Jean-Paul Sartre: the ultimate hipster, the ur-hipster, toward whose “fuck you, Nobel prize” standards all future hipsters are doomed to spend their days flailing. But what would the author of Being and Nothingness have to say about today’s poxy bunch of the skinny bejeaned, infesting the cities of New York and London – and, closer to home, the streets of Braamfontein and Woodstock – like specimens of a human foulbrood?
We can’t say for sure. But we can rely on an ever-increasing corpus of hipster-related texts (hipsteralia? hipsterature?) to guide us to some answers. Being a dickhead is cool*, but writing about dickheads is the ultimate-ultimate. n+1 founder Mark Greif brings us the latest installment:
A year ago, my colleagues and I started to investigate the contemporary hipster. What was the “hipster,” and what did it mean to be one? It was a puzzle. No one, it seemed, thought of himself as a hipster, and when someone called you a hipster, the term was an insult. Paradoxically, those who used the insult were themselves often said to resemble hipsters — they wore the skinny jeans and big eyeglasses, gathered in tiny enclaves in big cities, and looked down on mainstream fashions and “tourists.” Most puzzling was how rattled sensible, down-to-earth people became when we posed hipster-themed questions. When we announced a public debate on hipsterism, I received e-mail messages both furious and plaintive. Normally inquisitive people protested that there could be no answer and no definition. Maybe hipsters didn’t exist! The responses were more impassioned than those we’d had in our discussions on health care, young conservatives and feminism. And perfectly blameless individuals began flagellating themselves: “Am I a hipster?”
* More notable hipsteralia
Being a Dickhead’s Cool
From the archives: The Hipster Must Die
Has the hipster killed cool in New York? Did it die the day Wes Anderson proved too precious for his own good, or was it when Chloë Sevigny fellated Vincent Gallo onscreen? Did it vanish along with Kokie’s, International Bar and Tonic? Or when McSweeney’s moved shop to San Francisco and Bright Eyes signed a lease on the Lower East Side? Was it possible to be a hipster once a band that played Northsix one night was heard the next day on NPR’s Weekend Edition? Did it hurt to have American Apparel marketing soft-porn style to young bankers? Was something lost the day Ecstasy made the cover of the Times Magazine? Or was it the day Bloomberg banned smoking in bars? And how many times an hour could one check e-mail and still have an honest, or even ironic, claim on being cool?