Tuesday, October 26, 2010

race, class, and hipsters

Richard Bensam emailed me:
It starts off sounding like a fashion/lifestyle piece, but takes a justified turn into race and class issues: What Was the Hipster? -- New York Magazine
My favorite line:
The hipster is that person, overlapping with the intentional dropout or the unintentionally declassed individual—the neo-bohemian, the vegan or bicyclist or skatepunk, the would-be blue-collar or postracial twentysomething, the starving artist or graduate student—who in fact aligns himself both with rebel subculture and with the dominant class, and thus opens up a poisonous conduit between the two.
I'm 55, so I can't guess how accurate the article is. I think the writer overstates the white roots, 'cause I sure saw a lot of Asian hipsters early on, and some black ones, too. But the description above is about perfect.

The phenomenon isn't new, of course. As soon as the middle class appropriates the working class's style, you get posers or wannabes or whatever the current word may be for the people who make the poisonous conduit.

Thanks, Richard!


  1. No problem!

    On further reflection, one thing Greif misses is the importance of appropriated gay style to the hipster scene as well as black style. For example, here in NYC, ultra skinny jeans showed up in the West Village at least six months before hipsters adopted them. And how much of the whole modern hipster "ironic celebration of kitsch" aesthetic did they just flat-out steal from John Waters?

  2. Excellent points. Ironic kitsch is just rationalized commercialism.

    But John Waters will always be cool. For his "no smoking in the theatre" ad, if nothing else: