Hey DJ: Yesterday my girls — 8 and 10 — asked me, “What is a hipster?” I was unable to provide a description they could connect with, as they have no historical framework. They don’t understand hippie, beatnik, counterculture, or gainful unemployment; and they really have no “image” association. Should I just point out hipsters as we are out and about? (“Hey, kids, there’s a hipster: long beard, tats, pants cuffs, drinking a craft brew...at least, I think that’s a hipster.”) But it is so much more than that and so much less. They watch Seinfeld and know Kramer, but to them he’s just a goof. I can point to myself, but I don’t really consider myself a hipster, although some people do. But, what is the real essence (if any) of a hipster? Can a youngster really know, or is it an understanding that only comes with age and maturity? — BB
You can point out all the hipsters you want, but the kids will have to connect the dots on their own.
Sure, one day you point out a guy with a long beard and tattoos, and the kids learn that’s a hipster. Okay. Cool. The next day, they point to some other guy with a long beard and tattoos, but you have to correct the kids and say, “No, that’s not a hipster, that’s a Hells Angel, and the two are very different things.”
Thereafter follows a teachable moment.
Kids and adults are no different in that they only understand something like “hipster” by lining up all of the colorful examples life has thrown their way and trying to make sense of it all. A unified theory of hipsterness arises from the chaos, at least till some new information casts doubt on all you know; at which point the model necessarily evolves. The only difference between kids and adults is that the former have a narrower frame of reference.
If I’ve been consistent on anything in 170+ iterations of “Ask a Hipster,” it’s that there’s no dispositive test for hipsterness, nor shall there ever be one, and the best we can do is recognize it when we see it. To that end, congratulations. You’ve got it 100 percent right, and I feel if I’ve done my job.