Science. In so many ways you are our friend. (Until you turn on us, but that’s a story for another day.) In the latest of studies that we must bring to your attention, a couple of scientists named Zeynep Arsel and Craig L. Thompson have dug deep into the psychology of hipsterism and found that hipsters…don’t even want to be hipsters. Worlds…colliding…
On the food chain of social and consumptive self-defining from yuppies to bohos to bourgies, the scientists explain, people buy things not only that they need, but that reflect who they want to be. This is the essence of aspirational advertising. Don Draper was made on this concept! And yet, somewhere in the aughts, the floods parted, and the hipsters diverged in the mustard-green wood:
According to a rather brilliant piece in Psychology Today:
Their problem is that their purchases tend to place them within a category whose mythology they despise. That’s right: Nobody likes hipsters, not even hipsters.
Hipsters, apparently, have the unfortunate luck as to encompass everything consumer-focused and target-markety and brand-savvy about your typical tween, and yet carry the shame of one million hippies and beatniks on their backs, forcing them to cling to the edges of self-hating suckage while also, ironically, donning a trucker cap, almost as punishment.
Then again, if we were to separate true hipsters from those who believe in “hipster as something you can purchase at American Apparel,” this might be another story. Surely, the first man who donned skinny jeans, just because, not because he was attempting to emulate some hipster-cool persona, wasn’t a masochist. Or was he? But the second person who put them on may have been. And the 9,000th person who did was surely a far cry from the first.
Similarly, if 20 years ago you ordered a PBR, you were something legitimate and authentically you — just a guy drinking PBR, no hipster strings attached. If you wore a trucker hat, you were a trucker. But if you do those things tonight, at, say, Union Pool, you are hitching a ride onto the social meme of 1,000 Williamsburgers before you, and the only way to dissociate from that, apparently, is to hate yourself. Easier than doing something new.
people who legitimately enjoy acting like hipsters in ways of dress, psychology, social behaviors, and whatnot, are forced to to “convince themselves that the things they buy do not reflect on their true character.”
All of this meta-meta-irony must be exhausting. Hence, the ennui. And denial.
The scientists interviewed “Scarlet,” who told them:
I’m not gonna lie, I shop at Urban [Outfitters] sometimes, only when it’s on sale of course… I like doing a lot of the things that are the hipster thing to do, but I do them because I like to do them, not because they’re the cool thing to do. And because I am immersed in the social scene where there are a lot of hipsters, people mistake me for being one of them.”
Then again, if you try to be something else, there’s no guarantee that the same thing won’t happen. And in these category-driven times, everyone has to be something, right? Enter 2010, when being just a regular person is way hard.
But, seriously, when the academic nerds take to unmasking the science of hipsters, what does it mean? It means we need a drink, and not a PBR.
If you haven’t seen this yet, you probably should.
[via Brooklyn365, Denver Westword]
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on September 10, 2010