Shots Fired at the Hipster male

The article “In defense of the hipster male” by Alecia Simmonds neglects to take into the account the whole picture including the view of the female hipster.  In her defense of “poor, unsuspecting” male hipsters, she actually destroys their ability to defend themselves.  She claims hipsters have a feminine concern for fashion, appear feminine by wearing skinny jeans, and possess a feminine seriousness for personal politics.  By describing male hipsters in this way, she almost gives feminine qualities, as a whole, a negative connotation.  This makes her argument almost sexist toward women despite her defense of the male hipster.

The article “Offending the hipster male” by Daniel Stacey describes hipsters as the “perfect target for parody.”  However, Stacey targets the hipster stereotype as opposed to the addressing the whole picture including hipster accomplishments and contributions to society.  He harshly claims that “the hipster male is loathes because he is a deeply unserious person, a failure not just as a man but as a human being, or even sentient being when you consider the dignity and wisdom of a collie.” More importantly, the argument is poorly constructed and lacks concrete evidence.  For example, Stacey makes generalizations about the interests motivations (or lack thereof) of hipsters, yet fails to support these generalizations with specific facts.  He almost contradicts himself by claiming that male hipsters are “terrified by academic rigor” while simultaneously interested in the arts, environmentalism, and science.  Lastly, Stacey neglects to even mention the female hipster and her role in the hipsterdom.  

Emmy Casper, Elizabeth Tell, Beth Yarze, Paul Heffernan, Kristy Scheurer

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Offending the offense and defense of the hipster male.

In the article In defence of the hipster male, Alecia Simmond asserts that “the hipster man is just a bit too effete, too clever, too emotional, too vain, too skinny and too girly.” According to Simmond, these traditionally effete qualities are why society is so spiteful of hipsters. The fact that hipsters disregard traditional gender roles is not the reason why most people dislike them, however. Simmond claims that the hipster love for skinny jeans and “feminine” beards can sometimes be perceived “as gay and becomes the subject of homophobic jokes”. However, this generalization is incorrect: we hate hipsters for other reasons. Most people would see the fault in hipsters as their hypocrisy or pretentiousness. This is further explored in Offending the hipster male, by Daniel Stacey.

Stacey, unlike Simmond, goes into people’s other reasons for targeting hipsters, such as “their hypocrisy, callowness, narcissism, laziness and entitlement.” It’s not their effete nature or, as Simmond puts it, “failure of masculinity”, but the qualities Stacey so eloquently lists that are the source of major dislike of hipsters. Stacey explores how hipsters attempt to reinvent themselves by borrowing bits and pieces from eras past - exploiting older periods for the sake of “making [their] nest[s] just right”. Hipsters seem more focused on amassing just the right amount of ironic t shirts and “kitschy” accessories than pursuing world peace. While the world is moving fervently forward, hipsters lag behind at a stagnant pace, focusing selfishly on becoming the epitome of urban cool. Stacey does an excellent job of exploring the real reasons why hipsters - both male and female - are so disdained. The only real issues with Stacey are the few grand generalizations he makes throughout his article. Claiming that all hipsters are lacking wit, wisdom, and power is a profound statement that surely cannot apply to each and every hipster individual. Additionally, though many hipsters seek to emulate artists past, it is not fair to deem the entire hipster movement as a “fraud”, and attacking all hipsters as lazy and unwilling to pursue academia is a bit unfounded: many hipsters attend prestigious private and public universities. Despite Stacey’s grand claims, he produces a eloquent and persuasive argument as to why male and female hipsters alike are so rejected. It is not any “effete” past times or fashion, but an attitude of pretentiousness pretentiousness and disdain.

Isabel Beaudoin, Jonathan Perez, Emily Sullivan, Jillian Ryan

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In Defence Of the Male Hipster*

*?

Emmanuel, Kailun, Danni, Jake, Dakota

In analyzing “Offending the Male Hipster” and “In Defence of the Hipster Male” our group, after a bit of deliberation, agreed that while both articles find their faults in making over-generalizations, the former is more ad hominem in its approach. As a result, it is prone towards excessively generalizing and furthermore seems to make the main argument a series of insults without really legitimizing its point rhetorically.

However, the former is not without its faults either. As aforementioned, it generalizes hipsters, too. Whereas “Offending” says that all hipsters are pesky thieves of style that parade about in ignorance and entitlement, “Defence” says that all male hipsters are hated upon because of their audacious effeminate appearance. In simply ascribing the main criticism of male hipsters to this one trait, the writer ignores other legitimate reasons male hipsters are stigmatized - reasons aside from any asserted hypocrisy.

From a rhetorical standpoint, though, “Defence” is still more cogent because it doesn’t rely on ad hominem attacks to make its point.

"Defence" seems to attribute fault more to style, and "Offending" finds fault mostly in personality. However, as we have seen, neither can be singled out as the main or sole reason to hate upon hipsters, male or female. Our group thinks instead that the hate derives from a transcendence of societal norms, be they economic, racial, gender-based, sexual, national, cultural, ethnic, and so on. Instead of picking one of these varied aspects and ascending it as THE main reason for everything, a good argument would instead acknowledge the wide-ranged, open-endedness of the hipster and society overall. The hate is focused on the stereotype, while the stereotype just doesnt really exist.

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March 23rd…No, 24th…Actually…Wait…Yeah, it’s the 23rd…2014.

Hispters, punk rockers, hippies, Bohemians, Virginia Woolf, Jack Kerouac, and Arthur Rimbaud – everyone and every group we have studied thus far has managed to steak their own claim in the macrocosm of society, simultaneously expressing and emphasizing their own individualities. At the same time, however, we, not only as a class, but as a society, like to group others together into comfortable and identifiable clumps atop which we assign labels. We even tend to do this to ourselves. After all, society is a big massive stage production, and everyone wants to have a role to play. This is not to state that we are perhaps unjustly categorizing different people according to our own interests or sociological perspectives; instead, in focusing so much on how the hipster is an individual, we forget to acknowledge just how intrinsically involved they are with “society” at large. Everyone, be they mainstream or not, functions together in a co-existence that transcends style and culture, together in one larger community made up of smaller imagined communities; these distinguishing differences do not separate us, but rather bind us together in completion of one another. We transform each other – and just so, Union Square transforms the image of what it means to be hipster in a society where the show must go on, and there are far too many roles for one group of people to play.

Sideshow

            My foray into Manhattan first began in the middle of March, during one of the sunnier and warmer days of the slowly dying winter period. I originally had the mindset of going over to Barnes and Noble, the Strand, and a few other places deemed “hipster” by various online sources, and by observing hipsters in one of their “natural habitats” I had hoped to procure a thick description of what it meant to be a hipster in relation to literature and bookstores. I wanted to know what kinds of books they read and why; if books for them were the paperback equivalent of trendy, retro, or just tasteless; what their opinions were on the books they were reading in general; and perhaps see if they could recommend any particularly “deck” reads. However, upon stepping out into the exposed sunlight of Union Square, my mind took a sharply different turn. Perhaps it was the overabundance of people seemingly flocking towards the center; maybe it was the prospect of finding an empty seat and enjoying the sun for a few stray minutes; or perhaps it was in some desperate search for inspiration regarding a school project that I had lost inspiration for several days earlier, confused and muddled between a series of imperfect, implausible ideas. Regardless, I was drawn into the Square, and one of the first sights that I beheld was that of a painter working diligently on his sand art. He had wispy black hair drawn into a ponytail, rolled up sleeves of a tattered button down shirt, and skinny jeans with knee braces on, since he was kneeling most of the time. Overall, he looked like a modern-day midtown Tommy Wiseau. Approaching him and joining the throngs of people that formed a circle around him, at first I thought he was simply using chalk to draw on the pavement. However, it was soon readily apparent that, indeed, he was gathering fistfuls of sand and letting them sprinkle out of his hands in magnificently complex patterns and shapes. Lines were intricately and meticulously woven together, and the finder details were decided upon and filled in later. Slowly, it began to take the shape of a flower of many different, vibrant colors, all strewn by sand on a concrete sidewalk. And yet, people created a circle around it so reverently, as if out of sheer respect for the artist’s work and devotion to his work. After several minutes I left, wanting to continue onwards with my project, but was soon distracted by a street performer who used bubbles to enrapture the minds his audience members. The bubble shapes were almost surreal in how they moved through space, and seemed like something more profound. However, after a few moments, they popped regardless, leaving nothing behind but the memory of what once was. Even later still, I was beset once more by a solitary figure playing what seemed to be a very out-of-place organ piano in the middle of union square. He looked to be around in his mid-twenties, and yet seemed perfectly at home playing such an ancient instrument. A sign posted on his piano alerted the smaller crowd that he had been travelling all over New York through at least seventy cities.

 I Paid Good Money for This…

            Now this is not to say that I spent my time entirely in Union Square. I did eventually find my way into Barnes and Noble and the Strand, and there were certainly telltale signs of hipsterdom awaiting m. Yet, I was inevitably drawn back to these sideshows largely because they took the place of a spectacle. They were out there for the people to stop by and enjoy, analyzing, critiquing, and wondering about. They offered a brief respite from the humdrum of every day, and, more importantly, seemed to bypass barriers of race and gender. Men and women of equally European and African-American descent were gathered around this pony-tailed rendition Tommy Wiseau, and one could see each of their gears turning as they tried to appreciate what it meant for them that he drew a flower in the middle of an otherwise massive yet still minute part of the city. Most wonderfully, the barriers of style no longer seemed to matter. Hipsters and mainstreamers, jew-fros and buzzcuts, Hollister and GAP, all gathered together in this one massive circle to appreciate something that was neither mainstream nor necessarily hipster (. And yet, one must be careful to remind themselves that a spectacle does not equate to something so removed from society so as to inspire this change. Guy Debard writes, “the spectacle is both the outcome and the goal of the dominant mode of production. It is not…a decorative element…on the contrary, it is the heart of society’s real unreality” (Debard 13). Despite this fantastical unity that could be easily attested to by anyone there at the moment – despite the awe and wonderment that brought us all there together – the plastic donation buckets still remained. Scattered about near the feet of the artist, the bubble maker, the organ player, and the rest, stood those familiar buckets with scant traces of leftover change and crumpled up bills making themselves home in the pockets of these performers. Money rules the day in a capitalist society such as ours – and people need to get by somehow. Perhaps, then, this means that pony-tail-Tommy Wiseau emulates the stereotypical image of a starving artist, despite his vague professionalism and seeming endless amounts of energy. Images that we are familiar with attract us, because they make figuring out life and society all the easier and all the more normal. The expected is safe and noncontroversial. Oddly enough, it would not be too far off to say that society has come to expect the spectacle, and moreover, demand it.

Iconography

            After perusing Union Square for quite some time and acquiring my fill of the spectacular, I could distinctly remember thinking to myself “This feels like ‘New York.’ The crowds of varied people, the street vendors, the skyscrapers and parks as a backdrop – everything here feels like what iconic New York is supposed to feel like.” It was bustling and exciting and vivacious – but was it authentic? Or was the image that the spectacle presented me with only that – an image to be adored for a bit before finding some new iconic model to give our hearts to? Sharon Zuki warns about the dangers of falling too easily for the trap of authenticity: “We can see ‘authentic’ spaces only from outside them. Mobility gives us the distance to view a neighborhood as connoisseurs…we are often seduced by appearances and assumptions.” (Zuki 22) This further begs the question: was the image presented to those crowdgoers (myself included) authentic? Is New York really all about following one’s dreams regardless of the traditional nine-to-five? Was the spirit of New York sequestered within plastic buckets full of collected money, or was it truly found in the homeless people huddled outside of McDonalds asking for spare change in some pathetic attempt at becoming a spectacle all their own (for the sake of their own survival no less)? While gender and race certainly were equally mixed in the Square itself, there were several distinguishable “camps” of homeless people neatly placed out on the sides, just far enough out of sight so as to be ignored. This is the “spectacle” of class disparity, and it might very well be on the most of unarguably authentic parts of Union Square. It speaks to the consumerist nature of society – how we continually consume more and more, and are fed only what we want to be fed. It is so easy to blot out those things which are not spectacular or overdone or out of the ordinary, and thus some never even get the chance to be noticed.

            I eventually returned to the floral sidewalk art at around six in the evening, just as its artist was wrapping up and collecting his haul. I asked him if he had any distinct purpose starting out earlier that day, and he responded that he kind of just rolled with it as he went along. I then asked if he ever gave any names to his drawings. He responded, “I only give names when necessary – when they become prints and I sell them. This is my living – honestly, I’ve made so much of them that it’d be unfair to name only a few, so I generally try not to name them. If you want a name for this, I suppose it might be…March 23rd…no, 24th…actually…wait…yeah, it’s the 23rd…2014.” By this point in time, his design had been added on to – it now contained streaks of yellow and ribbons of pink expanding outwards from the petals, and the inner colors were more defined. “I keep adding to it as long as people come and watch me,” he says. It was this line that really struck me. Here, in this individual instance, the spectacle was acknowledged for what it was. The illusion starts to break down just a tad – he is doing this for money. He makes a living off of this. Everyone does this not solely because they want to, but because it is their primary way of acquiring any form of income. Be it through circumstance or ideological stance or artistic perspective, each of  these people have eschewed the nine-to-five in favor of something more within their own realm, and yet none of them would be able to do this without the audience around to form that circle and admire their talents on display. It was here that, in short, Union Square struck me as a microcosm of everything we have learned thus far in class. It contained a certain Bohemian spirit to it while at the same time catering to decks and fins. It was a spectacle that told a bit more of a story than usual – a story with the lesson that thick description can be found anywhere, if one looks hard enough.

Catharsis

            Union Square truly lives up to its name, as it truly is a central matrix of New York’s essence – the competition to be noticed, class disparity, the desperation of the dollar, the application of talents, and the transformation of minds. In this sense, just as hipsters are, in fact, normal people doing non-normative things to become the spectacle themselves, Union Square is a part of the city that, while not so different than, say, Eighty-Sixth and Lex, seems to embody the soul of the city, becoming a tourist attraction – a spectacle – in and of itself. The spectacle is only a spectacle because it is viewed and compared to the everyday – likewise, hipsters are only hipsters because they are viewed and subsequently compared to non-hipsters. Most importantly, Union Square embodies the name it is given. People come together to make something new and alive and different, “for masterpieces are not single and solitary births; they are the outcome of many years of thinking in common, of thinking by the body of the people, so that the experience of the mass is behind the single voice.” (Woolf 75). That voice is sometimes weak, sometimes strong, but always impacting, as long as we open our ears – and it keeps singing as long as there are people to hear.

 

 

Works Cited:

Lanham, Robert, Bret Nicely, and Jeff Bechtel. The Hipster Handbook. New York: Anchor, 2003.

Zukin, Sharon. Naked City: The Death and Life of Authentic Urban Places. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010.

Woolf, Virginia. A Room of One’s Own. San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1989. Print.

Debard, Guy, The Society of the Spectacle, New York: Zone Books, 1995

  - Emmanuel Plaza

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I did not see hipsters. I met persons.

Introduction

            You might think that pale and thin college girl who wears horned rim glasses and indie rock T-shirt is a hipster; You might think that bartender with seven piercings on his ears who brags about opening a restaurant in five years is a hipster; You might also think that teenager boy riding a skateboard and wearing hooded sweatshirts, baggy pants and Vans sneakers is a hipster (Lanham, 32, 66, 90). However, the minute you talk to the person who you refer to as a hipster, you easily find yourself wrong. You will then understand how unfair it is to define someone simply as a hipster. Because every hipster you see is more than a hipster.

Approaching this investigation of finding hipster in spoken words venues in New York City involves ethnography. Ethnography requires the investigator to engage in a “living experience”. “Living experience” means to take off the “sunglasses” we wear when we look at other cultures, immerse ourselves in the environment and become a part of the group. I must examine their behaviors instead of looks, because “it is the flow of behavior (social action) that cultural forms find articulation” (Geertz, 17). In this living experience, I failed to find a hipster but successfully discover the inner voice of “hipsters” through enjoying these spoken words events with them.

Evidence as “Hipster” Spoken Words Venues

Nuyorican Poets Café, located at the edge of Lower East Side, is the poetry slam venue with the longest history in New York City. “Most of the Café’s founding artists were poets, playwrights and musicians of color whose work was not accepted by the mainstream academic, entertainment or publishing industries” (Histories & Awards, Nuyorican Poets Café.org). According to Allen Ginsberg, it is “the most integrated place on the planet”. Not too far from Nuyorican Poets Café, Blue Stockings Bookstore, a small volunteer-based bookstore stocked with 6000 titles related to feminism, queer and gender studies, is famous for dykes and CK-1s hanging out here. It offers vegan, organic and fair-trade food such as vegan pumpkin cookie and varies kinds of tea.

There are prerequisite for enjoying the events in these two spoken words venues. To enter them, you have to have a solid literary education background or a strong passion in English (no matter what kind of English). For the Slam Night at Nuyorican, you have to pay eight to twenty dollars unless you become the winner out of twenty poets in the end of the night. Even with these requirements, these two venues are much less pretentious than many prestigious institutions in New York where you enter with test scores and tuitions and then learn to write in Standard American English.

The Norms and the Feelings in Hipster Spoken Words Venue-Nuyorican Poets Café

Nuyorican Poets Café is a place that welcomes and warms people who visit. While I was in the line waiting for the door to open at 9:00 pm. (which always opens at 10:00 and a block of line of poets waiting outside patiently), the two girls behind me were talking about relationship problems. One girl confessed to the other friend that even though she feels it is hard to be with the person, she loves him and she feels frustrated. The guy (who won in the end of the night) who was alone and also behind me turned to the two girls and said, “Your conversation just warmed my heart. Seriously, it really warmed my heart.” Then they talked about each other’s life and waited under the same umbrella in the rain.

The persons I have talked to or overheard by me are either in college (no matter look like around twenty, thirty, or forty) or had pursued an English or Creative Writing major. People here assume every one who comes is a writer. “Are you a writer? You must be one or you wouldn’t come here.” The young boy with big headphones who was practicing his poem with the rhythm asked me this question during our conversation. The second time I am asked this question by other person, I immediately answered yes. My action looks like a conforming action, but the conforming part is not the point. The point is that this is a place that gives you the chance to be a writer as long as you have a passion for it (right at the moment with some inspiration or later in the future with some practice). I take this conforming action as a positive decision.

There is poem of every language (dialect) in English, for example, Standard American English, African American Vernacular English, New York Latino English (Nuyorican English). The language can be vulgar, slang, or ribald. It can be any kind that the school rejects. The voice can be high or low. The rhythm of a poem can speed up to exert the tension or slows down to bring out the tenderness. Every poem should be in three minutes. The important rule for the audience is to cheer and clap as much as we can, to encourage to poets. The norm between the audiences is that no matter how the poets do, we disagree by yelling “woo” if the judges give low scores (less than 90 out of 100).

The unseen requirement is that the poems need to be understood. The words need to be transformed into thoughts in the minds of the audiences. The task is to let the audiences hear the poet, understand the poet, feel the poet and finally open their perceptions up because of the poet. The exchange is a communication. For the poems they speak, no form is important. It is the content that matters.

What are these Hipsters Speaking?

“I started doing poetry when I was fifteen. At the moment, I just wanted to stand on a stage. I want people to clap for me. Also I wanted girls to see me”, the young boy waited in front of me in line.

“People might think that I am going to rap, but I am not going to. I am going to reverse their expectations of Slam. You don’t really have to say about what you did. You can say about anything”, Bigg, the person seated next to me during the slam.

The content the poets speak is about everything that is important to them. It is about love, crush or lust. It is about background, identity and personal stories. There is a poem about a senior man’s love to his wife, a poem about a teen’s amazement exploring New York City for the first time or a poem about a girl’s hardship forcing herself to keep a diet even if she hates to. Every poem is distinct from others, in emotion, in meaning and in performance. Most of the poems are about what fits in the society but make the poets uncomfortable about. They are confessions and these confessions are aim to let them accept themselves because of the understandings the audience show with the claps and cheers.

The performance is about opening up instead of hiding away. There is a poet who spoke about loving poetry as a secret. There are poets who spoke about experience hiding in their life. The performance uncovers of the skin of the poets. It let us see the heart. Through expressing themselves, the poets are telling the audience that it is okay to be the persons she or he is disregard of what others think of her or him. Being oneself sounds easy but in fact is very hard for almost everyone in a money-driven society. They are presenting their personal stories of the struggles they meet in finding their identities, so that the audiences can understand that many failures in their lives (the audiences’ lives) are not because of themselves. The poets share their unique experiences and these experiences somewhat connect everyone in the café. 

In Blue Stockings, I went to the event called “A Lesson in Resilience: Still Standing with Jasmynne Shaye”, a poem and essays reading by Jasmynne. The online event introduction does a perfect job describing her talent and action, “She’s raw, she’s bold, and she holds no punches as she opens up dialogue on topics that most would rather shy away from”. While she was reading her writings on how women are treated unfairly and how she fights back, I could see her tears almost coming out of her eyes. “I am not a writer”, Jasmynne said, “If somebody tells me to write on a topic, I can’t. I write when I have thoughts on something.” Even though she said the opposites of the poems at Nuyorican, what they said are the same claims about the authenticity and identity, which they represent.

Conclusion

According to the Hipster Handbook, a hipster is “one who possesses tastes, social attitudes, and opinions deemed cool by cool”. Their coolness never goes beyond tastes, attitudes and opinion, and never brings them to actions. This is why “hipster” has negative connotations. Hipsters are the pretentious fake. They wear their attitudes but never practice them. However, from my investigation, I found no “pretentious fakes”.

These “hipsters” I met in the spoken words venues are persons who are sure about their self-identities at the moment and want others to see and understand. They are expressing those feelings that others want to hide or are forced to hide. The “hipsters” in these spoken words venues practice believes by opening up themselves and let others hear. These so-called hipster venues are shelters for “hipsters” who suffer social pressures. Those social pressures label them according to their appearance and force them to conform to the mainstream. Nothing is pretentious or fake about accepting different identities and supporting those who are true to themselves.

As Clifford Geertz says in The Interpretations of Cultures, “Treat(ing) cultures effectively, purely as symbolic system” can “run the danger of locking cultural analysis away from its proper object the informal logic of actual life” (Geertz, 17). “We gain empirical access to them (cultures) by inspecting events, not by arranging abstracted entitles into unified patterns” (Geertz, 17). The “hipsters” never exists. The hipster notion is a mystery created by the others in a culture where people do not take enough effort to get to know others. 

Defining people as “hipster” separates one and another and creates barriers between different groups of people. Let us stop putting “hipster” signs on the doors and windows of these spoken words venues and other hipster places. Therefore, everyone can go inside these places to express themselves and listen to others. Let us not “prefer the sign to thing signified, the copy to the original, representation to the reality, the appearance to the essence” (Debord, 11). Let us admit that we have been taking illusions as truths. Once the label is gone when every can exist without forced upon the name of “hipster”, everyone can have a shelter and everywhere can be a shelter.

Works Cited

Lanham, Robert. The Hipster Handbook. New York: Anchor Books, 2002. Print. Web. 3 Apr. 2014.

Geertz, Clifford. The Interpretation of Cultures. New York: Basic Books, Inc., 1973. Print. Web. 3 Apr. 2014.

n.p. History & Awards. Nuyorican Poets Café. Web. 3 Apr. 2014.

n.p. About Us. Wordpress:BlueStockings.com. Web. Web. 3 Apr. 2014.

Somers-Willett, Susan B. A. The Cultural Politics Of Slam Poetry : Race, Identity, And The Performance Of Popular Verse In America / Susan B. A. Somers-Willett. n.p.: Ann Arbor : University of Michigan Press., c2009., 2009. Fordham Libraries Catalog. Web. 3 Apr. 2014.

ptowicz, Cristin O’Keefe. Words In Your Face : A Guided Tour Through Twenty Years Of The New York City Poetry Slam / Cristin O’keefe Aptowicz. n.p.: New York : Soft Skull Press ; [Emeryville, CA] : Distributed by Publishers Group West, c2008., 2008. Fordham Libraries Catalog. Web. 3 Apr. 2014.

Notes: I thought it was inappropriate to take pictures during the events or while waiting because everyone was so engaged in the events. The unique experience last longer than the images

Danni Hu 

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Transcending Classes Through Creativity

According to the Hipster Handbook, The UTF hipster stands for the Unemployed Trust Funder, a hipster that defies their upper class roots by choosing to not hold a “straight” job. These Hipsters dress and have jobs of the economically lower, creative class, which is ironic because they come from privileged backgrounds and can dress nicer or have better paying jobs. The over encompassing stereotype with Hipsters is that their mantra is “irony has more resonance than reason” . However, I feel that especially with the UTF hipster, there is much more meaning and significance to their “irony”. These hipsters transcend social and economic classes and add diversity to society, while still doing what they love. Here my encounters with hipsters that I have identified using the Hipster Handbook at The Strand bookstore and the Think coffee shop prove this notion. My experience and interviews proved that the UTF Hipster commits to an occupation or hobby of that of the creative class, defying societal norms despite what their privileged backgrounds would suggest them to do.

The Think coffee shop conveyed that an UTF hipster’s grungy attire is an act of separation from the upper class. The coffee shop itself is very cozy and crowded with hipsters that all wore a mixed attire with something that looked expensive combined with something that looked like it came out of a Nirvana music video. It is important to note that not one hipster had one or the other; an example would be a very nice blazer worn with tight, skinny jeans. While the vintage, worn out look dominated the expensive look, the hipster all were either typing essays on computers or reading. Thus they were all contributing to the creative class. Many had NYU stickers on their Macbook pros, showing that they came from a privileged, talented background. But instead of wearing suits and yapping on cell phones, they were creatively creating in an a ensemble peppered with thrift store items. Dick Hebdige explains,
“and it is through the distinctive rituals of consumption, through style, that the subculture at once reveals its ‘secret’ identity and communicates its forbidden meanings. It is basically the way in which commodities are used in subculture which mark the subculture off from more orthodox cultural formations” .

Their attire and display of actions showed that they had used their upper class privileges to chase a creative hobby or occupation of the creative, lower class. While the typical NYU student might aspire to be a writer (because societal norms dictates that that is dangerous), these Hipster do so anyways, and not for irony but for passion.


The Strand Bookstore is a mecca for the creative class to gain new knowledge and material to strengthen their creative class journey while defying the stereotypical mass consumerism driven upper class. The Strand is a three-floor maze of books where one can only walk in a single file line because of its smorgasbord of literature. The hipsters are not drawn to the books but to the three constituents of the geographic creative class; technology, talent, and tolerance. Florida defines these as, “tolerance as openness, inclusiveness, and diversity to all ethnicities, races, and walks of life. Talent is defined as those with a bachelor’s degree and above. And technology is a function of both innovation and high-technology concentrations in a region” . All races and orientations were spread throughout the bookstore. Many were wearing college hoodies and backpacks, showing their “talent”. And the location inside Greenwich Village thus proved to be an epicenter of technology and resources. Two people I talked to were dressed in the mixture of upper and lower class hipster clothes and also were part of the creative class. One, named Dave, was an unemployed NYU grad who is an aspiring writer. Another was also an NYU grad whose true passion was photography, which she stated took up most of her time even though she was interning at a bank. These Hipsters both agreed that they might not be following the visions of their parents but they were doing what they loved. They agreed that they were contributing to society by their creativity but they did not want to be totally immersed in mass consumerism.

Mainstream society can be rejected with simple actions. I, wearing boat shoes, jeans, rugby sweater, and a flat brim, approached a Hipster wearing rolled up tight wool dress pants, a tight fitting blazer, a well maintained mustache, and thick rimmed glasses. I asked him if he had a moment to talk, and without hesitation he looked me up and down and replied, “Not in the slightest”. I had expected this and walked away. He did not want to contribute to what research I had to do, because based on appearance he did not think that we were the same. By rejecting my proposition, he rejected typical east coast college guys everywhere. He maintained his independence from main stream society.

Hipsters are making a point of non-conformity while still being productive by being part of the creative class. By spurring the conformity and mainstream market of society, they maintain their independence while avoiding the entrapment of mass-consumerism and the “spectacle”. McDonald writes on the “spectacle”,
“In all its specific manifestations – news or propaganda, advertising or the actual consumption of entertainment – the spectacle epitomizes the prevailing model of social life” . The spectacle is a threat to individuality and creativity, as it is a model. Hipsters take this model, use it to gain valuable college degrees, and then pursue what they love, becoming part of the creative class.

Under the conditions of a rising standard of living, non-conformity with the
system itself appears to be socially useless, and the more so when it entails tangible economic and political disadvantages and threatens the smooth operation of the whole. Indeed, at least in so far as the necessities of life are involved, there seems to be no reason why the production and distribution of goods and services should proceed through the competitive concurrence of individual liberties.


Hipsters ironically dress like the “socially useless”, but are in fact very useful. They “threaten the smooth operation of the whole”, providing individuality and creativity in a society overrun by mass consumerism. They stimulate society economically and socially by being part of the creative class. Hipsters have a point after all.


Sources:
Lanham, Robert, Bret Nicely, and Jeff Bechtel. The Hipster Handbook. New York: Anchor, 2003. Print.

Hebdige, Dick. Subculture, the Meaning of Style. London: Methuen, 1979. Print 203

Florida, Richard L. Cities and the Creative Class. New York: Routledge, 2005. Print 37

Mcdonald, P. “Guy Debord, Comments on the Society of the Spectacle.” Screen 32.4 (1991): 491-94. Print.

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The Vegetarian, The Vegan, and the Hipster

What does it take to be considered a hipster? Hipsters can be easily identified by the clothes they wear, the music they listen to, or the places they like to “chill”. Their skin-tight jeans and graphic tees that are layered in the perfectly unusually way are just the first layer of this genus of people. Hipsters choose this style of living to change the pace of society and to make themselves feel like they have something unique to contribute to their own community of hipsterdom. One thing that stood out to me about hipsters was their diet. In a culture that idealizes the appearance of the body through constant dieting, you would think the hipster would embrace the exact opposite. Despite their lean body frame, the hipster would see this as an opportunity to defy popular culture’s fad diets. If there is one thing that will never change about the hipster, it is their personalized eating styles, whether vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, or meat only, that will keep these hipsters somewhat grounded with the rest of society. 

Over the course of my investigation of these hipster eating habits, I realized that many hipsters chose to eat clean and healthy, dismissing foods that were not cage-free, grass-fed, or organic. According to Robert Lanham, “It’s common knowledge that a good percentage of Hipsters are vegans and vegetarians”. This is ironic because this style of eating is more expensive and so usually appeals to higher classes. The Gotham West Market located on the West side of New York is a new and upcoming marketplace that seemed to attract a variety of hipsters. The first thing I noticed when I walked in was the low lighting and funky arrangement of high counters accompanied with shiny metal stools. It was the mix of vintage and modern hipster themes that made the atmosphere culturally fitting for any hipster on the Westside. The second thing I noticed was the Ivan Ramen Slurp Shop. I had never heard of a restaurant that specialized in specifically ramen noodles and that is when I knew that this place was bound to feed hundreds of hipsters everyday. Not to mention, there is a bike shop that is also part of the market to support the commuters or bikers on the Hudson bike path — a popular form of transportation for hipsters (Lanham).

At this point, the hipster has managed to create his or her own culture in which they are recreating old meanings and introducing a new sense of authenticity. In Sewell’s Concept(s) of Culture, he explains how the concept of culture can be described “…as a system and practice, each presupposing the other” (Sewell 85). Sewell continues, “To engage in cultural practice means to utilize existing cultural symbols to accomplish some end” (Sewell 85). Hipsters are engaging in this practice of clean eating to emphasize their effort to do what is best for the environment and themselves while also a subtle act of rebellion against the unhealthier food options. The Gotham West Market was clearly an innovated representation of hipster culture that was introduced with strong intentions to reshape the way people look at food. 

Hipsters have an art to eating which is what makes them stand out even more than their underground music or obsession with coffee. I picked up a menu from the Ivan Ramen noodle shop and it contained a section titled “Art of the Slurp”. Step one, pull a small amount of noodles from the bow, take less than you think you need. Step two, bring the noodles to your mouth and slurp loudly! Step three, find the rhythm of the noodle. Step four, dip, slurp, chew, repeat. This is an example of the how the hipster chooses places that not only appeals to the healthy lifestyle but incorporates ironic and satirizing comic art that you would not normally see on a menu. Hipsters can be misunderstand and seen as pretentious or condescending but they actually have a quirky sense of humor that is creative and certainly different, clearly expressed in the instructions on how to slurp your ramen. However, hipsters are “eating contrarians” says Jeff McMahon in The Hipster Eating Code. Hipsters strive for a high level of expertise in their personal diet in hopes to reveal their extensive knowledge in areas like chemistry and anthropology (McMahon). Sticking to only one type of diet like vegetarianism is just one way to be a food contrarian. (McMahon). 

Authenticity is another characteristic that surrounds these hungry hipsters. In Sharon Zukin’s Naked City: The Death and Life of Authentic Urban Places, she states, “Authenticity becomes a tool of power. The tastes behind these new spaces of consumption are powerful because they move longtime residents outside of their comfort zone, gradually shifting the place that support their way of life to life supports for a different cultural community” (Zukin 6). Gotham West Market provides the west side of Manhattan an area of new authenticity cultivated by hipsters. The Brooklyn Kitchen and The Cannibal are just two of the restaurants that the market offers. Restaurants like these give society a change from the expensive steakhouses or big chain restaurants that you can find almost everywhere. As I thought about it more while sitting at one of the hightop counters sipping on  “monkey milk” from Blue Bottle Coffee, I understood the symbiosis of hipsters and their eateries. Hipsters care about the health of their body which is evident in where they go to eat and what kind of lifestyles they lead in relation to food. The Gotham West Market is a recent addition to the Westside providing a place of comfort for the hipster as well as exposing a fresh way of eating to everyone else. I did notice there were more men than women eating there which suggested a male dominated hipster community, at least in that area. At the same time, it made sense to me that there were more men than women because usually it is the other way around. However, the hipster by nature goes against the mainstream and thus chose to begin so by eating at the Gotham West Market. 

Among the modernized and minimalistic architecture of the market were old-fashioned designed expresso makers and a vintage movie billboard displaying, “Age doesn’t matter unless you’re a cheese” and “Butter vs. Margarine. I Trust Cows Over Chemists”. Instead of the stereotypical style of the hipster that separates him or her from the norm, it is through their love of organic and fresh eateries that contributes to their own subculture. Hipsters were able to instill their own tactics to subvert the strategy that food culture imposes on the hipster culture (Certeau). As food industries advertise high calorie foods and all-you-can eat buffets, the hipsters choose the path of a healthier lifestyle by eating smaller portions of natural whole foods. Every restaurant in the the Gotham West Market used adjectives like “fresh”, “whole”, and “zesty” giving the food a much healthier appeal while also rejecting the mainstream culture of other foods.

Food is a big part of everyone’s lives, including mine. But hipsters take it to a different level by ensuing their own personal interests in the food and using it as another outlet of rejecting mainstream culture. However, there is something to say for the healthy style of hipster eating that could probably benefit those non-hipsters out there who are trying to eat healthier. Ironically speaking, doing something that the mainstream actually approves of probably does not appeal to the aspiring hipster. However, I realized that the goal of a restaurant such as the Gotham Market is not only for hipster, but for everyone who wants a taste of hipster style dining, literally and figuratively. The style of the hipster dining has spread throughout Manhattan and Brooklyn, appearing in many restaurants and cafes. The subculture of the culinary hipster is rising to other locations, along with its virtues of clean eating and organic food sources, like where does their meat come from. Whether the hipster intended it or not, their healthy style of eating has influenced other restaurants to start getting meat from farm-raised cattle and using non-GMO plants (Mulcahy). It is no wonder that society needs hipsters to insinuate change and that the hipsters need society to thrive and express their personal artistic values, such as eating.

Works Cited

Anderson, Benedict R. O’G. “The Origin of National Consciousness.” Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism. London: Verso, 1991. 37-46. Print.

de Certeau, Michel. The Practice of Everyday Life. Berkeley: University of California, 1984. Print. 

Lanham, Robert, Bret Nicely, and Jeff Bechtel. The Hipster Handbook. New York: Anchor, 2003. Print.

McMahon, Jeff. “The Hipster Eating Code.” Herculodge. Typepad, 14 Nov. 2008. Web. 3 Apr. 2014.

Mulcahy, James. “Hipster Dining in NYC: Pros, Cons and What’s Next.” Zagat, 12 Nov. 2013. Web. 3 Apr. 2014.

Sewell Jr, William H. “The concept (s) of culture.” Practicing history: New directions in historical writing after the linguistic turn (2005): 76-95.

Zukin, Sharon. Naked City: The Death and Life of Authentic Urban Places. City & Community. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010.

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Marching to the Beat of a Different Drum: Literature’s Role in Hipster Individualism and Identity

Introduction

“If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer.  Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.”

— Henry David Thoreau

This quote by Henry David Thoreau embodies the central ideology of the hipster subculture. A hipster can be defined as an individual who openly rejects mainstream culture and consumerism through thought-out tastes, fashions, and practices.   If mainstream society represents the orchestra, then hipsters are those musicians who are wholeheartedly marching to the beat of a different drum, one that strays from the status quo and creates its own unique musical rhythm.  The hipster rejection of mainstream culture is fueled by an all-encompassing commitment to refuse anything “mainstream” including brand named clothing, huge corporation music labels, and even popular literature.  These lifestyle choices not only contribute to a generalized “hipster aesthetic,” but also encourage questionable and often misinformed stereotypes regarding their behavior.  This anthropological study aims to examine some of these stereotypes specifically regarding the role of literature in hipster tastes, behaviors, and practices.

Debunking the Literary Hipster Myth

          Hipsters tend to represent a stereotype of pretentious intellectuals who read obscure literature in an attempt to appear more intelligent than the average person.  Even The Hipster Handbook notes, “hipsters often allow hip books to dangle from their bags to show others how cutting-edge they are” (Lanham 126).  In my study, I set out to examine this stereotype and ascertain its validity. In order to avoid inaccurate generalizations, I utilized Clifford Geertz’s concept of “thick description” to better understand the intricacies of hipster culture and analyze the deeper meaning behind hipster literary practices (Geertz 7).  To conduct my research, I examined aspects of literature in the culture of New York City hipsters.  I visited and compared two bookstores that represented both the hipster and non-hipster ends of the spectrum.  I chose to visit the Strand Bookstore in Manhattan because of its reputation as a hipster hangout and because of its status as an independent business. I compared the Strand to a Barnes & Noble chain, which I selected to represent a mainstream bookstore due to its national popularity and corporation status.  I compared the two stores based on their overall environment, customers, and best selling literature.  To gain an insider’s glimpse of hipster literary tastes, I approached and interviewed individuals based on hipster styles and appearances described in The Hipster Handbook by Robert Lanham, as well as descriptions discussed in class.  In my experience studying hipster behavior and practices, I discovered that the significance of hipster literary tastes runs much deeper than the outside observer might think. Hipster literary preferences are delicately intertwined with hipster ideologies and serve as a viable outlet for hipsters to express their unique aesthetic while rejecting mainstream culture.  

Role of Retromania in the Hipster Literary Aesthetic

     The hipster’s obsession with all things retro is visible in the way hipsters prefer their literature.  Simon Reynolds refers to retro as a “self-conscious fetish for period stylization” which “tends to be the preserve of aethetes, connoisseurs, and collectors, people who possess a near-scholarly depth of knowledge combined with a sharp sense in irony” (Reynolds 12-13).  Hipsters embrace retro styles to display their rejection of popular mainstream trends while promoting a sense of irony.  As a result, the hipster aesthetic incorporates retro trends and accessories.  A hipster’s literary tastes play a significant role in his or her overall image, so what and how hipsters read must be very well thought out.  While conducting interviews, I noticed that all the hipsters I talked to preferred a physical book to an E-reader like a Nook or Kindle.  One hipster went so far as to claim, “E-readers are stupid!  Books have so much charm and personality.  I love the smell and the texture and the cover art of books.”  The non-hipsters I interviewed also enjoyed the physical aspects of novels, but acknowledged the convenience and simplicity of using an E-reader.  Hipsters may be attracted to a physical book because it can function as a retro accessory in their daily image.  If E-readers represent technology dominated mainstream culture, then books can be considered as retro reminders of the past, especially if they are rare first edition copies.  Therefore, a physical book can become a visible aspect of the hipster aesthetic whereas an E-reader would undermine the hipster’s legitimacy.  

     If a book has the power to become a viable hipster accessory, then the content of the book must also reflect the hipster aesthetic.  According to The Hipster Handbook, hipsters are very selective about what they read and “would not be caught dead reading garbage written by Tom Clancy or Nora Roberts” (Lanham 126).  I compared the current bestseller lists of two bookstores representing the two ends of the hipster/non-hipster spectrum to analyze the type of material hipsters prefer to read. The Strand Bookstore listed many classic novels including The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger, The Little Prince by Antoine De Saint-Exupery, and In Cold Blood by Truman Capote (“Bestsellers”). In comparison, Barnes & Noble primarily listed novels that are either new releases or published within the last year.  For example, recent works like The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, and The Body Book by Cameron Diaz were all listed among the best sellers (“The Top 100 Bestsellers of 2014”). If the Strand’s list represents an accurate representation of hipsters, then hipsters prefer to read selections that are not recent releases, and instead have been around for many years or even decades.  This ties in to the hipster portrayal of retromania and their attention to previous cultural trends.  By choosing to read older classic literature, hipsters can distance themselves from mainstream literature trends and further develop their unique image.

Hipsters as Literary Consumers

Consumerism plays perhaps the most important role in the hipster ideology and image.  One of the core themes of hipsterdom is the “innate contempt for franchises, strip malls, and the corporate world in general” (Lanhan 12).  Despite the disdain of consumerism, the hipster image depends on meticulously thought-out consumer choices consciously made by the hipster.  In fact, in rejecting mainstream consumerism, hipsters actually become some of the most influential consumers of their society.  Mark Grief describes the hipster as the “cultural figure of the person, very possible, who now understands consumer purchases within the familiar categories of mass consumption…to be a form of art” (Grief 12).  Hipsters have learned to use consumerism as a tactic against the much larger strategy of mainstream mass consumption (de Certeau).  Instead of buying into franchises and corporations, they choose to support small, independent businesses.  This idea of the anti-consumerism consumer can even be observed in how hipsters choose to purchase their literature.

Based on my interviews of hipsters, I determined that many hipsters prefer to purchase their literature at independent bookstores, compared to large-scale chains like Barnes & Noble.  One hipster mentioned that she usually purchases her books at The Strand Bookstore (that is, when she isn’t buying them at her Coloradoan hometown indie bookstore, Tattered Cover).  Non-hipsters seem to purchase literature wherever they can find it including Barnes & Noble, Amazon, the library, Target, and literally “anywhere that sells the cheapest books.”  With these testimonies in mind I visited two bookstores, the Strand Bookstore and Barnes & Noble, to compare their environments and appeals.   

Barnes & Noble (aka the Average Joe’s Mainstream Bookstore)

I first visited Barnes & Noble, a large-scale corporation that can be considered mainstream because of its national popularity. In fact, it is one of the largest book retailers in America with hundreds of stores throughout the country.  While visiting a local Barnes & Noble in Manhattan, I initially noticed the overall environment, which was identical to every other Barnes & Noble chain I had visited before.  The book selections were organized to the point where it was extremely straightforward and simple to locate whatever literature a customer was looking for immediately.  I noticed a significant lack of individuals who fit into the hipster description based on The Hipster Handbook.  Hipsters may refuse to shop at chains like Barnes & Noble for multiple reasons, primarily because they do not wish to conform to mainstream corporations.  In addition, chains like the Barnes & Noble stores do not offer any opportunities for originality and uniqueness.  Their identical atmospheres inhibit hipsters from standing out from the social norm, and are a detriment to hipster individualism.

The Strand Bookstore (aka Bookworm Hipster Heaven)

The next stop on my expedition took me to The Strand Bookstore, an independent bookshop located in lower Manhattan that specializes in rare book collections as well as new releases.  The tangible difference in atmosphere compared to Barnes & Noble was overwhelming.  I could immediately sense why hipsters would be attracted to such a unique shop.  Each floor was overflowing with books of different shapes, colors, and sizes.  There did not seem to be any straightforward sense of organization, almost as if the store’s layout encouraged blind browsing in order to discover new, unheard-of titles.  One of the most interesting aspects was the store’s top floor, which housed hundreds of rare books and manuscripts by famous authors and poets.  While observing the various customers, I was able to spot a handle of hipsters fitting The Hipster Handbook’sdescription of “Loners” and “Unemployed Trust Funders” (Lanhan 32, 14).  I observed as they browsed through selections of literature I had never even heard of.  Overall, the Strand appeals to hipsters because it presents a unique, one of a kind literary experience.  More importantly, it gives hipsters the opportunity to discover unheard-of titles, support an independent business, and purchase rare books that function as retro accessories.

Concluding Remarks

            Hipster literary tastes and practices signify much more than just an attempt to appear more intelligent.  On the contrary, literature serves as viable outlet hipsters can utilize to march to the beat of their own drum. It gives them an opportunity to exercise their status as “hip consumers” as well as distance themselves from mainstream trends.  Hipsters choose to read books that are not on national bestseller lists because they seek to reject anything that is considered popular in mainstream culture, including the newest groundbreaking novel.  Instead, they read classics and intellectual pieces of literature to strengthen their individualism and sense of unique identity.  As “hip consumers,” hipsters choose to support independently owned bookstores like the Strand to subvert mainstream corporations and promote unique book buying.  In conclusion, hipsters should not be stereotyped as pretentious intellectuals who pretend to be smarter than everyone else.  If anything, hipsters should be recognized as some of the most ardent readers who keep the spirit of classic literature present in a society that tends to forget its literary roots.

Works Cited

"Bestsellers." Home Page Featured at Strand Books. The Strand Bookstore, n.d. Web. 27 Mar. 2014.

de Certeau, Michel. The Practice of Everyday Life. Berkeley: University of California, 1984. Print.

Geertz, Clifford. The Interpretation of Cultures: Selected Essays. New York: Basic, 1973. Print.

Greif, Mark, Kathleen Ross, and Dayna Tortorici. “Positions.” What Was the Hipster?: A Sociological Investigation. New York: N 1 Foundation, 2010. N. pag. Print.

"Henry David Thoreau Quote." BrainyQuote. Xplore, n.d. Web. 02 Apr. 2014.

Lanham, Robert, Bret Nicely, and Jeff Bechtel. The Hipster Handbook. New York: Anchor, 2003. Print.

Reynolds, Simon. Retromania: Pop Culture’s Addiction to Its Own Past. London: Faber & Faber, 2011. Print.

"The Top 100 Bestsellers of 2014." Books, Bestsellers, Fiction, Nonfiction. Barnes & Noble, n.d. Web. 27 Mar. 2014.

Emmy Casper 

Instagram Photos

Image of a portion of the layout in the Strand Bookstore.  The endless towering bookshelves added to the unique bookstore experience.

While visiting the Strand, I decided to approach and interview this “hipster” based on her vintage style and unique appearance.  I took this picture just as she discovered an interesting read.     

This picture was taken in the Rare Books section in the Strand Bookstore.  A unique edition like this Arthur Rimbaud selection could serve as the perfect retro accessory for a hipster’s image.

The Bestsellers Section in the Strand.  One of the managers who was working when I visited mentioned that Just Kids by Patti Smith had been on the Strand’s bestseller list since before she started work three and a half years ago.  Its ranking has remained unchanged since then.

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The Homogenization of Hipster Coffee Shops

Although hipsters stand apart from normal society, they are often stereotyped as being part of a homogenized group.  This emerges in hipster fashion such as skinny jeans and thick-rimmed glasses, a generally upper-middle class status, and in being predominately white. For a group that considers itself unique compared to the rest of society, this seems paradoxical.  A group is typically more than its stereotype, however, and I wanted to see if the stereotype holds up or not.  With the independent coffee shop serving as a quintessential hipster stomping ground, an investigation into the kinds of people who visit the shop could either prove or disprove the stereotypes.  Although the hipster coffee shops cater to different needs, they cater primarily to an upper class, mostly white market.

In an interview with Kimberly Palmer, Michaele Weissman said that the coffee industry “provides people with a lot of vision and intelligence and enthusiasm. It gives people who are maybe oddballs a place to put their passion” (Palmer).  With hipsters distancing themselves from mainstream society, they do not hold the power.  As a result, they have to use tactics in order to establish “within [mainstream society] a degree of plurality and creativity” (de Certeau, 30).  The independent coffee shop provides hipsters with their own spaces apart from the mainstream.  They can avoid supporting brands they dislike while still getting their daily cup of coffee, all with likeminded individuals who share their tastes.  The coffee shops do not need to conform to any standards of design, allowing for unique spaces among different shops.

Because of the shops’ uniqueness, I surmised that an observation of the people who attended such diverse coffee shops could provide information on hipster homogenization.  My investigation commenced on Sunday, March 23.  I focused on four coffee shops in Lower Manhattan for my observations, specifically located in Tribeca and Greenwich Village.  I spent approximately a half-hour in each location, taking down notes about the coffee shop and its customers.  I had three goals when making my observations.  The first was observing the location and aesthetics of the coffee shops in order to predict who the shop would cater to.  The second was seeing if the customers and staff fit into the stereotypical hipster aesthetic.  The third and most crucial aspect was analyzing their demographics in terms of race and class.

My first destination was Kaffe 1668, a coffee shop located in Tribeca across the street from various businesses.  With simplistic wooden seating arrangements and sheep models lining the many shelves, Kaffe distanced itself from a typical coffee shop through its aesthetic alone.  Dim lighting and alternative music set the tone of a casual, albeit thoughtful location for a quick breakfast.  The outside the mainstream aesthetic extended to the employees, as they all wore plaid button-down shirts and backwards baseball caps.  The atypical nature of Kaffe, coupled with its locations near businesses, left the impression of a local, non-mainstream coffee shop catering to a hipster audience with some ties to the nearby businesses.

My observations uncovered a mix of hipster and mainstream clientele at Kaffe.  Much of Kaffe’s mostly young clientele emulated the style of the employees.  One white man fit the hipster stereotype in all but his Nike sneakers; his thick-rimmed glasses, ski cap, rolled up skinny jeans, scarf, and plaid shirt led to me immediately identifying him as a hipster.  Earlier, a black woman entered Kaffe wearing a colorful knit jacket and scarf.  Others blurred the lines between hipster and mainstream.  An Asian woman walked in wearing a scarf and moccasins, as did a white couple near the end of my visit, but they wore otherwise conventional clothing.  Notably, many young families visited Kaffe with their children, and they did not appear hipster so much as upper class.  Given the upper middle class clientele that Kaffe serves, an unsurprising majority of the customers were white, though I observed a sizable proportion of Asian customers.  Only three black people went to Kaffe, with one of them being a cop and another being a nanny watching young white children.

After my stop in Tribeca, I decided to go to Greenwich Village to continue my investigation.  My next destination was Think Coffee, a coffee shop also located near many businesses.  Because it was located across the street from a Starbucks, I initially suspected a primarily hipster-dominated locale in order to stand out.  As I walked in, I noticed several boxes of Scrabble stacked on one wall, a shelf decorated with doorknobs on the opposite side, and pieces of abstract art hanging along the other walls.  Some aspects of Think Coffee reminded me of mainstream coffee shops, however; many of the customers were busily working on their laptops, and Beyoncé songs played over the speakers.  Think Coffee seemed to cater to an audience who did not want a typical coffee shop, but its more mainstream aspects could not be ignored.

The weird marriage of hipster and mainstream led me to expect a mixed clientele like at Kaffe, but the customers and employees left a different impression.  The staff dressed nearly identically to Kaffe’s staff, with a uniform consisting of plaid shirts and beanie hats.  This hipster homogeny extended partially to the customers, as the store served an almost entirely hipster clientele.  For every customer I saw with a tattoo or skinny jeans, I saw just as many wearing expensive scarves and unbranded clothing. At the same time, Kaffe and Think Coffee both had a noticeable white majority in their clientele.  I only saw one racial minority at Think Coffee: a black man chatting with his friends who fit the hipster stereotype.

After visiting Think Coffee, I traveled to a residential area of Greenwich Village toward my next destination.  Grounded, living up to its residential location, felt more like a lively home of an intellectual than a coffee shop.  Lush potted plants were scattered around the front area, couches were placed around coffee tables in order to facilitate conversation, and a tall bookshelf was packed with books for any of its customers to read.  The jazz music and lived-inn decor enhanced this casual attitude.  While there was a fair share of laptop workers, I also saw many conversations going on thanks to the décor arrangement.

Despite the difference in atmosphere, Grounded served the same demographics as Kaffe and Think Coffee.  As expected, most of the clientele fit into hipster stereotypes.  As I passed the register, I noticed a customer and a staff member with unnaturally dyed hair.  Skinny jeans and beanie caps were a common sight, with some thick-rimmed glasses thrown in.  Grounded’s customers were primarily white, and no black customers went to the shop.  The Asian population was similar to that of Kaffe except primarily of Southeast Asian descent, but the white population easily outnumbered them.

My last destination was Blue Bottle Coffee, a small coffee shop hidden among art studios and modeling agencies.  Because of its size, the décor was rather plain, focusing on high quality yet simple woodwork for its shelves and seating arrangements.  The two staff members, with their blue button-down shirts and beanie caps, gave off a hipster vibe.  For its small size, Blue Bottle Coffee was moderately popular.  From the Siphon Bar menu I saw posted in the window, I assumed that the shop was popular with the upper class.  My assumptions were not incorrect; for every group of hipster friends having a conversation over some coffee, there were some men in business suits doing the same.  Like with the other coffee shops, however, only a few racial minorities were there.

Each of the four coffee shops served their own niches.  Kaffe and Blue Bottle attracted a business crowd thanks to their locations, Think Coffee created a space for hipsters in competing with a Starbucks, and Grounded provided the intellectual with new books and a place for conversation.  None of them were particularly fancy, but all tried to provide an authentic “quality of experience” that distanced themselves from mainstream coffee shops (Zukin, 5).  Despite the different purposes they had, however, their demographics were nearly identical; the customers were mostly middle-to-upper class, young, and white.  There is nothing wrong with belonging to these categories, but my observations leave me concerned about the unintentional exclusivity the coffee shops have.  As Sharon Zukin puts it, “a group that imposes its own tastes on urban space […] can make a claim to that space that displaces long-time residents” (5-6).  As more of these affluent white residents move into these neighborhoods and create more shops that cater to their needs, it may push poorer or minority residents out of their spaces.  While hipsters gain more leverage to form strategy, it takes the power away from other groups in the process.

Despite my fears, I do not want to present these coffee shops as lairs of boogeymen out to destroy old neighborhoods in Manhattan.  There is nothing inherently wrong with trying to create spaces to cater to your needs, especially as a group who wants to remain outside of the mainstream like hipsters.  It is important to be aware of how your actions affect others, however.  A mutual coexistence can be formed over time.  Ideally, residents new and old will be able to strike up conversations in Grounded after picking up laundry from the Laundromat or rush to Kaffe before work after a trip to a local bodega.  With the demographics I currently see at the coffee shops, whether or not this will come to pass is yet to be determined.

Dakota Hernandez

Works Cited

Certeau, Michel De. The Practice of Everyday Life. Berkeley: University of California, 1984. Print.

Palmer, Kimberly. “Explaining the Coffee-Hipster Connection.” U.S. News & World Report. Kerry F. Dyer, 9 Sept. 2008. Web. 3 Apr. 2014.

Zukin, Sharon. Naked City: The Death and Life of Authentic Urban Places. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010.

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Coffee Talk

Whether it is that of the businessperson who rushes to get their cup on the street every day, the desperate college student ordering mug after mug during a cram session before that big final exam, or a “hipster” trying to seek out the newest, coolest and most underground shop, it is plain to see the impact that coffee and the variety of places where it is sold has had on multiple aspects of life, and society as a whole.  The comparison of mainstream chains-such as Starbucks-to two “hipster” coffee shops-Café Grumpy and Bluestockings Café on the Lower East Side-has led me to draw a variety of conclusions about not only what attracts hipsters to certain establishments, but why individuals as a whole gravitate towards where they do.  Overall, upon analysis of customers, employees, prices, and the way that I was treated and felt in each shop, hipsters are going to be primarily constructing their preferences based on the atmosphere of the shop (including attitudes of employees), as well as-similar to anyone else-basic elements such as the quality of the goods being provided.  In addition, the manner in which gender roles and race come into play is worth analysis, due to the ways that such threads seem to weave themselves into many aspects of society these days-this situation being no exception.

            For the most part, as a society we have become all too familiar with Starbucks: The overpriced chain that dabbles in the creation of everything from a dangerously dark roast to light-as-air frappuccinos in nearly every flavor.  Most of us have visited either regularly or occasionally, which was clearly reflected in the company’s 2012 total annual revenue of 13.29 billion dollars (“Starbucks Company Statistics”).  The other two stores are a bit different.  The Bluestockings Café on Allen Street is a volunteer-operated, collectively owned activist café and bookstore.  Café Grumpy on Essex Street is an exceptionally tiny and upscale shop that fits only a few individuals comfortably.  I began my journey to discover the underground motives of hipsters by speaking with the barista at Café Grumpy.  I had a rather intimate conversation with the sole worker present, learning after just a few minutes that he is a painter who transferred from UCLA to the Rhode Island School of Design during his undergraduate studies.  Although I would not necessarily classify him as a “hipster” per say (due to his mainstream appearance and comfortable manner of speech), we nevertheless had a most enticing and engaging chat.  We had a whole conversation about college, and I was able to bond with him more in ten minutes in ways that, I regret to say, I have not yet done with many of my local Starbucks baristas in years (my Gold Card membership kick-started in 2010).  Following this, when speaking with a “hipster” NYU Stern student/volunteer worker at Bluestockings (who I was able to classify as such based on her splotchy purple lipstick, thick-lensed black glasses, crazy hair and similarity to the description of “The Loner” in The Hipster Handbook as one with bushy hair who holds a job at a bookstore), I was able to gain ample insight into what somebody affiliated with business understood of Bluestockings, and why it attracts the crowd that it does (Lanham 32).  When I inquired, she informed me that Bluestockings definitely appealed to a certain group, using the term “cool people” to put it rather bluntly.  She elaborated on how, being so politically and socially radical of an establishment, it is not the scene for everyone.  I found the ways that these employees were willing to take the time to hold a conversation of substance with me to be something that really distinguished them from chain coffeehouses-the Starbucks baristas were very hurried and impersonal, only interested in my order.  However, it is crucial to take into consideration the lower volume of customers that the independent shops need to tend to.  The majority of the time, they will, by default, have more time to devote to customers, as the hipsters who will be in the shop make up a significantly smaller proportion of the population (as a subculture).  In Dylan Clark’s “The Death and Life of Punk, The Last Subculture”, he states that, “Subcultures are, in this hegemonic caricature, a temporary phase through which mostly juvenile, mostly ‘White,’ and mostly harmless people symbolically create identity and peer-groups, only to later return, as adults, to their pre-ordained roles in mainstream society” (Clark).  Although it is projected that subcultures such as hipster, bohemian, and punk are not a permanent and accurate reflection of who one may be, they can, indeed, morph someone over time.  Therefore, it is crucial to understand that who is attracted to what “genre” of business can change gradually as they mature.  For example, somebody could begin in their rebellious youth spending hours at a revolutionary shop, but could then switch to Dunkin Donuts later on for the fast service and ability to grab on the go en route to the office.

            The environments at the “hipster” coffee shops possessed much different, more intimate atmospheres when compared to such at the neighborhood Starbucks.  One man at the Delancey Street Starbucks branch told me that he liked coming because he has access to good WiFi, and can leave his laptop and phone exposed at his seat without worry when he goes to order a drink or use the bathroom.  When asked why he chooses to give business to Starbucks as opposed to a smaller, independent shop, he said that he loved that nobody bothers him here.  The ability to remain in this shop for hours, without conversation, surrounded by others desiring to do only the same thing (working, conversing with a single friend, etc.) turned out to be extremely appealing to him. 

            After tentatively opening the door of Bluestockings, I saw a woman who appeared to be in her twenties, sitting by the window, sporting a pixie cut, beanie, and gauged ears all at once.  She readily dispensed any and all information to me when I decided to take a stab at asking her a few questions about her coffee shop habits.  She told me that she did not like giving business to Starbucks because-despite being anti-corporation and genuinely believing that the coffee tastes better than at other places-she did not like being in a distracting and discriminative environment with people constantly typing on their laptops.  To clarify this, it is key to note that Bluestockings has a “safe space” policy, which allows for the reprimanding and/or removal of anybody found making racial, homophobic or ignorant slurs.  It is imperative to examine just why this may appeal to the hipster crowd.  Throughout the semester, we have referenced hipsters as those who reject mainstream society, and are oftentimes found going against the grain in social situations or movements.  Thus, there is a good chance that they will not be completely sold on the idea of a generic coffee shop-the ability for one to be able to express themselves comfortably in public is crucial.  Building off of the main concept of “strategies versus tactics” in Michael de Certeau’s The Practice of Everyday Life, Bluestockings used a tactic of creating this space in order to combat the insensitive and harsh stereotypes and attitudes of many typical coffee shop goers (or people in general) (Certeau).

              In Café Grumpy, the employee who I conversed with told me that, contrary to what I may have expected, their business actually attracted not just hipsters, but locals.  Although one must consider that this would inevitably hold true for all coffee shops in any given area-be it in Manhattan or Los Angeles-there was a certain confidence with which he assured me that all would feel welcome in this environment, not just hipsters or elitists.  Similar to what the woman at Bluestockings mentioned, he said that the coffee itself was obviously the main attraction, and that they have gained attention and praise in recent years for the premium quality of the plethora of food and beverages.  Starbucks, in contrast to both Café Grumpy and Bluestockings, seemed to have attracted a group of very straight-edged, introverted individuals, focused on work or their own private conversations and endeavors (In fact, I felt bad interrupting most of them from their work).  Such an environment may prove to be less than ideal for one who is seeking out a setting of complete comfort and lack of judgment.  However, it is perfect for an individual who may not identify as “hipster”, and just craves a place to be able to disappear for a period of time, unnoticed and concentrated.

            The issue of gender is definitely one that plays a factor in this analysis.  At all shops except for Bluestockings, there was about an equal ratio of males to females.  In Bluestockings, however, there was not a male to be seen.  All customers, as well as workers, were women.  I feel that this is due to the activist nature of the store, and the variety of feminist titles that are sold there.  In her A Room of One’s Own, Virginia Woolf emphasizes the importance that women have their own space and area to work and instigate success, just as men do.  She states, “In the first place, to have a room of her own, let alone a quiet room or a sound-proof room, was out of the question, unless her parents were exceptionally rich or very noble, even up to the beginning of the nineteenth century” (Woolf 54).  This demonstrates the importance of one having his/her own area, as the rarity of the situation signified how it was not thought of as necessary for a woman to have her own space.  I feel that this issue is still alive today, and this pattern at Bluestockings implies that there has always been-and still is-a desire for an even playing field among women in society.  If a man were to spend a tremendous amount of time there, he would obviously not be outwardly judged in anyway due to the “safe space” policy, but to me, the store appeared sort of ironically female-dominated in a powerful way.  Despite this notable differing factor amidst the coffee shop scene, a worthy commonality to mention would be the diversity amongst ethnicities and races that I observed.  From the Asian employee and British customers at Café Grumpy, to the Middle Eastern and Caucasian couple chatting at Starbucks, and the variety of backgrounds that the Bluestocking employees appeared to come from, there is an exceptionally broad variety everywhere.  I would mainly attribute this spectrum to the New York City environment-and even more so that of the Lower East Side (which is dubbed, “A forward-thinking neighborhood with historic roots” by the website Urban Compass)(“Lower East Side NYC Neighborhood Guide”).

            Finally, onto the main attraction itself: The coffee.  At Bluestockings, a small cup of coffee retails for only $1.  At Starbucks, a small, standard “freshly brewed coffee” is only around $1.75.  Prices begin to rise as we move onto the more specialized drinks, such as blended beverages and mochas (although such variety inevitably contributes to the popularity of the corporation).  In contrast, normal coffee at Café Grumpy is $3.  When discussing the prices with the worker there, he assured me that this price is a justified reflection of the quality of how the coffee is brewed, and is reasonable for what the consumer is receiving.  While this seems to be easily accepted, there is a sort of “Orientalist” attitude when looking at the prices of Starbucks in the present age-countless times I have heard people assume this corporation to be outrageously expensive without having actually looked into the commercial aspect.  In his novel titled Orientalism, Edward Said states, “For if it is true that no production of knowledge in the human sciences can ever ignore or disclaim its author’s involvement as a human subject in his own circumstances, then it must also be true that for a European or American studying the Orient there can be no disclaiming the main circumstances of his actuality…” (Said 11).  Here, the author is reiterating his point that personal experience and praxis are keys in understanding and having the ability to draw legitimate conclusions.  If people critically examined the Starbucks menu in comparison to competing establishments, they may actually find the prices to be exceedingly similar than previously thought-one may be surprised to discover that Café Grumpy is actually the place with the most off-the charts price point.

            Overall, analysis of coffee shops on the Lower East Side proved to open my eyes to a world that I had not ever taken much of a developed interest in prior.  It is truly a science to peer into just why people gravitate towards different places for a good as seemingly standard as coffee (and the service that inevitably comes along with it).  The multitude of factors that contribute to the creation of a coffee shop dictate the degree to which the shop will be successful, and what connotations it will carry throughout its life as a business.  Although we, as a society, may be tempted to dismiss hipsters as pretentious or demanding when it comes to the degree of their expectations for something that is debatably trivial, it is understandable how the weight of the components discussed may come into play when making consumerism-based decisions-for hipsters as well as members of the mainstream crowd.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Works Cited

Certeau, Michel de.. “Chapter III “Making Do”: Uses and Tactics.” The Practice of Everyday Life.         Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984. 29-42. Print.

Clark, Dylan. 2003. “The Death and Life of Punk, The Last Subculture,” pp. 223-36, in David        Muggleton and Rupert Weinzierl (eds.), The Post-Subcultures Reader. Oxford: Berg.

Lanham, Robert, Bret Nicely, and Jeff Bechtel. The Hipster Handbook. New York: Anchor Books,     2003. Print.

"Lower East Side NYC Neighborhood Guide." Urban Compass. N.p., n.d. Web. 3 Apr. 2014.           <https://www.urbancompass.com/neighbor

Said, Edward W.. Orientalism. New York: Vintage Books, 1978. Print. 

"Starbucks Company Statistics." Statistic Brain RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 31 Mar. 2014.   <http://www.statisticbrain.com/starbucks-company-statistics/>.

Woolf, Virginia. A Room of One’s Own. San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1989. Print.

 -Beth Yarze

 

 

 

 

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Finding the Hipster Habitat

In a city where people have located and relocated to areas that contain aspects of various cultural commonalities, everyone has the chance to find their own “niche” upon the streets of New York City, especially those of the hipster subculture. Culture generally, in this sense, “stands for a concrete and bounded world of beliefs and practices” (Sewell 79)1, and hipsters have more than established their own culture within New York. Their general desire for qualities within the tri-state area is part of a broader sense in what hipsters look for in an area. Since the hipster subculture is very particular to a limited range of goods and conveniences, there are a certain amount of characteristics that attract the modern day hipster. On the other hand, there are parts of this vast city that may not hold as much appeal, or none at all, to someone whose lifestyle follows nearly the opposite of the aesthetic of that area, thus deeming it unfitting for residence. However, this is not a major limiting factor for hipsters, as they have even found their place in spaces where people would not expect hipsters to reside or assemble in. Figuring out locations that are visited and revisited by hipsters is a way to piece together and create a “thick description” of the so far ambiguous notion of what actual hipster culture is.

Typical Hipster Housing Choices

The most important thing to know about the hipster lifestyle or aesthetic is that it is a counterculture, meaning it goes against the cultural norms of its time, or as hipsters would sometimes indignantly explain, the “mainstream”. Hipsters are primarily known for their distinct clothing styles and brands, their relaxed attitude, which can just as easily become stern when being challenged about their lifestyle, and their admiration for the artistic aspects of life, whether they lie on the chalkboard menus of mom and pop coffee shops, or the view of a setting sun from Roosevelt Island. While New York City is famously known as “the city that never sleeps”, hipsters show disdain for “franchises, strip malls, and the corporate world in general” (Lanham 12)2, all characteristics which give New York its famed moniker. Rather, hipsters are huge fans of a more calm and relaxed lifestyle, an environment that serves as an ideal area for hipster residences. Such a serene lifestyle exists in certain areas, such as the Upper West Side of New York. A neighborhood that lies from West 59th Street to 116th Street, the Upper West Side, or UWS for short, lies parallel to a landmark most New Yorkers would consider an escape from its stereotypical “concrete jungle”, Central Park. In addition to the scenic view that lies across most residences on the UWS, the housing itself is reminiscent of the UWS’s history of development, followed by urban renewal into modern times, as well as coinciding with the more recent studio apartments that have sprouted in the area.

These buildings, in addition to the scenery and the quaintness of the location, provide any hipster with a view of the dualism of New York City. The first part exists in the natural view of Central Park, which is surrounded and sometimes overshadowed by the massive skyline of New York City, something that most hipsters would deem to be “artsy”. While hipsters who live in the UWS enjoy the grass and trees of Central Park, others appreciate the type of art that thrives only within the city itself. DUMBO, an acronym for Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass, is a part of New York that is known for its scenic view of the East River, as well as a variety of artworks that line the red brick walls of DUMBO. The area itself is a large grassy area where people can sit or lay down upon to enjoy the views of both the river and the bridge itself, which then leads into a rocky shore, not necessarily to be used by beach-goers, but for people who appreciate the artistically contrasting landforms of grassland, water, and sand. Hipsters are the prime audience for this natural show, and are just as attracted to the graffiti that covers the walls.

Hipster Consumerism and Correlation to Population

Graffiti alone, however, is not all that brings a hipster toward a general area. An area such as Williamsburg, which is much deeper in Brooklyn, for example, is a prime location where most hipsters are known to be found. This area is a massive hipster location, primarily because of two reasons: the quiet, yet busy vibe that people get around Williamsburg, as well as the attitudes that people carry with them, particularly in their businesses. Prior to its closing, Foodswings was alike any other fast food restaurant, serving delicious comfort food to anyone who wanted to splurge their money’s worth. Their spin on the traditional view of fast food, however, was that every item on their menu was purely vegan. The trend of veganism or vegetarianism is one that has spread throughout the majority of Williamsburg and some of its surrounding areas, and it is not just reflected through means of its food. A clothing brand, relatively unknown to New Yorker culture, let alone American culture, called Vaute Couture, was modeled after the more widely known “Haute Couture”, but a change from “H” to “V” became the symbol of the use of vegan methods and fabrics to make their clothing. Still a relatively new brand, Vaute Couture gained success by spreading appeal to people in the Williamsburg-Grant Avenue area of Brooklyn, a place that by then, had a predominantly hipster population. In a culture that is obsessed with making consumerism a big part of it, Williamsburg is the perfect hub for hipsters to purchase clothing, which in turn resulted in the massive hipster population in the area. The hipster involvement in veganism and animal rights is one that is found not only in their buying habits, but in their daily activities as well.

Unusual Hipster Locations

However, hipsters do not leave their beliefs on the counters of warehouse stores. At the Animal Haven shelter on Centre Street many people, not only hipsters, work hard day and night to provide food, water, and shelter to a plethora of animals that come in on a near-daily basis. While the surroundings of an animal shelter have a very different feel than that of a clothing store, it portrays the same, and even stronger message that hipsters value the animals’ right to life, whether they are protected from becoming targets of fabric making, or from the hands of previous abusive owners.

Even Centre Street, however, is a place that leads to one of the more visited and artistic parts of NYC, SoHo. However, what about areas that are completely opposite that of a hipster? More uptown from the regular and expected hipster hubs of Brooklyn lies Harlem, a neighborhood whose claim to fame is seen more from its notoriety rather than its jazzy origins. Spanish Harlem, as stated in its name, is home to a more predominantly Latino community, which coined Spanish Harlem the name “El Barrio”. Despite its social issues involving crime, joblessness, drug abuse, and homelessness, East Harlem has made many attempts to increase a sense of safety and protection in its neighborhoods. Community centers have opened up throughout East Harlem, but some areas that strike the eye are the public gardens throughout Harlem generally. One may not think of gardens as a primary way for people to express themselves, but these gardens are both appealing to the eye, as well as something to serve as a distraction from the outside city. Alike Central Park, the natural scenery of these gardens, particularly that of the “Tin” Flores Garden on Lexington Avenue, provide an area of peace and serenity from the hustle and bustle of every taxi and train outside the garden area. This park is entirely non-profit, so it does not cost any Harlem resident, as well as any hipster, to come by and simply admire the work that people have put in to making Harlem a much more peaceful place. Hipsters, as daunting as they mind find Harlem to be, take solace in sitting in a garden, similar to this one, and taking photographs or even making sketches of what they see.

The art form of photography and drawing is in no way particular to the hipster subculture, and in fact, is something that both hipsters and those outside of this culture share. Not only that, but hipsters, beside their appreciation for ideals and goods not necessarily particular to other subcultures, share a great deal with the mainstream. People who see the stereotypical hipster as the actual definition of one forget “the roots of these developments [of hipsters] and examine their historical alternatives” (Marcuse)3, and are limited to viewing hipsters from a one-dimensional perspective. If there is anything definite to be learned about the hipster and its culture, it is that while our perception of them may lead us to look down upon and even marginalize their culture, they are no different than us. We are led to believe our own whereabouts of the stereotypical hipster, who lives in places that are “intensely cool, identifiably local, and ethnically diverse” (Zukin 18)4,judgments that will never really lead us to an actual definition of a hipster.  This can lead to frustration and thus bring about the spite that hipsters sometimes receive. What is to be understood about hipsters stems mostly from a subjective point of view, and any judgments or misconceptions should be left behind until we stop seeing hipsters with just our eyes, but through, as quoted from Ward Goodenough, “the minds and hearts of men” (Geertz 11)5.

Bonnell, Victoria E., Lynn Hunt, and William H. Sewell, Jr. Beyond the Cultural Turn: New Directions in the Study of Society and Culture. Berkeley, CA: University of California, 1999. Print.

Lanham, Robert, Bret Nicely, and Jeff Bechtel. The Hipster Handbook. New York: Anchor, 2003. Print.

 Bambrough, Renford. “One-Dimensional Man By Herbert Marcuse Routledge.”Philosophy 69.269 (1994): 380. Print.

Zukin, Sharon. “Naked City: The Death and Life of Authentic Urban Places.” City & Community 10.4 (2011): 437-39. Print.

 Geertz, Clifford. The Interpretation of Cultures: Selected Essays. New York: Basic, 1973. Print.

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Hipster U

Hipsters are known for abandoning societal norms and scoffing at all things mainstream. However, hipsters have not abandoned the conventional idea of higher education. It is evident that hipsters have in fact made a place for themselves at colleges nationwide, with the Huffington Post even creating a list of the top ten hipster colleges (Unigo).  What is it that makes hipsters able to repudiate mainstream but at the same time embrace the college experience?  To answer this question I have chosen to investigate the following colleges in New York City: New York University, Pace University, Fordham University, Columbia University, and Manhattan College. * Aside from the fact that I attend Fordham University Rose Hill, I have chosen the remaining colleges based on location and popularity. Through my observations at the stated New York City colleges in conjunction with the 3T’s of economic development (Florida 363), I am able to create a thick description of the ideal hipster college (Geertz 6).

Student Body

The single most important aspect of hipster culture has to be clothing. Clothing visually separates those who listen to Ke$ha from those who appreciate Mumford & Sons and those who shop at The Gap from those who scavenge through thrift shops. At Manhattan College, one student described the style as “preppy, with pastels and boat shoes… your basic East Coast rich white kid style,” the same of which can be said about Fordham Rose Hill in the Bronx. Fordham Lincoln Center students, on the other hand, have more of an overall alternative look, similar to NYU students. At Fordham Lincoln Center, NYU, and Columbia I observed a noticeable absence of popular mainstream items such as North Face jackets, Ugg boots, and especially sweatpants of any kind. One student at Columbia noted that on campus it is unacceptable to dress in anything that would not be considered business casual, a strategy that has perhaps been set in place by mainstream students (de Certeau 29-30). This is not to say that hipsters refrain from using tactics to add their own flair to the business casual look, like one student in particular who was giving a tour wearing a trench coat and stilettos, along with a pink, white, and blue Mohawk type hairdo.

Financial Aid

In order to uphold the hipster image, financial stability is a must. Hipsters aim to achieve a look of effortlessness which involves the art of mixing thrift shop steals with pricey designer “vintage” wear, which can retail for well over hundreds of dollars per piece. In my study I found that New York City colleges with price tags of over sixty thousand dollars and minimal financial aid packages had the strongest hipster presence on campus.  In order of hipster presence, these colleges were New York University with tuition of $60,407, Columbia University costing $64,144, and Fordham University priced at a steep $64,562. Pace University and Manhattan College, colleges with tuitions around fifty five thousands and a more generous financial aid office, did not have as strong as a hipster culture.

Admissions

In addition to sharing some of the most expensive tuition rates in the nation, Fordham University, New York University, and Columbia University also share a competitive admissions process. While Columbia’s admission rate is incredibly more selective than NYU and Fordham at a mere seven percent, all three schools received an admissions rating higher than ninety six on a scale from sixty to ninety nine (Franek 183-399). While hipsters may be perceived as nothing more than people who drink coffee, read poetry, and do not wash their hair, the teenage hipster had to have worked incredibly hard to be admitted into these universities. While this may be surprising, it does in fact coincide with the idea that hipsters thrive on irony. Hipsters may not necessarily care for mainstream education, yet hipsters are studying at the most exclusive colleges in the nation.

Diversity

It would appear that the hipster culture is not geared for a specific race or ethnicity. In fact, my findings may actually prove the opposite true. The NYC colleges all had a percentage of minorities to be under, or right around fifty percent, save one. With thirty eight percent of students identifying as Caucasian, New York University proved to not have a racial or ethnic minority among the student population.  Yet, the amount of hipsters at the NYU campus exceeded the population of hipsters at other NYC colleges by a magnitude. The combination of eighty seven countries and all fifty states allows for a unique mix of alternative thinkers that cannot be replicated at nearly any university worldwide. This unique mix has created an imagined community of racially diverse hipsters that share similar mindsets and attract those who think similarly (Anderson).  

Art

An interesting aspect of the NYC colleges with a noticeable population of hipsters was the presence of art throughout campus.  Fordham University has a small gallery in the lobby of the Lincoln Center Campus, which had a display of about a dozen of the same type of shovel, which I suppose is something that mainstream college students would not understand. There are also religious and nonreligious statues throughout the Manhattan and Bronx campuses.  Columbia University, like New York University, also had paintings, sculptures, and statues scattered throughout campus, as well as having architecturally admirable buildings. From what I observed, Manhattan College had one sole statue that stood three feet tall and may have had religious significance.  Pace University had an art room, but did not display art elsewhere. The presence of art on campus, as opposed to a basketball team that consecutively wins the NCAA tournament, proves to attract more creative students and allows hipsters to prosper.

Dining

Along with clothing style, the right food preferences are essential to achieving the ultimate hipster identity. Many hipsters tend to be either vegetarian or vegan, or possess certain dietary beliefs. NYU and Columbia, whom both have significant hipster populations cater specifically to vegan and vegetarian students. While other New York City colleges and other colleges nationwide are sure to provide food for students with dietary restrictions, students at both NYU and Columbia noted that the presence of vegan and vegetarian food is definitely acknowledged and publicized more than it would be on other campuses. Although Fordham University has a significant amount of hipsters, the overall taste and quality of food landed on the top ten list of worst food in the country, so there is no surprise that vegan and vegetarian options are not a main concern (Franek). Because of its prime location in Manhattan, Pace University is surrounded by restaurants with vegetarian and vegan options, yet the school itself does not stress these diets. Manhattan College has limited options for alternative eaters, yet unlike Pace is not located in Manhattan and therefore does not have many options within walking distance.

Rules and Regulations

Because hipsters tend to thrive on their independence, it is ironic that NYU, Fordham, Pace and Columbia have extremely strict campus policies. While it is clear that these schools are located in the city and need maximum security to ensure the safety of students, these schools are a bit excessive in their regulations, especially regarding guests. Columbia University requires students to remain with their guests at all times, no exceptions. Fordham University requires students to obtain guests passes twenty four hours in advance and, due to religious beliefs, does not permit overnight guest of the opposite gender. NYU and Pace also have extremely strict guest policies and require all guests to have photo identification when entering the dorm buildings. The students I spoke to at Manhattan College all claimed that the campus security was concerned about safety but was not any stricter than need be. Hipsters pride themselves on being independent and rejecting the beliefs of not only mainstream society, but of their parents as well. However, the colleges where they have chosen to attend uphold strict policies, which take away the opportunity for complete independence and freedom, another ironic aspect of hipster college attendance.

Graduating Thoughts

For the purpose of this study I have thought of college campuses in the way that author Richard Florida thought of major cities. Florida believes that the 3T’s of economic development: tolerance, talent, and technology, are vital “to attract creative people” (Florida 363). On college campuses, the creative people that Richard Florida refers to in his piece would be hipsters. The tolerance, the “openness, inclusiveness, and diversity to all ethnicities, races, and walks of life,” can be seen in the diversity at New York University, the breeding ground for hipsters. At NYU there is no minority or majority race, but there was the strongest presence of hipsters compared to the colleges in my study.  The talent that Florida describes is shown in the extremely low acceptance rates at Columbia, Fordham, and NYU. However, talent can also be shown in the steep tuitions at these three colleges. Because of the cost of these colleges it is clear that the parents of the students must be earning a salary that allows them to spare a quarter of a million dollars in four years, something that only middle to upper class people with high paying jobs can achieve. Technology is present in all colleges, however those with steep tuitions and difficult admission rates have more money to spend on technological advancements. Technology is also shown in the innovative art pieces throughout campuses like Fordham, Columbia, and NYU. Florida claims that the 3T’s are vital to attracting the creative class and based on the presence of tolerance, talent, and technology and the significant amount of hipsters at New York University, Columbia University, and Fordham University this holds true on college campuses as well.

The 3T’s of economic development is a formula that explains what exactly entices creative people to large cities. Through my findings I am able to create a similar formula that explains what attracts hipsters to college campuses. I have found that aside from students who embody the hipster aesthetic through clothing and food, a college needs a diverse student body, an authority to challenge, a minimal acceptance rate, a maximal tuition, and an appreciation for art to attract hipsters.  If a college possesses these attributes, it is highly likely that there are hipsters roaming its campus donned in skinny jeans and flannels, laughing at those who are not.

Works Cited

Anderson, Benedict R. O’G. Imagined Communities [Electronic Resource] : Reflections On The Origin And Spread Of Nationalism / Benedict Anderson. n.p.: London ; New York : Verso, c2006., 2006. Fordham Libraries Catalog. Web. 30 March. 2014.

Certeau, Michel De. “Chapter III “Making Do”: Uses and Tactics.” The Practice of Everyday Life. Berkeley: University of California, 1984. N. pag. Print.

Columbia University. “Columbia University in the City of New York.” Columbia University. N.p., n.d. Web. 31 Mar. 2014.

Fordham University. “About Fordham University.” FORDHAM.EDU. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 Apr. 2014.

Florida, Richard L. Cities and the Creative Class. New York: Routledge, 2005. 358-69. Print.

Franek, Robert. The Best 376 Colleges. New York: Random House, 2011. 183+. Print.

Geertz, Clifford. The Interpretation of Cultures: Selected Essays. New York: Basic, 1973. Print.

Lanham, Robert, Bret Nicely, and Jeff Bechtel. The Hipster Handbook. New York: Anchor, 2003. Print.

Manhattan College. “About.” Manhattan College. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 Apr. 2014

New York University. “About NYU.” New York University. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 Apr. 2014.

Pace University. “Pace University Home.” PACE UNIVERSITY. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 Apr. 2014.

Unigo. “Top 10 Hipster Colleges.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 07 Sept. 2012. Web. 30 Mar. 2014.



* Pace University and Fordham University both have multiple campuses, for the purpose of this study I will be referring to the campuses located in Manhattan. Also note that Manhattan College is located in the Bronx, but was included for the purpose of contrasting the presence of hipsters on different campuses.

Non-hipsters at Manhattan College

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Maybe They’re Not So Bad

Hipsters are often not looked upon fondly.  Few people accept the hipster label willingly, and there is a certain stigma attached to playing the hipster role.  The model hipster will do anything “that helps them to stand apart from the masses” (Lanham 12).  Anything retro or offbeat is fresh and cool, and pop culture is the enemy.  Hipsters have an air about them that suggests they are too cool, often coming off as pretentious.  One-of-a-kind coffee shops and unconventional bookstores are hipster hangouts that tend to be avoided by anybody who does not care for the hipster lifestyle or the hipster persona.  However, maybe hipsters are really just people with unique interests and tendencies who actually are misunderstood.  Coffee shops, unknown artists, and flannels are just the first layer of what hipsters really stand for.  Hipsters are members of the creative class (Florida) who seek to uncover new style, whether it be in art, music, fashion, or any other aspect of life.  In reality, hipsters are less judgmental of mainstream society than mainstream society is of hipsters.

On the surface, hipsters represent the outcasts of mainstream society.  The music they like is unknown and underground; their clothes are from thrift stores or atypical boutique places.  Hipsters represent the “rebel consumer” (Grief 12) in society, willing to buy what nobody else goes near.  Typewriters and records from the past are seen as trendy and useful, while the rest of society sees such items as outdated.  The coffee shops and bookstores where hipsters hang out are small and unique; places that have to be stumbled upon rather than found on every street corner.   These places are given the hipster label and avoided by those who stick to mainstream places, like Starbucks or Barnes and Noble, and with the hipster label comes the stigma that it too is pretentious and too unknown or derogatorily “cool.”

Upon visiting Café Grumpy, and independently owned coffee shop with a location on the Lower East Side, I immediately felt out of place.  As a girl who as been a Starbucks Gold Card holder since 2011, I missed the comfortable feeling of being one of ten girls in Lululemon leggings and sneakers with my iPhone and headphones.  In here, though, I was the only person not wearing skinny jeans.  Every person working there was in a flannel, and most people in there had some sort of interesting hairstyle or oddly located piercing. I ordered my coffee slower than anybody else and was one of the few in there that was unsure where to get my coffee from when it was ready.  Though I was not the only person in there alone, every other person sitting by themselves had some sort of book.  One woman across from me had a sketchbook and looked incredibly pensive; another man was deep inside a Hemingway novel.  I, however, had my headphones in and was scrolling through my Twitter feed. 

In Edward Said’s Orientalism, he explains how in European society, Asians represented the “Orient,” while Europeans represented the “Occident.”  Hipsters have entered society as the orient; their cultures and habits are unlike those who are considered to be typical.  Though in his essay, “The Death and Life of Punk, The Last Subculture,” Dylan Clark stated that subcultures have died out, “hipsterism” has become its own subculture of mainstream society.  Hipsterdom fits somewhere within the realm of mainstream, while still defining its own culture and values.  However, does not seem necessary for hipsters to be a subculture or an orient.  Unlike the orient, the concept of a hipster is just an idea (Said 4).  Hipster is term that was given to people with a common set of interests, while the term orient was given to a group of people who were actually assimilating into another society.  Hipsters are really just people who have found out what type of art makes them feel something, or how objects from the past are still valuable.  Though mainstream society sees hipsters as outsiders because of the music they listen to and the way that they dress, being a hipster simply means that they know what their style is.  This is something that, maybe, mainstream society has yet to figure out.

In the café, I assumed that I would be the orient (Said).  I expected to be stared at and looked down upon.  However, the judgment did not come.  While I was looking around and silently judging the people in the café and the fact that laptops were not allowed in there, nobody gave me a second look.  Nobody cared that I did not look like the rest of the customers, or the fact that I did not order a vegan brownie.  Entering the coffee shop, I assumed that the hipsters inside would look at me like an outsider.  I put that feeling upon myself, though.  The coffee shop was trendy; it had very good food, a comfortable atmosphere, and interesting people.  The place and the people inside were definitely different from those at a Starbucks, but ultimately that was not a bad thing. Unlike Starbucks, there is no sense of rush or hurry in Café Grumpy.  What makes a place hipster is the laid back vibe that it gives off, and the carefree feeling that the people have. 

Starbucks is full of people that are very similar to me.  Most people go there to get work done, or stop in for about five minutes to get their coffee before running off to a meeting or other obligation.  Few people are sitting with another person, preferring to sit alone with headphones in and laptops out.  Those that do sit together are often discussing business or going over anything work related.  At Café Grumpy, the people that sit together are talking about books or art.  One couple sitting next to me was discussing art galleries in Brooklyn, and how there was a new one opening soon.  My barista, a man in a fitted flannel, skinny jeans, and wide rimmed glasses, was open and willing to jump into conversations with those waiting for their coffees.  These people are not the stereotypical hipsters that people think of: white trust fund kids with an air of arrogance from the fact that you have never heard of the bands they listen to.  However, they are not all white, and it seems that regardless of what their class is, it does not matter.  Rather, they are members of the creative class who add an aspect of diversity to the group, something you would not see at a Starbucks (Florida).  At a typical Starbucks in the city, the only conversation I’ve had with a barista is me saying that they gave me the wrong drink.  At Café Grumpy, my barista was discussing a new book with two men waiting for cappuccinos. 

A friend of mine, Japera who lives on the Upper East Side, is currently in the process of transferring from George Washington University to the New School, and I would say that she is the most hipster person I know.  She frequently wears wide brimmed hats with short boots, vintage collared shirts and jeans, and last year began “no sweets, no meats.”  Though that means she was a vegetarian, she rejected that label.  When asked what her definition of a hipster was, she defined them as “a person with an old soul, but also has a modern twist and appreciates, like, artistic and creative expression.”  When asked if she considered herself a hipster, though, she said no, and with good reason.  Japera, like many other hipsters, do not like the label of being a hipster.  Hipsters want to be able to like certain music and appreciate certain types of art without having to be put into a box labeled “hipster.”  Hipsters do not want to be labeled as the orient of society, as those who are mainstream often try to do.

After I left Café Grumpy, I visited the Strand bookstore to see if I would feel any different than I had at Café Grumpy.  Once again, I waited to feel like an outsider and looked at like I did not belong.  However, still, the only reason I stood out was because I had my headphones in and was hesitant when looking around.  People in there were friendly and were recommending books to strangers, an act that would rarely be seen inside a Barnes and Noble.  It is here that I realize, maybe hipsters are just people who understand how to stop and notice the little things.  Hipsters are often labeled as introverts and judgmental, but inside the Strand, I only see the faces of people who are inquisitive and looking for new forms of culture and knowledge. 

Rather than giving a label to these “old souls” with a “modern twist,” it may just be easier to give hipsters a title of an imagined community (Anderson).  Inside of this imagined community, unknown bands and books are flocked towards, and vintage clothing is the best new thing.  Independently owned coffee shops do not need to be designated as hipster.  When the label is attached, others often feel that they are not welcome, which is clearly not the case.  Before I spent time in Café Grumpy, I did not think that I would belong.  Though I saw hipsters as outsiders, I felt that in their element, I would be the outsider.  In a place like Café Grumpy or the Strand, there is a complete non-judgmental atmosphere that places like Starbucks simply do not give off.  The Hipster Handbook lists 11 clues that lead to being a hipster, and 11 that do not.  However, there are a few on each list to which I can somewhat relate.  For example I do have “8…One Republican friend whom I always describe as being [my] ‘one republican friend’” (3), but does that mean I am a hipster?  Because I also “9…Wear holiday-themed sweaters with Santa Clauses, jack-o-lanterns, and snowflake patterns knitted onto them,” (4) so does that mean I am not a hipster?  Regardless of whether I am or I am not, there is part of me that may fit into this imagined community.  Based on Japera’s definition of being a hipster, I would argue that anybody could fit into this imagined community without being labeled a hipster, simply because everybody, in some form, appreciates creativity. 

Anybody who is labeled a hipster does not need the title.  It comes with a negative connotation because it has a vague definition that is most often wrong.  Hipsters are just people with the courage to be an individual and be creative, rather than go with mainstream culture.  They fit into an imagined community, rather than in a specified category.  Though they do represent a sort of subculture of society, they are unlike the orient in that the whole concept of a hipster truly is just an idea, rather than a reality.  Independent coffee shops are filled with these unique people who are labeled hipsters, but are places where others that listen to popular music and wear Lululemon leggings are welcome and not judged.  Ultimately, maybe hipsters are not so bad.

Works Cited

Anderson, Benedict R. O’G. Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism. London: Verso, 1991. Print.

Clark, Dylan. 2003. “The Death and Life of Punk, The Last Subculture,” pp. 223-36, in David Muggleton and Rupert Weinzierl (eds.), The Post-Subcultures Reader. Oxford: Berg.

Florida, Richard L. Cities and the Creative Class. New York: Routledge, 2005. Print.

Greif, Mark, Kathleen Ross, and Dayna Tortorici. “Positions.” What Was the Hipster?: A Sociological Investigation. New York: N 1 Foundation, 2010. N. pag. Print.

Lanham, Robert, Bret Nicely, and Jeff Bechtel. The Hipster Handbook. New York: Anchor, 2003. Print.

Said, Edward W. Orientalism. New York: Vintage, 1979. Print.

Third Instagram Picture: Japera; Instagram: @thebluestJay

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The Gentrification of Williamsburg: The Good, the Bad, and the Hipster

THE NATURE OF NEIGHBORHOOD CHANGE

            New York City’s neighborhoods have served as a home to the many different communities that have inhabited them throughout their history.  While many of the buildings and structures found in these neighborhoods have remained unchanged for decades, the people living there tell a story of constant transformation and migration.  It is the people within the community that form the cultural identity of a neighborhood, and shape its ideas and ideologies.  This entails that neighborhoods are constantly undergoing an identity morphism due to the nomadic nature of city living.  This is evident by the constant evolution of neighborhoods throughout the city, such as Chinatown’s engulfment of most of former Little Italy.  The arrival of new groups into neighborhoods is often met with mixed reactions.  Feelings of hostility from the ‘original’ inhabitants are not uncommon.  Gentrification, a neighborhood’s shift from poorer residents to wealthier ones, proves to be one of the most controversial forms of transformation within communities.  Gentrification generates heated debates due to strong arguments made by both its advocates and opponents.  New York City is no stranger to the phenomenon of gentrification.  Throughout the city’s history many of its neighborhoods have felt the effects of gentrification.  Lincoln Center in Manhattan is one notable example from New York City’s past.  A project for urban renewal, led by city planner Robert Moses, transformed Lincoln Center into a cultural hub at the cost of displacing thousands of poor residents.  Today Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood has become an epicenter for the discussion of gentrification.  For the past several years hipsters have been flocking to the neighborhood and displacing the original residents.  Community leaders, politicians, business people, and even film director Spike Lee have all become passionately involved in the issue of Williamsburg’s gentrification.  The question debated by all sides is “does the influx of hipsters into Williamsburg help or harm the neighborhood?”  In order to better understand the events that have been unfolding in Williamsburg I set out on a 5 train towards the city with a notebook in hand and a mind full of questions.

OUTSIDE PERSPECTIVES OF WILLIAMSBURG

            Before transferring to a Brooklyn bound L train I decided to disembark at Union Square to get a Manhattan hipster’s opinion on Williamsburg’s gentrification.  Using my knowledge from class, and Robert Lanham’s The Hipster Handbook I began identifying potential hipsters.  In my search for hipsters around Union Square I quickly noticed that people did not enjoy being questioned as to whether or not they were a hipster.  They reacted to my question as if it was some sort of insult.  It became evident that I would not be able to conduct an interview this way, so I revised my tactics.  I had a feeling that a true hipster would never admit to being one.  Instead I decided to approach those who I thought had qualities that resembled a hipster, and ask them about Williamsburg’s hipster morphism.  The reactions I received from those around Union Square were mixed.  Some denounced Williamsburg’s hipsters, while a majority of others claimed they were indifferent.  I was sure feelings regarding this issue would be much stronger in Williamsburg and set out to Brooklyn. 

WILLIAMSBURG POINT OF VIEWS

            The hipster influence in Williamsburg became evident as soon as I exited the subway.  I immediately noticed the dress of people walking along the street.  A large majority of them resembled what The Hipster Handbook identified as the UTF or Unemployed Trust-Funder.  Their attire matched the handbook’s description of the UTF as “dressing in secondhand clothes from thrift shops” (Lanham 14).  I dove deeper into the hipster world of Williamsburg and went on to explore the neighborhood.  I was not surprised to find an abundance of coffee shops and cafés, critical necessities for the hipster.  When I began questioning my potential hipsters I was met with the same “I’m not a hipster” response I received in Union Square.  What shocked me this time were the opinions of the Williamsburg’s hipsters.  Most claimed to be indifferent towards them, citing the fact that they had nothing to do with their culture.  However, a large portion of those hipsters questioned actually denounced what I assumed to be their subculture.  Many claimed they lived in the area before it became overrun with hipsters, and argued that the young newcomers are taking something away from the neighborhood.  I wasn’t so sure that these reactions were a direct jibe at hipster culture, but rather thought they were a part of the hipsters’ quest for authenticity.    

            Authenticity, in fact, is what brought many hipsters to Williamsburg in the first place.  The early hipsters of Williamsburg were attracted to it by the community’s culturally unique essence. Williamsburg’s blue collar working families, ethnic residents, and tight knit community offered an escape from the phoniness and superficiality found in much of Manhattan and suburbia.  These early gentrifiers had what Sharon Zukin would characterize as, “city dwellers’ desire for authentic origins—a traditional, mythical desire for roots—” (Zukin 4).  In order to get a nonbiased view towards Williamsburg’s conquering gentrifiers I decided to incorporate the views of original non-hipster residents.  While walking down a street I encountered some non-hipsters and asked how long they had been living there.  One woman told me she had been living in the neighborhood for sixty years.  The influx of hipsters into the neighborhood drove up apartment rents throughout Williamsburg.  The woman said many of her close neighbors and friends had been forced out of their homes when they could not afford increased rent.  Another man I questioned just claimed he did not understand what the hipster culture was about and dismissed them.  Before leaving Williamsburg with the general idea that locals disliked the new hipsters, I decided to get something to eat.  I entered a small sandwich shop and noticed the man behind the counter did not seem very hipster-like.  We began talking and I discovered he had been living in the neighborhood years before it became gentrified.  His take on the hipsters was not negative like the other locals.  He told me the increased amount of money in the neighborhood has been great for business.  The man claimed that he would have never expected his business to be this profitable before the shift in Williamsburg’s population.  As I boarded the subway I thought about all the responses I received.  I was returning home with a better grasp of the gentrification argument and valuable information from each side.  

THE PROS AND CONS

            Gentrification is not a simple or transparent issue.  There are tradeoffs faced when a neighborhood undergoes gentrification.  Spike Lee, film director and notable spokesperson against Williamsburg’s gentrification, claims that the process is evil and driven by a sense of entitlement.  In a passionately delivered lecture at the Pratt Institute Lee stated:

“Nah. You can’t do that. You can’t just come in the neighborhood and start bogarting and say, like you’re motherfuckin’ Columbus and kill off the Native Americans. Or what they do in Brazil, what they did to the indigenous people. You have to come with respect. There’s a code.  There’s people.”  (Coscarelli)

Lee and the opposition argue that gentrification devalues the worth of those living in the community.  The poor are pushed out to make room for wealthier residents with no consideration given to where the displaced will now live.  The core of the community changes as those who form it move.  Tensions rise between residents and outsiders as the neighborhood’s demographics alter more and more drastically.  A volatile situation develops between old and new residents that is prone to violence and hatred.

            While the original poorer residents suffer the brunt of gentrification, their former neighborhood experiences a much different transformation.  The influx of new wealthy residents is met with an increase in real estate value throughout the community.  Property values and the prices of goods within the neighborhood skyrocket.  Proponents of gentrification argue that the increase in economic activity is good for the neighborhood.  Forgotten and deteriorating areas of the city are given a chance at life again and are revitalized.  The ability of new residents to pump more money into the community leads to the improvement of schools, public services, and infrastructure.  It creates, “the kinds of communities that we both desire and that generate economic prosperity” (Florida 360). 

CONCLUDING THOUGHTS

            After visiting Williamsburg and conducting research I cannot concisely define gentrification as beneficial or harmful.  I have concluded that gentrification is ethically neutral.  Just like a storm in nature, which may destroy but also make way for new life, gentrification is a natural phenomenon of human civilization.  The way in which society responds to it may be unethical at times.  After conducting my research I cannot deny that the majority of original residents are negatively affected.  Although the area encompassing the neighborhood improves and real estate becomes worth more, those original residents are displaced long before they have the opportunity to reap gentrification’s benefits.  Little attention is given to the issue of where these families will relocate.  While the new residents of the neighborhood drive out the former ones, they do a great deal to improve the neighborhood’s aesthetics and revamp the local economy.  The hipsters of Williamsburg have helped revitalize an important New York City neighborhood, but at the cost of driving people out of their homes.  I do not think this instance of gentrification has been committed intentionally by each and every hipster of Williamsburg.  I believe it is the result of societal culture and ever evolving human tastes.  With that considered I have come to the conclusion that the hipster then is just an unknowing pawn, neither good nor evil, in this peculiar phenomenon of human migration. 

- Paul Heffernan

Works Cited

Coscarelli, Joe. “Spike Lee’s Amazing Rant Against Gentrification: ‘We       Been Here!’.” Daily Intelligencer. New York Magazine, n.d. Web. 29 Mar.   2014.

Florida, Richard L. The Rise of the Creative Class: And How It’s    Transforming Work, Leisure, Community and Everyday Life. New York,     NY: Basic, 2002. Print.

Lanham, Robert, Bret Nicely, and Jeff Bechtel. The Hipster Handbook.       New York: Anchor, 2003. Print.

Zukin, Sharon. Naked City: The Death and Life of Authentic Urban             Places. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2010. Print.

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Marjane as a Punk

I found it interesting to observe Marjane’s transformation from childhood to adulthood.  I believe a large part of her mentality as a Punk derives from her experiences as a child.  When the revolution swept Iran Marjane was old enough to remember the way things were before it.  This would have played a large part in her developing a questioning attitude towards authority, and would not allow her to accept injustices simply because it was the law.  

-Paul Heffernan

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