In the complicated world of subcultures, none has permeated the present day culture like the hipsters. From young people walking in the busy streets of major cities, movie actors to popular musicians, the traces of this subculture are quite evident, perhaps signifying the dominance that it intends to enjoy. As a subculture, the hipster movement comprises mainly of youth who hail from gentrifying neighborhoods. Most notably, it is associated primarily with alternative lifestyles, organic foods, political views that are progressive, a fashion sensibility that is not mainstream, vintage clothing and alternative or indie music. A large demographic of those who subscribe to this subculture are mostly White Caucasian individuals who have made a home for themselves in urban environments. To many who are disciples of this movement, the mutating aspect of the assortment of tastes, styles, and behavior make is what makes the subculture what it is today. The term was derived from other movements that were present in the 1940s, most notably, the hippies but gained prominence in the United States and around the world in the late 2000s(Kellogg 380). To the core members of this subculture, the hipster term is pejorative as it is mainly used to describe a pretentious individual and thus they avoid self-identifying as such. It is, however, important to note that many scholars well versed in subcultures have noted with sheer fascination that lately, the modern hipster has become more of a “marketplace myth’’. Such is the case as a two-way relationship has emerged with a value system and worldview that mostly seeks consumers that are indie-oriented.
Out of all the previous subcultures that came before the hipsters, it is from the hippie movement that it was thought to have specifically evolved from. The hippie subculture began in the mid-1960s by youth who were opposed to the United State’s war in Vietnam. It then spread from the United States rapidly to other countries, especially those in Europe. Hippies would don ubiquitous psychedelic colors and clothes with peace signs. Those in this movement would resort to creating their own communities listening to psychedelic music and would in some instances use psychotropic substances such as “magic mushrooms”. To the hippies, the main purpose of living was to first know the purpose of life on earth. It is only then that one would get to know their purpose and fulfill their purpose devoid of the Western culture that had invaded every single facet of life as they knew it. Societal restrictions were ignored by hippies, basing their argument on the belief that human beings deserved to live life a life of freedom. One distinguishing characteristic of hippies in the society was their communal living arrangement, the practice of holistic music and vegetarian diets.
Out of all the previous incarnations of hipsters, it was the hippies that formed the largest nonpolitical subgroup that was hell-bent on initiating a counterculture in the society. The counterculture movement of the 1950s through to the 1960s advocated for social change and harshly criticized visible developments in the society. For instance, the New Left group was made up of individuals who believed that the United States government was not interested in looking into the needs of the common man and urged young people to join their efforts of political action. Later on, the group focused on non-violent anti-Vietnam War campaign that was meant to dissuade the President Nixon administration from waging any form of conflict. Other groups that were precursors of the hipster movement focused on pressuring the government to ensure that there are equal Civil Rights for Native Americans, Hispanics, and African Americans(Moretta 12). The Civil Rights movement was the visible expression of this movement and was inclusive of individuals from all races, sexual orientations, and sex. Moreover, other groups would later take on the role of supporting women’ rights by using dissenting political means such as calling for new legislation, protest and other direct means that did not shy away from facing the issues head on. The purpose of this research paper is to analyze the modern hipster movements, how it is influenced, produced and presently while comparing it to other incarnations that came before it.
The modern hipster movement; its influences, production, and presentation in comparison to earlier incarnations
Presently, the world that we live in is connected thanks to globalization, exchange of goods and the development of new media technologies. Structural changes that have taken place over the last two decades. The evolution of subcultures often occurs through dominant symbols and meanings. Subcultures are also affected by the dynamics in a society that is constantly changing as they have to respond to the greater mass population. Hipsters fit in this category as a subset with members that follow the latest fashion and trends, especially cultures that are not in the mainstream. Apart from their dress code, individuals in this group embrace independent thinking, a progressive brand of politics and an open mind when dealing with controversial issues that present themselves in this modern society. Gone are the days when hippies would be ostracized from mainstream society due to their outright rebellion as the millennial hipster presently makes a conscious effort to be different just for the sake of it. In actual sense, hipsters have now come to the mainstream which is a different approach from that used by those subcultures that came before it. Instead of following a policy of isolation from the rest of society and leading their seemingly “cool” way of life, modern hipsters have become consumers of the “cool” factor instead of creating it as did their sub-cultural ancestors. It is also important to remember that the sister movement is of a relatively modern design which mostly depends on the availability of new social and media technology in order to share their opinions and way of living with the rest of the world.
Hipsters can be identified by their unique clothing style. To any hipster, the clothes they wear and how they appear in public is quite important to them. They use their attire as an indication of their creativity and the individualism that they possess in style. Keeping up with hipsters and their dress code can be a difficult undertaking as trends always seem to change by the day and vary from one region to another. It is also worth acknowledging that there are certain clothing brands that have fully established themselves in the mainstream arena and are now embraced by hipsters. Similarly, there are brands that are developed and directly aimed at the hipsters as the target market. Such is the case with Apple products (MacBooks, iPhones, and iPads) which have a mass following among members of this subculture. However, such a phenomenon poses controversial questions on whether the modern hipster has simply died and been absorbed by the mainstream. Additionally, there have been numerous occasions when hipsters have been used as advertisement tools by brands such as American Apparel that was made popular by these individuals.
In terms of cultural preference, hipsters have been known to hold the aspect of their cultural capital dear. A unique cultural taste is typical of hipsters as they more often than not, look down upon most of those items liked by the mainstream. Conversely, during the hippie movement in the 60s, subculture was dominated by a large population of creative people many of whom were either poets, authors, artists or musicians. A major difference is that during the formative days of these earlier movements, there were idols that would be looked up to, but contemporary hipsters do less in terms of creating their own style.
(Aiello and Shultz 19) They make it a primary goal to discover and adopt new art while enjoying paintings, sculptures, and books. Furthermore, to hipsters an individual’s cultural preference represents their preference, making them quite specific when making a selection. Hipsters often chose music that mirrors their personality and overall taste. As a cultural symbol, music is prominent in their lives, shaping their eccentric wardrobe and personalities to match it. This is in line with their way of living as the use their preferences without paying much attention to their personalities. They also distance themselves from popular movies as they take pride in their act of showing utter disdain four Holywood movies that might feature stars such as Julia Roberts, Meg Ryan, Robin Williams and Tom Hanks.
In terms they the political affiliations, hipsters have by large been considered as anti-political. The lack of active political participation by hipsters may have been caused by their failed actions during the World Trade Organization (WTO) Ministerial Conference in 1999 and a similar confrontation when they opposed the incursion into Iraq in 2003. In essence, this might be the reason why hipsters often embrace a rebellious tone as they might have realized that it is quite difficult for them to effect political change as did their contemporaries from former generations(Sreenivasan 168). Presently, most hipsters avoid topics that have politics as their subject matter as they are fully aware that they wield very little influence over those in power. Another item that is dear to the modern hipsters is their connotations and self-representation that they present to the rest of the world by means of signs. The image becomes key in such a setting as it defines a particular individual. The focus on the attention that they can get from people with no concern as to whether it is negative or positive. What is important to them is how people perceive them when in public or in social media spaces where they interact with other individuals. They would see it fit, to use the internet to create blogs where discussions would entail reviews of anything from music, fashion to food. A faster and simpler way is the use of Twitter and Facebook and people can view these pictures in real time. Most of these photos are usually edited, most notably on Instagram. These images act as advertisements that may be designed to send linguistic symbolic or literal messages.
Commercialization of the Hipster Aesthetic
There are numerous occasions presently which depict the attack surveillance and appropriation by usurpers that hipsters experience. To many, they are a fringe movement that simply does not fit into proper society. They are also criticized and given tags such as “nonconformist posers” facing accusations of judging the general public while they themselves try their own form of in-group conformity. It is true the visibility and identification of a hipster are mainly through their performative consumption as their expressions depict their taste in activities, clothing, and music. In order for a subculture to exist and persist globally, mechanisms must be followed to develop the behavioral, material and aesthetic aspect that end up defining the group(Magill 34). These standards include the norms, meanings, and negotiations that bring forth participation of this shared enterprise to a larger audience. It is the collaboration of hipsters that ensures the survival of their outfit and avoidance of infiltration by posers. Commercial actors play a big role in promoting the hipster movement in the forms of cultural magazines, indie bands, blogs, retail stores, music festivals and email subscription lists. These intricate networks also include consumers who are buying these products and also end up promoting these very organizations. One such actor is Vice which has been a major actor during the formative years of this movement. Presently, the magazine has more than 1million print readers in about thirteen countries and often features stories about the pop culture and independent arts that are often written with an uncanny air of irreverence and sarcasm.
Vice magazine has one sole aim in as far as the hipster movement is concerned; to create more readership in as many countries as possible in order to ensure that people understand what the hipster culture is all about. Their website also features American Apparel ads that have been posted on their homepage with other sets of affiliate mini-sites dealing with information about music, fashion, and current events. A controversial and yet popular part of this site contains a page named “Dos and Don’ts”. Basically, it contains photos of everyday individuals that have been captured during random encounters in the streets and uploaded. The controversial bit involves the spectators labeling them on whether they failed or succeeded in “looking cool”. A comments section thus allows all members who associate with this culture to give their two cents about an individual’s fashion sense and in so doing participate in the process of establishing rules and norms. It is this type of participation that users are able to negotiate boundaries in the subculture and thus generating standards that will be used as a guide to consumption choices. It is vital to note that these same standards can lead to the cropping up of new communities as standards are the building blocks of all societies. Standards in a society constitute agreed upon scripts, meanings and rules used in governing relationships and guiding behavior. They are successful in greatly simplifying the very environment they find themselves in by embodying highly abbreviated or compressed information. Adopted standards also constrain choices y signaling opportunities as it allows for the cooperation that will occur between it and the coordinated behavior.
Even more interesting is the fact that the “Dos and Don’ts” section in the magazine serves as a display of negotiation between hipsters on an online space on what normative behavior they should follow in order strengthen the position of their subculture. Additionally, the post found on this site together with the out-group and in-group spectators of the status. Those who benefit are those individuals that have been isolated geographically from the urban neighborhoods and all their trappings where most of these photos are captured. It is this form of commercial coordination that keeps the standard of the trend current as they have to negotiate with developing coalitions, negotiating with one’s competitor and in other occasions, adding new members(Leidner 45). The norms, standards, and rules that are created through collaboration are vital in combating the ever-present threat of diffusion which always threatens to smother an existent trend. During the hippie days, there was no social media for those individuals who lived during this epoch. They did not want to conform or be accepted into the mainstream society and would rather have their own enclave and live the life that they desired. Their opinions differed greatly from those of individuals in the mainstream and the only way they could voice their opinions was through holding protests. Although considered an archaic of presenting one’s view, it got their point across but in a slower fashion and to a smaller population. Messages posted online via that internet using usually reach a wider target market with the global level links serving as the vital links needed to seal geographical structural holes.
Over the years, a consumption oriented subcultures have developed into an analytical category that helps corporations understand their consumers and how they organize their lives. Recognizing the product categories, consumption activities and brands may serve as a basis for social cohesion and interaction between individuals. The ascribed social categories found in society can be easily solved by using this consumer culture. An example is that of the ethnographic study carried out by James H. McAlexander and John W. Schouten into the inner workings of the hipster subculture and the Harley-Davidson motorcycle. The uniqueness of the study is in the fact that both researchers first became members of an outfit thus giving them an insider’s view of this subculture and the consumerism that brought it into being. Subcultures have developed symbiotic relationships with marketing institutions that depict their dominant values, revealing symbolic behavior and social structure(“SUBCULTURES OF CONSUMPTION – AN ETHNOGRAPHY OF THE NEW BIKERS”). The most profound organizing forces in contemporary life are all those activities directly related to the interpersonal relationships that people share in order to give meaning to their lives. It the consumption choices made by individuals that also end up connecting individuals from many different backgrounds and in so doing creating a subculture of consumption. It is the Harley-Davidson brand, for instance, that has brought bikers together into one cohesive group as they all share this brand. They have a shared commitment to the brand that in turn allows them to create a hierarchical social structure that cannot de defy by its members.
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