like every other subculture until there is a significant backlash against it. What will the future bring in terms of fashion? The hipsters have already brought retro back. Even the clean cut looks of the 40s came back into style. Who knows? I don't really dwell on fashion as I do on topics of intellect. Drinking in Williamsburg today one does not see evidence of the hipster dying, and hipsterdom appears alive and well.


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