Don't try to predict the next big thing

Pick a number between 35 and 7892, divide it by a rye Manhattan...

“Predictable social trends” chart
  • “Predictable social trends” chart

Dear Hipster:

Why do so many hipsters harbor ambitions as musicians?

— Ernesto

It’s actually the other way around, many musicians live hipster lives. The part of the human brain that makes music begins to atrophy starting around age 20 unless the musically inclined individual feeds it a steady diet of alcohol; “medical” marijuana; rich foods; and tumultuous, short-lived romances. Without these essential commodities, fledgling musicality degrades into a bitter tendency to complain about other people’s music, which nobody likes.

Thus, the prerequisites of a musician’s life push one towards a hipster lifestyle, where such needs are most easily met.

By the by, Ambitions as Musicians sounds like the name of a Ween album. There’s a thought you can’t unthink. You’re welcome.

Dear Hipster:

I have been creating lists of hipster trends recently, because I believe some logic must underlie the natural progression between trendy social memes. The way I see it, if we can figure out how you get from craft beer to moustaches to donuts to cafe racer motorcycles to gluten-free avocado toast to retro 1980s stonewashed jeans, we can figure out how to time the hipster market. Imagine the possibilities. The obvious economic benefits need no explanation, but I suspect timing the hipster market would yield other salutary effects. For example, everyone hates being the last person to hear about a trend, right? Advance warning on upcoming trends would reduce the incidence of behind-the-times embarrassment to zero. Similarly, being up on the next big thing before it becomes the next big thing would eliminate the risk of accidentally doing the old big thing after everybody else stops doing it; which, by my reckoning, is the biggest social faux pas of the new millenium. As it happens, I haven’t yet unlocked the secret of hipster market timing, so I ask you, Mr. Hipster, how can we understand the trends of the past in order to predict the trends of the future?

— Zeb, Hillcrest

I used to know this hipster dude who had graduated from a prestigious business school only to open a bar and nightclub in a fashionable urban neighborhood. After a few years, he threw in the towel and started working for a hedge fund. He once told me he would rather try to time the market, which he knew was impossible, than waste his time staying ahead of social trends.

The unfortunate moral of the story is this: there’s no rhyme or reason behind what captures the wily imaginations of the culturally savvy set. None whatsoever.

You might as well try to measure the length of a rainbow by singing nursery rhymes. You would make better use of your time counting waves at the beach and plotting a chart that predicts the results of the midterm election. Pick a number between 35 and 7892, divide it by a rye Manhattan, and add the result to your favorite Elliott Smith song, Instagram the result, and the fourteenth comment will be an equally accurate predictor of the next big trend as any theoretical model you could develop.

Never forget, there is no inherent value in a fashion, so kick back, relax, and enjoy the ride. If you spend your time looking for the next big thing, you’ll almost certainly miss it when it comes around.

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