what’s a hipster good for?
November 4, 2011, 12:36 am
Filed under: brave new world | Tags: , ,

Our present day hipsters who slouch along on Billyburg streets in skinny jeans and plaid shirts, sporting tattoos and facial hair, are nothing like the hipsters of yesterday from whom they take their name.  The Beatniks (Kerouac and the Beats) and Angry Young Men (Kingsley Amis and John Osborne) among others were counter cultural and prickly.  They had agendas and idea and wrote about them in books and produced art which shook our world.

The new hipster manifestation is  market savvy and slickly consumerist.  They are their own art, they conform and represent, and ultimately fall crushingly short of making new and challenging things in the world of ideas and arts, film and letters.

I find it disappointing that a social phenomenon once so full and meaningful has reincarnated in force but in a guise so reductive and empty.  Again and again it seems the question is who will lead, who will be our vanguard?

Here’s a description of the difference between the original and latter day groups which look so similar on the surface but couldn’t be more at odds:

One could say, exaggerating only slightly, that the hipster moment did not produce artists, but tattoo artists, who gained an entire generation’s arms, sternums, napes, ankles, and lower backs as their canvas. It did not produce photographers, but snapshot and party photographers: Last Night’s Party, Terry Richardson, the Cobra Snake. It did not produce painters, but graphic designers. It did not yield a great literature, but it made good use of fonts. And hipsterism did not make an avant-garde; it made communities of early adopters.

What Was the Hipster?, New York Magazine


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