Friday, December 5, 2008

Uptown Kids Wear Ksubi Too

This AdBusters article from July--signifying hipsters as "the dead end of Western civilization"--apparently still resonates with The Youth Of Today, because college kids keep writing about it! Like this Smith College student, who entitled her piece "Pop Rocks and Coke,"* which is either an allusion to the explosive fashions at Urban Outfitters or, you know, a reference to cocaine. Because that's what hipsters do! Cocaine and fashion.

Look, I'm not picking on the author, and I agree that it's time for all of us to officially retire the keffiyeh (except for Justin Timberlake, who inexplicably pulls it off really well.) What I am arguing is that condemning "hipsters" and their lifestyle choices is just as big an oversimplification that ignores the subtleties of the culture as, say, wearing a symbol of Palestinian solidarity as a fashion accessory.

Because just what about American Apparel is "hipster" anymore? For that matter, when exactly did riding your bike or eating vegetarian food become as iconographic of "hipster subculture" as PBR and these guys? I went to Misshapes (more than a couple times), and I don't ride a bike or drink PBR especially. Do I still count? Ms. Smith Student says that "trends cycle through hipsterdom like wildfire on acid," which actually doesn't make much sense, but I think I see her point. And I'd like to take it one step further--there are so many facets to "the modern hipster" that there is no such thing as hipster anymore.

Seriously. Maybe at one point, only a select few could pull off the American Apparel hoodie, but at this point it's become so ubiquitous that it doesn't mean anything at all. Sorry, Dov Charney, but your brand lost its "hipness" around the same time you could fake your own Polaroid online. Which isn't a bad thing! But I think, as the advent of artists like M.I.A. and the widespread resurgence of the Converse sneaker show, "hipsterdom" is no longer a subculture. It's a style. And confusing the two undercuts whatever otherwise acute insight you may have into the matter. Nobody can seem to define what a "hipster" is anymore besides what s/he typically wears--but when everyone else is wearing, say, that same pair of leggings from Ubran Outfitters, well, it's safe to say the style has gone past that of a mere subculture, hasn't it?

Even our Smith College author doesn't quite know what a true hipster is. "To clarify, when I say hipster, I don't necessarily mean the 70 percent or so of Smith students who have an affinity for the aforementioned look. I too sport American Apparel. I mean people who truly subscribe to the subculture as a full-on lifestyle," she says, which is the only time in the article she attempts to define "the subculture" any further. But the author doesn't explain what that "full-on lifestyle" entails, and I'd challenge anyone to offer an adequate explanation that doesn't involve reciting the Hipster Bingo board.

What I'm saying is that, yes, I do think we have witnessed the death of hipster subculture. Its oft-derided superficiality has, like most trends, crossed over into the mainstream, and there's nothing left to brandish, either fashionably or ironically. The clothing is the same, but there's nothing uniquely "hip" about American Apparel anymore. To wit: the company is now in the news for exchanging lawsuits instead of style tips.

Or am I still a dirty hipster because I like The Knife?


1 comment:

ninay said...

Except I thought we ARE the definition of "modern day hipsters," Josh.