How I Learned to Stop Judging and Embrace the Flannel

It’s Not So Wrong for “Hipsters” to Help the Environment, Buy Organic Food and Support Local Businesses


People are deemed “hipsters” if they like anything out of the ordinary. If that’s the case, then soon everyone will be considered a hipster. (Photo Illustration by Brian Jasinski/ The Observer)


People are deemed “hipsters” if they like anything out of the ordinary. If that’s the case, then soon everyone will be considered a hipster. (Photo Illustration by Brian Jasinski/ The Observer)

Alright, guys, there are “hipster” memes based on everything from Disney characters to Hitler. Hipsterism has peaked. It’s hit the mainstream. So I’ve officially decided that hipster jokes aren’t funny anymore.

Yes, what I’m saying is that joking about people who supposedly don’t like popular things on principle has become too popular, therefore, it is no longer funny or cool. Is that hipster enough for you?

The application of the word “hipster” has become so ubiquitous and vague that just about anything has become acceptable criteria for the epithet. “I’m seeing a band in Williamsburg this weekend.” “Hipster!” “I bought this shirt at American Apparel because I learned about sweatshop labor today and it was the only store I could find that doesn’t use it.” “Hipster!” “I’m going to this local coffee place instead of Starbucks because the president said it’s important to support local business.” “Hipster!”

No matter how far removed from “cool” or “hipsterism” the motivations may be, the action itself makes you a hipster. A caricature. A non-individual bereft of personal opinions.

I find these arbitrary standards troublesome. We’ve now reached the point where almost no one is willing to see eye to eye with the human behind those RayBans. It’s true that some hipsters can be exclusive snobs who do what they do to be trendy. But shouldn’t people buy organic, or support fair trade, local businesses and independent artists? Is there something wrong with caring about the environment? Is it snobby to buy products from distributors who make sure that their workers don’t perish in poverty? Is it uncool to support smalltime musicians who don’t have multi-billion dollar media corporations ensuring their chart-topping success?

Throughout the past century, with every social movement or trend there came a push and pull. Some people define themselves by the trend, some merely dabble in it and some dismiss it altogether. Consider the past decades: In the ’50s, we had the beatniks. They could be exclusive and pretentious; but, they gave us Ginsberg, Kerouac, Kesey—cornerstones of modern literature.

In the ’60s there were hippies, who, yes, could often be unwashed and lazy. But weren’t the issues they were protesting—racial segregation, gender inequality, the Vietnam War—issues worth fighting against, whether or not you wear hemp and stick flowers in your hair?

In the three following decades, there were punks, including Generation X-ers. Elitist to a fault. But punk was a backlash over very real issues: a failing job market; an increasingly conformist and indifferent attitude towards politics, gender norms and rampant consumerism. (Any of that sound familiar?)

In the early 00’s, we had emo, which…uh….well, I’ll get back to you on that one.

So we come to hipsterism. Let’s look at it objectively. The negatives: some snobby art school kids with a sense of entitlement thicker than the rims of their glasses, some fashion trends that will more than likely lead to an epidemic of male infertility somewhere down the line (read: skinny jeans) and a slew of tired memes.

The positives: The organic industry has grown exponentially over the past decade, which is a good thing if you give a crap about the environment, which you should. More people care about fair trade, and in my opinion there is no downside to increased action against exploitative working conditions.

Independent artists—musicians, filmmakers, and so on—have a greater share of the market than ever before; less money for the labels, more for the artist who actually does most of the work. On a local scale, independent businesses are the lifeblood of the downtown area; look at every single quirky restaurant and specialty store in the Lower East side. What our economy needs most right now is for small, independent business ventures to be successful. I see nothing negative in the fact that people are trying to support honest folks who are trying to make their own living. Not everyone who upholds “hipster” standards is doing it for the sake of trendiness.

When did labels become acceptable again? It’s idiotic that people our age are still stuck in this high school mentality of abstaining from anything that might get them branded a hipster. College is a time to exchange ideas with people who differ from you, not a time to dismiss them because their fashion sense incites a preconceived notion of disingenuousness. People who take a true interest in indie music or organics don’t like the word “hipster” any more than homosexuals enjoy hearing the word “faggot”—or any more than a football fan likes to be called a “bro.” All are dehumanizing words that reduce complex people to a rigid set of diminutive stereotypes.

Next time you see that NYU kid looking at organic tomatoes in Union Square, why not ask him about his reasoning instead of sneering at him? Or maybe talk to that cute girl in the cardigan, peering into an art-deco book at the Strand? Why not try on a flannel shirt? They’re comfy as hell. (Can’t say the same for skinny jeans, though.)