Monday, March 7, 2011

Hipsters: Counter Culture or Consumer Culture?

I enjoyed reading Thomas Frank's "Why Johnny Can't Dissent." It made me think about the "hipster" subculture that took hold through the first decade of the 21st century.

Hipsters are an example of a group that formed around the notions of non-conformity and individuality, but have quickly become a cliche... even mainstream. *Gasp!* You know the stereotypes: 18 to 30-somethings who openly despise all things "popular" and sport vintage flannel, thick-framed eyeglasses, and ironic haircuts, while sucking down Parliments and Schlitz.

In the Adbusters article, "Hipster: The Dead End of Western Civilization" (July 2009), writer Douglas Haddow argues that hipsterdom is the "end product of all previous countercultures," except with a complete lack of originality or subversiveness. Basically, he says it's a subculture that claims to reject anything mainstream-- while borrowing "cool" from previous generations of rebel movements (Beats, hippies, punk, grunge, early hip-hop, etc.) rather than creating it. Here is an excerpt:

"Hipsterdom is the first 'counterculture' to be born under the advertising industry's microscope, leaving it open to constant manipulation but also forcing its participants to continually shift their interests and affiliations. Less a subculture, the hipster is a consumer groupusing their capital to purchase empty authenticity and rebellion. But the moment a trend, band, sound, style or feeling gains too much exposure, it is suddenly looked upon with disdain. Hipsters cannot afford to maintain any cultural loyalties or affiliations for fear they will lose relevance... An amalgamation of its own history, the youth of the West are left with consuming cool rather that creating it."

Marketers have definitely caught on to the hipster trend. Why should we dig through thrift store bins for one-of-a-kind, vintage pieces any more when places like Urban Outfitters and Hot Topic can do the work for us? Pabst Blue Ribbon has been a poster child brand for effectively tapping into hipster consumerism. American Apparel made it's way into the Midwest... need I say more?
To conclude, I think that the individualism that hipsters seek to portray is more deeply rooted in capitalism than rebellion. Instead of defying the herd, they've become the herd. (Albeit a stylish herd.)

P.S. Did you guys know Johnny Rotten of the Sex Pistols is now promoting butter? Wow.

1 comment:

  1. Here is a funny comic about hipsters.