Looking beyond the parody to define the hipster

“Hipsters” are mocked at the moment, but do we even know who they really are? Wikimedia Commons/Jack Newton

The term “hipster” has become increasingly prominent in Australia’s urban lexicon this year. Even the Sydney Morning Herald has caught on, writing about “Hipster Housing”, featuring a young bespectacled couple on the front of the weekend property pages.

It is a rather scathing phrase, used at the moment primarily as a criticism. Across the cartoons, jokes, video parodies and feature articles, a caricature emerges.

The hipster is that funny smelling kid in tight jeans who sits in front of you on the bus or tram, pre-rolling cigarettes and judging you through his Ray Bans because you don’t have an ironic tattoo, 80s facial hair or read the zine he and his friends author.

Yet my own experience with hipsters indicates that such representations share only a partial, albeit humorous, likeness to reality.

How to define a hipster

Further reading of the hipster commentary will see some gross inconsistencies emerge.

For some critics, hipsters are all about the latest trend, whereas others argue vintage and kitsch are more highly valued. Some say hipsters wear their jeans around their knees, yet others claim high-waisted pants to be the preferred style. Hipsters are simultaneously mocked for both insisting on individualism and adhering to conventions.

Overall, the varying media definitions of hipsters inevitably oversimplify what is actually quite a complex and significant cultural happening.

Underneath subculture

Hipsters are bit more complicated than you’d think. Flickr/craigfinlay