Wednesday, December 17, 2014

"Is there any such thing as a Hipster?"

By Peter Rodman

A friend writes, "Is there any such thing as a hipster? Are there any hipsters out there willing to admit that they are hipsters? If not, do you (hipsters) think that hipsters exist, and would you please point one out for me?"
He continues, "Do you know any self confessed hipsters? If not, ask them if they think hipsters exist, and to point one out. The subject of the hipster has me fascinated."

Okay, I got this one.

Dear Friend,
Look at my hair. I've essentially had the same (non) haircut since 1973... and believe it or not, I was never in Wings.
At some point during the '90s, the hipsters in LA began calling it a "mullet"--something that was never even a TERM until they began selling "mullet dolls" at Z Gallerie in Westwood. So...IS it a mullet?
PR, circa '77
You'd think that people would
have had enough of silly haircuts.
Well, in the eyes of those who just couldn't deal with the "business in the front/party in the back" look (and wanted to bring us down a notch)...I guess so. Yep. (Today, mine might still be called "a modified mullet.")
Did I like suddenly having a derogatory name applied to my groovy-lookin' hair? Nope.
(What the hell's wrong with pretending I'm a 63 year old Beatle?)  
Likewise, I'll confess that some of us wore those acid-washed Mom jeans and white Reeboks a few years longer than we should have. 
Do you get where I'm goin' here?
In my opinion, the premise is moot.
I get it: You don't like the term hipster, because it unfairly 'bags' you, as we used to say in the '60s. 
Therefore you want it to go away, or for people to stop using it...unless they're willing to include themselves in the category.
"Do hipsters exist?" you ask rhetorically, hoping you can disprove the stereotype...but you can't.
It's out there--just like the "layered" haircut I've had for 40 years that younger hipsters (rightly fed up with us Boomers dominating the cool for decades) finally tagged the "mullet."
(You'll note here that part of my definition for 'hipster' is age-based.)  
It's all about generalizations--unfair or not.
Yes, ALL short hipster guys wear horn-rimmed glasses...and 50% of them work in the remaining 10 record stores in America.  So there. (I don't exactly know why it's true, but it is.)
From OUTSIDE the profile, the hipsters' "uniform" is as clear as day--be it the tattooed girl behind the counter selling incense with a tiny 'starter' ring in her nose; the over-tattooed skinhead taking tickets at your local rock club; or the cluster of left-college-but-haven't-landed-anywhere-yet 'grown kids' gathered around "gourmet pizza" and some beat up cellphones in whatever the local bistro is called, where you live. 
Where I live, it's 'Fido.'
"Here, Boy!"

The reason nobody likes to be called a "hipster" is because,'s a derogatory term.

One time in Germany (or was it Japan...or both?), I saw an interview on TV. It was in a language I completely did not understand, and the interview subject was the Springsteen-like "legend," in that country.
Japan Rock legend
How did I know this?
Because he had the 'uniform' on, of course! Jean jacket, tussled hair, heavy black work boots, and mumbled answers. It was quite clear this was not a banker, a politician, or the president of the local knitting circle.
German Rock Legend
It was their "Bruce Springsteen"--getting all the deference and respect Bruce would get here, which is how I knew it was some musician of stature.
A better question might be, "Does Bruce himself ever REALLY wear any of that uncomfortable shit at home in upper class New Jersey, or is it as much a uniform as any
American Rock Legend
West Point cadet wears, only with more medals? " But I'll leave that for another day. Fact is, he never, ever deviates from the 'working man' uniform, at least in public. It's been as much a prerequisite for him as Jennifer Lopez showing a lotta leg is, for her. Period.
Speaking of music...
Aren't you the same friend who often vehemently puts down 'today's music' as a talent-free endeavor?  Sometimes I think you may be right on that score...but then, at 63, I'm well ensconced in the "Get off my lawn" years, so my opinions shouldn't count for much in today's world.
All of which goes to the very heart of my point:
We all make judgements, but bristle when others come
too close to judging our own stereotype. 

Something about the word "hipster" touches a nerve with you. 
I see that, and it's a pity--because it's actually a pretty easily definable category, which by definition makes it  a VALID stereotype--even if it ruffles the feathers of the immaculately tussled.

Likewise I'm sure, for my "mullet." 
Likewise for "talentless non-musicians," etc.
They're all judgements. 
I'm as guilty as the next person of being judgemental, but I try to avoid being serious about it. 
In short, I love taking the piss out of hipsters because it's fun!
During the '70s, we called them "the tragically hip."  (There's actually a popular band named that, now.)

The shallowness beneath any identifiable veneer is an easy target.  It pretends to dismiss whole groups of people, but at its best, only strips bare some obvious pretensions.
The pretense of "individuality" among teenagers is a rite of passage--but you'll never notice their hilarious conformity in that effort, until you're well out of that demographic.  

How many of us still double over in laughter, watching the SNL bit with Joe Piscopo's schlocky Sinatra telling Sinead O'Connor, "Pipe down, Cueball!" or saying this, to Sting:

Mockery needn't be cruel...but it can be funny.  

As for me, I like to joke that I need a 'special visa,' to cross over the Cumberland River into East Nashville, which is universally regarded as Hipster Heaven around here.  
The truth is, it's such a vivid and colorful experience, I can barely digest two visits a year.  That 'Tomato Festival' of yours?  Much as I enjoy it--and I do--it pretty much answers your initial question, in one single, fabulous day:
Virginia's original
letter wasn't
about hipsters; it was
about another
dude in a (red) uniform.

Yes, Virginia...
There IS a such a thing as "hipsters."  

          'London Kids' by Peter Rodman
In fact, there's literally a whole world of 'em out there, from China to Argentina to Holland to Athens (Greece or Georgia) and back again.  I've seen 'em myself, in all those places.
Truth be told?

The term "hipster" itself probably came from someone my age--trying to get y'all back, for finally naming the mullet.  


Mullet Man 

This opinion column Copyright 2014 by Peter Rodman.  All Rights Reserved, Man.

1 comment:

  1. Also known to rock a mullet, Pete Ham, who has yet to get his due. I on the other hand am short and bald, so I've got that going for me, which is nice, now that it's all over now, Baby Blue..