Leaving Tops today on Elmwood Avenue, I saw a person that might be called a hipster. He was a bit too cool for school. The way he carefully wore his cap so that it was slightly askew, along with other hip clothes you won’t generally see people wear to the grocery store, made me think “hipster.” He looked straight ahead to avoid all eye contact—this was a man on a mission (what kind of mission, I can’t guess). He made me think of something radio host Jeremy White recently said on WGR 550. He made a remark about hipsters on Elmwood Avenue who can’t bother to talk to you. I got a good laugh out of that one. I know what he meant. I like to think I know something about hipsters. I used to live around them. I very briefly lived in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, which is a hotbed of hipster activity. Those hipsters definitely walk without smiling, nodding, or doing anything that could be construed as friendly. I guess being aloof is part of the hipster code. I’m not sure what’s cool about being unfriendly. This all sounds awfully stereotypical, so allow me to make the obvious point that everyone on Elmwood Avenue or in Williamsburg is not a hipster, nor is every hipster on the planet unfriendly. This is only to say that the person who we are inclined to call “hipster” seems to be unfriendly to strangers and appears to take great care in crafting a careless appearance. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what hipsters do or figuring out what a hipster is (although such topics are fun to discuss). What does matter, I believe, is why people in general can’t be friendly to the people around them. When walking around in public space, is it so hard to crack a smile or manage a nod?
Update on 2/13/2013:
For a more sophisticated sociological consideration of hipsters, see this post at The Society Pages. In the post, Andrew Lindner makes several good points, including this one: "hipster" is a broad category that encompasses so many different groups as to be utterly worthless. He also says: "We can continue to use the adjectival “hipster” to refer to the aesthetic style, but social scientists would be better off being more specific about the group of people they’re describing (e.g., young, rich, educated, fashion forward, liberals, bohemians, music fans, etc.)." Agreed.