Hipster for Freaks

“She always wears black, but she has the most colorful mind” – Anonymous



I think that quote is a perfect fit to portray what you call a ‘hipster’. Here's my thought, when I read the quote, it made my mind ponder on the phenomena of Hipsterdom. Who constitutes as hipsters and is it true that they are big fans of black t-shirts? I believe the term hipster has been changed into a label, similar with the Indonesian-made ‘alay’ term. In my opinion, there is a misconception for the current usage of the term hipster. Nowadays, the term hipster means: cool and trendy youngsters. I personally think that this form of the hipster term has been translated as market demands, accommodated by the mega-companies, targeting the youngsters to splurge for trendy clothes. So in a nutshell, I simply believe that the hipster term has become a consumerism wave in the endeavour to achieve that "cool" label.

I was intrigued to explore more on the freaky identity of hipsters as a critical narrative to contribute to the first edition of FreakMagz. And I hope my small research is able to provide alternative conceptions on the definition and the identity of being a hipster, beyond the normative label. Furthermore, I am also arguing the notion that hipsters are only about: cool looks, beard, bespoke suits, retro glasses, cropped tee, banana sweaters, organic food, vinyls, or having a rustic nature room theme. To me, hipsters also embodies this rebellious youngster culture which constitutes an edgy way of thinking and an alternative political statement.

Historically speaking, the hipster term was coined in the 1940s, during the Jazz era. Many articles have described the hipsters as youngsters who dressed very ‘hip’ and that they are part of the middle class-working class. However, further exploration revealed that they have specific taste for clothes, music and food. They often were also described as a connoisseur of music, because they don’t listen to pop-music (which is considered as an all time favorite for everyone), instead they listen to punk-alternative, rock-alternative, indie, and post-rock genres. 

One random day, I googled the term hipster to satisfy my curiosity and I found one term to sum up the characteristics of a hipster: it is the ‘non-conformist’. This is a common characteristic that has been used to label youngsters, other labels includes: rebel, rule breakers, and etc, so it means that we the youngsters are ‘hipsters’ by default.

What amazes me is the fact that those characteristics: non-conformist, rebel, etc. are also considered as something cool in the hipster world. So its not all about clothes, coffee, and whatnot. Their constitution of coolness have also expands beyond consumerism and instagram-based social imagery. Understanding these characteristics seems logical enough at this point. And, this is where it gets interesting. 

In the common practices of Hipsterdom, such as: non-conformist behaviour, there are gestures that indirectly lurks and creates a critical movement, a somewhat political stance even! For instance: the practice of vegan and vegetarian diet within hipsters, is surprisingly also their non-conformist standpoint to not be part of the capitalist industry - that exploits animals. Unfortunately, this narrative of Hipsterdom, the conscious hipster, are rarely inserted as part of the discussion. This cool part of being a hipster is not as common as understanding them as part of the shopaholic, trend-savvy lot! As I dig more on this conscious Hipsterdom, it seems more apparent to me that the hipster label is able to alter freaky, uncommon, progressive practices and influence positive and critical attitudes and made them look unique and cool!

However, the cool label of non-conformist Hipsterdom is often misinterpreted as being exclusive. For example, hipsters are often described as exclusive consumers who buys expensive stuff. This assertion often justifies the big companies to produce expensive clothes targeted to hipsters under the label of making them cool and exclusive, whilst in fact this is not true at all.

The hipsters that I researched, did not buy those expensive clothes to only look cool, but they agreed to pay the high price for such clothing because they avoid the practices of "sweatshops". A sweatshop is a common practice of companies to pay their labor cheaply to fulfill the suppliers' targeted production to produce cheap clothes or shoes.

Those conscious and non-conformist hipsters who are willing and able to pay more for a product, opted to buy from independent labels (in which they can see the value chain and labors' fair relations) or for those who can’t pay more, they chose to recycle the old clothes from their grandparents, for example. Making the vintage look cool again. Their main goal is to ensure that labors are being paid adequately. This is the second characteristic of a hipster that is often left out by the mainstream media, that hipsters are individuals with vast knowledge about the world and is critical about the common practices that perpetuates global destruction. In sum, the more I do my research about these ‘hipsters’, the more I am convinced that not all hipsters are what they seem to be.

Thinking on the reasons above, I conclude that ‘hipsters’ are youngsters who has standpoints and make political statements through their daily practices. Even further, these specific hipsters have the social savviness that can influence others in translating caring for the world as a cool thing to do. Their statements are loud and clear, they don’t want to be part of world practices that harness over others' failure or be part of practices that perpetuates injustice. Their political statement highlights the rebellious youngster sub-culture who participates actively to make the world a better place for everyone. In addition to that, this hipster sub-culture contributes significantly by encouraging youngsters across generation to change the world actively by being critical over the unjust general practices, and take concrete actions to avoid practices that deemed to be harmful for others.

And if we adhere to the type of hipster mentioned in the previous paragraph, then I think the next challenge probably depends on whether we, as individuals, will take a stance to do uncommon and non-conformist practices, it may be hard at start, but I am optimist that we can do it, because youngsters are creative and committed individuals, we have a lot of energy and potentials. We can be cool but still be conscious and critical. So we make our own hipster-like qualities, for instance: wearing our nana's used clothes that is bright and classic, with unique un-matching patterns, and still care about the environment by recycling apparels, and advocate for your girl friend's right to receive equal pay and unbiased promotion. 

In conclusion, to all youngsters and peeps of all ages in fact, don’t ever be afraid to be different, to be labelled as non-conformist, to be called a FREAK! Because is so much cooler to be distinctive, rather than uniformed like robots! Just be true to ourselves and add a touch of critical thinking within it, and thats what's being HIP is all about!

Similarly, going back to the quote above “she always wears black, but she has the most colorful minds” can really correlate to the hipster term discussed above: an individual who is hip because he/she has a colourful mind, vast knowledge, and beautiful character, because they are aware and caring. If this is what's being a hipster is all about, I am rooting for this hip and freaky Hipsterdom!

Besides, if being a hipster is considered coolness, whats more cooler than being a hipster.... a freakin conscious and high awareness hipster, of course! :P

So here's a little tool I made to analyze if you fit the FreakMagz-based kinda hipster:

  • Are you a trendy person because of your creativity?
  • Are you critical enough to differentiate which practices are good or bad?
  • Are you caring enough to take concrete action in the name of creating a better world for everyone?
  • Do you avoid harmful practices that perpetuates global destruction?
  • Do you dare to be freaky, different?
  • Are you a unique individual?
  • Do you think that being mainstream is not you?
  • Are you committed to bring positive changes for everyone in the world?

If you answered all Q's with mostly YEAH, then you are a certified FreakMagz Hipster! :D