Hipsters explained


May 31, 2012

What exactly is a hipster?

You have probably seen them before without even realising it.

Are they the mysterious figures who wear Ray Bans, skinny jeans and take barista courses?

Or, is there more to this subculture than a loose description of attire and hobbies?

Surely there must be. A group, no matter how good, can not run on just tight jeans and coffee.

But the many definitions for hipsters are complex and varied.

A few weeks ago one of my roommates announced he was becoming a hipster, without any steadfast description of what exactly he was on the cusp of morphing into.

What did this mean for me? Was I also at risk of becoming a hipster?

I decided it was time to find out what it meant to be part of this group.

The word hipster (or “hepcat”) first appeared in the 1940s in reference to jazz aficionados, and people ‘in the know’.

Does this description still apply to contemporary hipsters?

Personally I do not think so. Not only is there not enough jazz, but no one uses the word ‘hepcat’.


I had always thought a hipster to be someone who strove for individuality and tried to bring back old trends.

But, after all, I myself am not a hipster (as far as I know).

Labelled a hipster by her peers, Cassandra Maconachie (pictured), said she liked to dress hip because she liked the style and wanted to try something new.

“[I didn’t decide to dress like this] for anyone else,” Miss Maconachie said.

“It was for me.

“I don’t see myself as [a hipster] but when people label me as one I don’t really mind.”

The rise of the hipster seems to be looked upon negatively.

Hipsters seem to be hated by non-hipsters hip enough to recognise them, and perceived hipsters do not identify themselves as part of the subculture.

“I don’t find it fair to label people, but I get where it all comes from,” Miss Maconachie said.

International relations student Adam Soppelsa of the eastern Perth suburb of Wilson said he hated all minor youth subcultures.

“They are irrelevant,” Mr Soppelsa said.

Building designer Jordan Hughes of Riverton said hipsters werea “basically the same as mainstream society, except they try to be different”.

There do not seem to be many people around who admire hipsters.

Murdoch University Associate Professor of History Michael Sturma said this was par for the course with subcultures.

“I think it is important for the group’s identity that they be viewed as kind of outsiders, a threat to adult society or that type of thing,” Associate Professor Sturma said of subcultures in general.

“I think it is quite important to their sense of identity, in a lot of cases anyway.

“As with most subcultures, there has to be a few characteristics to define the group.

“I would say music and fashion are probably the most important in drawing a group together.”

The music associated with hipsters is broad, though a common joke states that “if you have heard of it, then it isn’t hipster anymore”.

Stereotypically, hipsters are considered to wear or possess any combination of the following garments and accessories:

  • Skinny jeans
  • High-waist pants
  • Flannelette
  • Grandma’s jacket
  • Bow ties
  • Shemaghs/keffiyehs
  • Non-prescription eyeglasses
  • Ironic moustaches
  • Messenger bags
  • Vinyl records
  • Fixed-gear bicycles.

Of course there is more to hipster fashion than just the above-mentioned items, and sometimes when you see a person you just know they are a hipster.

Or maybe you don’t.

With all these different interpretations of what it means to be a hipster it can be very hard to define the subculture.

Maybe that is what is at the heart of ‘hipsterism’ – finding your own interpretation.

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