Counterculture movements are a fact of life; over the years, hair-combing greasers have morphed into free-love hippies, who in turn became angst-ridden 90s grunge kids, and so on. Perhaps none of these movements, however, has been brought under as much derision as the hipster movement of the past few years. Countless jokes including the phrase “before it was cool” and endless taunting of any person caught listening to obscure music or wearing a fedora have firmly implanted the word “hipster” into the pejorative, American vocabulary.
I understand the confusion with hipsters; their ironic wardrobes and sappy music seem to exist solely to infuriate others and can be a bit much to handle at times. However, I think it is worth considering the roots of such a movement in order to move closer to an understanding of our more alternative brethren.
Let’s face it-the modern world is smaller than it has ever been. Information moves at the speed of light, ideas gain fame instantaneously and lose it just as quickly, and hundreds of people buzz at smartphone-equipped fingertips from dusk till dawn. This omnipresence of information is new to the human experience, and it can be quite overwhelming not only in what it presents to its users, but also in what it expects from those users; the rise of social media coinciding with the Information Age has almost required people to break themselves down into an online presence, to record their experience within the confines of 140 characters and a few hashtags. Holding Internet users within these limits, social media sucks the individuality from its users.
Is it any wonder, then, that a movement has developed whose aim is to wrest a bit of that individuality back? Is it any wonder that hipsters want a bit of the universe to themselves, a corner to call their own-something of which no one has ever before heard?
I do not mean to glorify every one-man ukulele band or to encourage everyone to become a skinny-jean-wearing hipster whose heartbeat is even ironic. I merely suggest that it is admirable that hipsters so ardently and constantly search for a new and unknown world under the mountains of information thrown at them daily. Perhaps we should lighten up on the hipsters; perhaps their search for self-actualization is just as valid as anyone else’s.
(But don’t get me wrong-I would not be caught dead wearing a fedora.)