On Saturday I went to a delightfully pretentious lecture at The New School, entitled "What Was the Hipster?" and organized by the delightfully pretentious n+1. I love Reid Pillifant's account of it in the New York Observer, (also delightfully) titled "Hipsters die another death":

Despite L-train maintenance and the kind of steady rain that can wreck perfectly asymmetrical bangs (not to mention a recent attempted occupation by students), about 100 attendees packed the Eugene Lang Center for a ridiculously wide-ranging discussion of hipster culture, which included heady thoughts on post-colonialism, deregulation, easy credit, Chinese ownership of U.S. debt, Leon Trotsky, Slavoj Žižek, Pavement, Nirvana, Debbie Gibson, and Scott Baio.

It was one of those kinds of events.

My first reaction upon viewing the rain-frizzled-but-symmetrically-banged and be-trucker-hatted audience that the height of self-absorbed narcissism is to attend a lecture about your own self-absorbed narcissistic subculture. I discovered, among other things, that hipsterism is important enough to have its own anti-hipster movement, of which I must be a part given my annoyance with them. I had been halfway considering stopping by Urban Outfitters after the lecture but could not bring myself to afterwards. 

Anyway, I learned hipsterism is all about identifying with the underclass — adopting poverty, living in a bedbug-riddled-Williamsburg-loft, wearing trucker hats. Some say it's a reaction to capitalism and the stultifying effect of suburbia.

I did not grow up in the suburbs. In fact I grew up right alongside the redneck underclass in New Mexico and even if I wasn't exactly one of them, this may be why I don't view its cultural markers as all that glamorous. Maybe it's also why the whole thing seems so inauthentic to me — because I know the real deal and the hipster copy is so clearly a fake. (Someone posed the question: suppose you inserted into Williamsburg someone from the actual class the hipsters are copying. Would they blend in or stand out? There is no need to ask this question if you have actually seen both a redneck and hipster.) Maybe it's also why I've never understood why suburban life is really that suffocating. Yes, it has its own kind of rigid conformity but part of that conformity seems to be frantically applauding any childhood stabs at creativity and individuality. And every culture is conformist. It's the way humans are.  

I can see now that hipsterism is kind of a search for authenticity — albeit a lazy search, it seems. If anyone cares to argue away my bigotry, feel free. 

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Alisa Harris

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