What if being a Dickhead really IS cool?

4 Sep

So it seems that Hipster is the hot new counter-culture of the decade. Was that an oxymoronic statement? Of course it was. I’m getting to that.

If you’re reading this and going “Hipsters… I thought those were pants?” (by this point, you are so behind the times that it’s actually cool) I’ll step in and attempt to pin down the evasive butterfly that is Original Hipster (yes, I do think that can get capitals):

Original Hipster dates all the way back to the 1940s, and has been morphing along with culture to acquire new and more layered meaning for the past 70 years. Loosely, though, Hipsterism is characterised by individualism, eschewal of popular culture (unless in a jocular embrace of utter irony), and, more recently, a general upturned nose at anything commodified.

Because Hipsterism accommodates a plurality of obscure cultural tastes, it is difficult to draw up The Archetypal Hipster. For argument’s sake, however, the Original Hipster might be vegetarian or vegan in refusal to support industrialised farming; shop almost exclusively at expensive fair-trade stores and thrift stores in avoidance of society’s fetish with destructive consumerism; ride a bike instead of driving a car to cut down on carbon emissions; display a Romantic  interest in vintage paraphernalia like typewriters or film cameras; read Beat Generation poetry; have a Liberal Arts degree; be a connoisseur of indie media.

This combination of cultural quirks is almost invariably accompanied by a massive superiority complex, but hey, anyone with a smaller carbon footprint than you probably is a better person, right?

Examples of “typical” Hipsters within (sort of) popular media include Juno and Bleaker  Nick and Nora from “Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist”  Nick and Sheeny from “Youth in Revolt”  Scott Pilgrim and Ramona Flowers any main character in a Michael Cera movie.


Unfortunately for Hipsters, it is now the 21st Century, and as any Original Hippie, Emo or Goth can tell you, the 21st Century is where all counter-culture movements go to die.

It happened with Hippie when girls who had no idea how traumatic the Vietnam War was started buying unenvironmentally-manufactured plastic peace-sign earrings at Claire’s.
It happened with Emo when everyone’s jeans developed a serious case of Anorexia and somebody declared a national ban on haircuts and alicebands.
(I’m not even going to talk about Goth.)

Now, of course, it’s happening with Hipster. On Rhodes University Campus, for example, you cannot look in any given direction without sighting someone in brogues or paddock boots, someone in wayfarers and someone who looks like they’ve stolen a jersey off one of the lecturers.

I agree that all of these items of clothing can be really beautiful and am actually quite glad of a trend allowing so much room for creative interpretation. However, when Mr. Price, the mother of all rampant consumerist outlets, starts selling badly-manufactured Hipsteresque items with no motive other than the hope of selling more, and trendoid girls start buying brogues because they’re fashionable, not because they’re durable, trend turns from creative to destructive.

A movement that was essentially anti-consumerist has been commodified. It is not clothing but a culture that is now being sold off like a woman on a street corner.

This is the tragicomedic irony of Hipster as a trend.

The media theorist Gramsci would call this “hegemony” – meaning, basically, that the dominant ideology’s favourite way of combating counter-culture is by selling it to people.


Another problem with the rising notoriety of Hipster is that “Hipster” has now become a derogatory term.

When I returned home from my first six months at University in a different town, all my old friends could do for about the first two hours is laugh at me and call me a Hipster – allegedly because I’m an environmentalist, I love indie media, I have a bit of a unique taste in clothing and a bit of an unusual hair colour.

What was more disturbing than my friends of five years all of a sudden deciding to pigeon-hole me was the meaning they seemed to derive from the term ‘Hipster’. To them, a Hipster was someone with a superiority complex about being otherwise. One of them even described Hipsterism as “conforming to non-conformity”.

Whilst Hipsters are generally a bit full of themselves and can tend to indulge in individuality for its own sake, I want to know why the positive aspects of Hipsterism aren’t as often emphasized. Why isn’t it cool to be a Hipster because it means questioning a destructive system? Why isn’t it acknowledged that people who sacrifice a few car journeys for the Greater Good of the Ozone Layer deserve more street cred? Why is it that we run to The Dickhead Video‘s definition of Hipster and not Alan Ginsberg‘s?

Could it be said that the negative representation of Hipsters in the media is another one of neoliberalist society’s attempts to Shun The Non-Believer?


Perhaps next time you pass someone who looks something like this fellow,

 you should learn their name instead of just dismissing them as “that hipster”; perhaps you should close your Youtube tab for awhile and go and read some Ginsberg;

and for the love of Fair Trade and environmentalism, I think we should all calm down a bit on the Mr. Price front. There is something awfully suspicious about how cheap their clothing is.


Disclaimer: Some of the language and observations in this post are derived from Counterculture – Yeah, Right. – an excellent post by Taz de Kock ,which you should definitely take a look at.


One Response to “What if being a Dickhead really IS cool?”

  1. raymondsgregory 7 October 2011 at 10:58 AM #

    You should learn their name instead of just dismissing them as typical paddock boots were having straps to hold the foot and ankle tightly but these days it has become a fashion and is designed and wore as per style.

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