Hipsters deserve our gratitude

 

Hipsterdom is like alcoholism. An alcoholic, Dylan Thomas famously wrote, is someone you dislike who drinks as much as you do.

That about sums it up. As long as there’s one symptom you don’t display, you consider yourself safe. You will eat with hipsters, drink (craft beer or coffee) with them, listen to music (even on vinyl) with them — but you will never be one of them, and they merit only your contempt. Right?

Maybe not.

“reasons i hate hipsters: —they use old or new technology — they drink coffee,” tweeted neonwario. “sometimes they listen to music, some of which is good and some not,” michaelleung tweeted in reply.

If we don’t have something more cogent to say, maybe we need to cool our jets a little.

Think about all the hipsters have given us. Is it so terrible?

Independent coffee shops? Yes, please.

Vinyl? Lay it on me! Can anyone who has ever had to open a shrink-wrapped jewel case and squint at tiny lyrics on a booklet the size of a well-fed Post-it note argue that a return to vinyl as the Physical Form Of Music is a bad thing? No.

Yes, there are principled cases to be made about issues with appropriation or gentrification. Yes, all the irony can get exhausting. But the net result of a lot of hipster pursuits is that Something Tasty And/Or Fun Is Available That Wasn’t Before.

Why, exactly, are we collectively reviling the person who decides to, say, create a bar where there is gin and tonic on tap?

Don’t say “Ughhh!” Celebrate. Consider the hipster in all his stereotypical glory — sporting a mustache, listening to a band that doesn’t exist yet, claiming to have inside information about coffee. It’s annoying, but is it so bad?

They’re defined by the attempt to cultivate taste.

Hipsters insist that they have better taste than you. Sometimes, even more irritatingly, they are right. Hipsters have developed taste in music, beer, coffee and vintage clothes. These things are pretty accessible. People with good taste in beer don’t have to pay obscene amounts of money that people who cultivate taste in, say, wine or scotch do. To be a hipster, you just have to be willing to put in the effort. “You can keep your labels,” hipsters say. “I have my Taste, and no one can take it from me.” Arguably, this is the democratization of taste. Why wait until you are a billionaire to eat and dress better than fast-food and big-box retailers suggest you should?

When a critical mass of hipsters converges on something, it is generally because the thing is both obscure and good. Think about it: Hipsters go out and find us nice music and nice plaids and nice restaurants and sturdy shoes, and we take up listening to it and wearing them and eating there. And for this we punish them?

I know what you’re going to say. There’s something almost pathetic about alternative culture after 2000 or so, in the sense that it is mainly an attempt by people who don’t know what it was like not to have instant access to everything you could possibly want – mass-produced for your convenience, boxed, shrink-wrapped and whisked to your door at a whim — to replicate what they imagine life was like Before, when one had to trek long distances and tailor her own clothing and grind coffee by hand with a pestle.

“What’s the matter with mass culture?” our elders ask, baffled. “We didn’t stagger through centuries of history so you could go trekking off on your fixie bicycle to buy vintage coats in a thrift shop. We have gears now, you realize? You can use them!” At its worst, hipsterdom is a weird reenactment of the 1960s by people who weren’t there.

But there’s an appeal to difficulty. The one rarity these days is Things That Aren’t Readily Available. That used to be the only kind of thing there was. People fought long and hard so that would not be so. But maybe something got lost in the shuffle.

Yes, popular culture is good now. It knows what we want before we want it, and it gives it to us with just a few clicks. But there’s no thrill of discovery. And sometimes it misses a spot. Sometimes we like things we didn’t know we’d like. And thanks to the Internet, if you find something obscure and good, it can spread rapidly, like wildfire — or Starbucks.

Look at food trucks, coffee shops, mustaches! Who would say that these things are not net boons?

We should thank the people who have given us so much.

Thank you, Hipsters, for all that you do. I won’t say “ugh” to you any more.

© 2014, The Washington Post

Read more From Our Inbox stories from the Miami Herald

  • An Idiot’s Guide to Inequality

    We may now have a new “most unread best-seller of all time.”

  • French food on a slippery slope

    Before my first visit to France, around 45 years ago, I was told that you couldn’t find bad food there if you tried. I was of limited experience, so even a hot dog jammed into a baguette bore witness to that “fact.”

  • Even when the VA does act, it still fails our veterans

    Jymm’s preferred attire is a skin-tight Minnie Mouse T-shirt with bright pink windbreaker pants. Even when not sporting his outfit of choice, he dons short shorts and shirts with holes in them, because that’s what he finds most comfortable. His Santa Monica apartment was furnished with broken chairs and tables he dug out of dumpsters. He held onto his favorite old drinking glass long after it broke. Jymm is a Vietnam veteran (who holds two Purple Hearts), and he’s definitely a character. But he’s never hurt himself or anyone else.

Miami Herald

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category