A Defense of the Hipster

[Author's Note: These thoughts on the hipster, which appeared in Friday's Wooster Voice, sparked enough of a reaction in me, somewhat unexpectedly, that I decided I'd write a letter to the editor. I'm hoping they'll publish it on Friday, but here it is regardless. Edit: It will actually be published February 20. The Voice forgot to check their email....]

To the editor(s):

I certainly enjoyed Molly Lehman's critique of the hipster—it was well-written and very funny. However, I find myself compelled to give a defense of the subculture lest we overlook any of its value or highly unique contributions to American youth expression.

The hipster inclination for irony is widely acknowledged, and while it can certainly approach overkill it remains a) frankly hilarious, and b) a tip-of-the-iceberg indication that “a smarmy bunch of 18-to-25's” has developed a keen sense of critical thinking and (dare I say) intellectual rigor.

Look at the centrality of culture, both high and low, to the hipster ethos—elevating it, revering it, critiquing it, tearing it down, building it up. Hard to imagine the same age group giving a damn about culture twenty years ago. Now it's the lingua franca of youth, our most basic commodity. We're all part of it, we're all participating in the same exchange of ideas.

Furthermore, look at the quality of the culture hipsters rally around. Wes Anderson films are phenomenally good.

My particular tastes and interests may not always align with that of true-blue hipsters. I'm not a hipster myself. The band I'll be seeing this summer is Phish. But the value that this generation places on cultish obsessions and cultural artifacts puts me in good (spiritual) company.

This is also, I believe, the first American youth movement that has recognizably elevated the nerd, that is fundamentally nerdy. Think of how that will shake up teenage social hierarchies across the nation.

Of course, it is evolving into a consumer-driven movement. But it's interesting and refreshing to reflect on what's now commercially viable. Think of the “Fantasy Football” shirts on BustedTees. Anachronism aside, would that have been popular twenty years ago?

Finally, one might be advised to get used to it. Nothing says Generation Y more than hipsterism—it's our biggest impact to date on the cultural landscape.

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