The Hipster. A subculture that has been on the rise since 1999. It’s gone through different changes and names such as emo, scene kid, and indies. Many would dispute the original birthplace of The Hipster, being a quasi Seattlite myself I can do non other than believe that with the rise of Seattle Starbucks also came the rise of The Hipster. But what is a ‘HIPSTER’? Urban Dictionary has a 722 word response to this question (hipsters ❤ UD) but in layman’s terms: a hipster is a youngish man or woman who likes indie rock, ‘indepentant thinking’, and skinny jeans. They worship the authentic and thus duplicate it. (i)
Now, rather than dying out, the Hipster craze has managed to perpetuate itself throughout the years through the appropriation of other cultures. That’s it. If you stop evolving you fade out, so hipsters don’t stop evolving and they do this by continually using new and recycled imagery that they may or may not have any connections to. This is also one of the reasons why Hipsters refuse to associate themselves with the term ‘Hipster’ and it’s negative connotations. The term ‘poser’ may be thrown in and around.
It becomes quite interesting when a Hipster starts going into the fashion business themselves.
Howard Blumer’s Trickle Up theory suggests that what becomes popular among the hoi polloi will eventually influence the upperclass minority, it is after all the general masses that designers have to market to (ii); however, it’s not a basic subculture that designers are cool hunting but all imagery and all cultures. They then sell the stolen imagery back to the hipsters that were wearing it originally and make a profit while doing so. Take designer Jeremy Scott for instance: Moschino’s 2014-15 fall/winter campaign, signed by Jeremy Scott, features Spongebob Squarepants – Nickelodeon’s loveable yellow sea sponge. He’s taken a popular children’s character, added his brand name, put it on the catwalk, and markets it at a higher value and for a wider audience. He’s also done it with Disney’s Mickey Mouse, McDonalds, and Coca Cola. For his Spring/Summer 2013 campaign he took to using such imagery as Native American totem poles, symbolic traditional art that he’s scoped out because it looks nice. With such predecessors as Andy Warhol and Jeff Koons, I can only image the sizeable legal fees doled out.
Purely stated in Ted Polhemus’ 1994 journal chapter ‘Trickle Down, Bubble Up’:
“Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but just as the counterfeiting of fashion designers’ own designs undermines their value, something similar occurs when fashion copies street style. That authenticity and sense of subcultural identity which is symbolised in street style is lost when it becomes “this year’s latest fashion”-something which can be purchased and worm without reference to its original subcultural meaning. In this sense, what may begin as a designers’ genuinely felt desire to celebrate “the street” as a wellspring of fresh ideas may have inadvertent effect of undermining the “street value” of these styles for the very people who originally created them.” (iii)
(i) Parasuco, T 2007, Hipster, viewed 23 August 2014, <http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=hipster>
(ii) Berry, J 2014, ‘Street Style and Subcultures’, retrieved from Griffith University, Queensland College of Art, Learning@Griffith website:
(iii) Polhemus, T 1994, ‘Trickle Up, Bubble Down’, Streetstyle: From Sidewalk to Catwalk, ch. 45, pp. 327-331.