Saturday, September 4, 2010

Chicken Study: In Which Chicken Unveils New Subculture

Hi World:

I've been thinking about hipsters.  I don't know why.  Like all of my mini-obsessions this episode was probably set off by something I read or saw...something one of my kids said; it might be just because I like the word.  All that I know is that the obsession won't go away until I share it.  With you.  Put on your happy face!

I have been engaged most of this past week in serious, sociological research into this fascinating sub-culture.  If that involved watching Youtube videos, cruising hipster blogs, spending hours hipster spotting at the local trendy coffee shop and posting an obnoxious facebook status or five on GG's wall, it is because that is what contemporary social research requires.  But it is not all fun and games, people.  I did this for you! 

OK.  I did this for my own amusement.  But you want to know what I found out, don't you? Right?  Maybe you think you don't but maybe you just haven't thought about it enough, yet.  Maybe you've never thought about it.  Just think about it.

We good?  You're in, you're excited???  Great.  Follow me.


I confess, I did not really know what a hipster was.  I had a general idea that a hipster was an aging baby boomer, like myself, who didn't get the memo that it is okay to grow up and let the kids take over.  Like this guy:
You know I can never resist an opp to poke a little fun at Prince

The term, "Hipster", as it turns out, however, is an old slang term from the 1940's that, according to Wikipedia, characterized early jazz fans, but was adopted again in the 90's to define an urban sub-culture of teenagers and adults, supposedly well-read and educated, with non-mainstream tastes in clothing, art, and music.  Hipsters embrace the obscure.  They like to be different.  While they will not wear anything that you would wear, they will happily don something your grandmother or Frank Sinatra might have worn, if only to make an ironic statement.  Hipsters are all about irony.  Not that they smile much.  They are known for their blank stares or general avoidance of eye contact with anything but their I-phones.  They tend towards intellectualism as well as oppositionalism.  If you say the sky is blue, a hipster might say, "Actually, it is more cerulean with a touch of gray and pink, but whatever....".  More likely, though, the hipster will not say anything.  Rather, he/she (and sometimes you can't tell the difference because many hipsters favor androgyny) will raise an eyebrow, make meaningful eye contact with a fellow hipster, as if to say, "Get this one-what a moron".  In fact, hipsters are likely to disagree with anything you say just on principle. I call this ODD (Oppositional Defiance Disorder), but hipsters (and my offspring) call it OYKN (Obviously You Know Nothing).

This is what we have so far:
  • Hipsters like the idea of being different.  They value whatever is unique and obscure:  Vintage housedress?  Mick Jagger-tight jeans, Fedora?  Oversized glasses? Trucker hat?  Athletic socks circa 1970?  If you've spotted any of these lately, you've found yourself a hipster.  Congrats.  And obviously they need better glasses because in their quest to be different, they do not seem to realize they look pretty similar to the hipster right next to them.
  • Hipsters are not highly animated.  If you are trying to get a rise out of a hipster, you might ask one if they got their shirt at American Eagle because you saw one just like it there yesterday....or was it JC Penney's?  Even if they don't react on the outside, their emotions are sure to be roiling on the inside and that may result in a sudden decreased air of superiority, a blush, or at the very least a look of extreme confusion, after which they will rush away, head down, to the nearest vintage store.
  • Hipsters like irony.  I could take anything littleb says in an average day, put it on a t-shirt, and sell it to a hipster.  How ironic is that?  Here are a few I'm contemplating for my first line: 
                    1. Iguanas...Yes!
                    2. Sometimes my cat Sheldon gets me out of my crib
                    3. I'm Billy.  This is Sue.  And I have a sister.
                    4. Somebody wipe me.
                    5. When a boy is three he is smarter than you
                    6. Don't look at me
                    7. Boys have peanuts.  Girls have genies.                   
  • Hipsters are smarter than you.  It doesn't matter who "you" are.  They are just smarter, ok?


The modern day hipster is both a parody and a fascinating paradox.  The paradox intrinsic to hipsterism is that no self-respecting hipster would ever, ever admit to being a hipster.  Don't you get it?  The hipster is unique.  They don't want to be like everyone else, and yet they've morphed into a specific genre that has now been packaged, commercialized, parodied and mainstreamed.  If you don't believe me, look at the Jolie-Pitt kids. They're all hipstered up-especially the cute blond one that dresses like a boy.  Maybe they shop at Hipsters "R" Us.  Look at your own kids.  They've probably adopted some hipster fashions by now, too.  And what about tattoos?  Everyone has a tattoo now.  My mother has a tattoo. It is not easy to remove a tattoo.  That's just gotta piss a hipster off.  How can you distinguish yourself if every Tom, Dick and Jane has a celtic circle of thorns around their bicep, huh?  And now you're stuck with it.  Isn't that ironic?  Maybe that's the formula:  Mainstream + permanent = ironic = hipster. 

Still not sure what a Hipster is?  Here are some youtube links:
Where the Dirty Hipsters Are
Hipster Olympics

TEST FOR UNDERSTANDING:  I hope you've been paying attention.  Please put your books on the floor and take out a pen.

Look at the following images and identify the hipsters:


Choose 1:
a. They are all hipsters
b. None are hipsters
c. B,E, and F are hipsters
d. Damned if I know
e. All of the above

ANSWER:  D.  Damned if I know.  You can't tell a true hipster by the clothes they are wearing (although don't you think littleb makes an adorable rockstar?).

And that brings me to the main point of this post.  Hipsterism is trending down, folks.  The modern hipster, such as it has become defined, is destined for extinction.  If you have stock in ironic menswear, sell your stock now.  Or lose your shirt.  Ironically speaking.

Why?  Because hipsterism has morphed into nothing more than a fashion trend that centers on being unique and obscure, so when it catches on to the point where the "look" is  widely imitated and easily recognized, the trend is already in its death throes. 

But, you say, it is not just about the clothes.  It is about the intellectualism inherent to hipsterism.  Hipsters are well educated, well read.  Hipsters are really smart.  I don't buy it.  While there may be some really smart hipsters out there-in fact, there may be some hipsters dressing ironically as hipsters-there are probably a lot more who just like looking like hipsters.  The other day, GG spotted a hipster wearing a seven foot scarf wrapped around his neck and noted that wearing a seven-foot-scarf on a day when the temperature is topping out in the high nineties indicates a serious lack of common sense. 

That is not to suggest that there are not any truly unique people out there.  There are.  But the truly unique know that being unique is a state of mind, not a fashion statement.  The true hipsters have gone to ground, folks.  They walk among us wearing levis and white t-shirts or maybe a Brooks Brothers suit.  They wear whatever makes them comfortable.  Contrary to the modern hipster, they have high energy levels.  Their wheels are always turning and they embrace new thoughts and ideas as a matter of course.  They imagine, they create, they innovate, they revolutionize.  Often, they want to make the world a better place for all of our kids.  They are not always politically correct, but they are always themselves, always unique.  They don't think they are smarter than you.  They are certain that regardless of your IQ, there is something you can teach them. A lot of you out there embrace these qualities but the phrase "hipster" has been used up and bastardized.  It no longer applies to you, World.  I think a new moniker is called for. 

And as it so happens.....

I've been thinking....

Would you like to be a


C'mon be a Chickster. 

Here are some famous people I would call Chicksters (besides all of you, of course) because they are innovative, creative, smart, trying to make a difference and/or consistently unique:
  • Warren Buffett
  • Maya Angelou
  • Steve Jobs
  • Alice Hoffman
  • Michael Franti
  • Bill and Melinda Gates
  • Oprah
  • Whoopi Goldberg
  • Bono
This is a short list and I know you all have people you would add to the list.  Who are they?

Chicken out

P.S.  Yesterday, I met P. from "The Way I Sew It", who introduced me to Billy Collins, former US Poet Laureate.  Like P., I feel the need to urge you to go to the Chicken Crossing the Road and check him out before judging.  This guy is funny!  I've linked to his reading of "Lanyard" because a lot of my readers are moms, and I know they will laugh, but also check out "Litany", which is, possibly, even funnier.  Also, thank you to GG, who tolerated and fed my hipster obsession all week long.  You are top Chickster in my book.