By Jo Rittey


The hipster has become a much-vilified character; a mythical figure who has allegedly wrought havoc on our coffee presentation, brought about a decline in men’s razor sales and created an over-inflated appreciation for the kale chip. But who are these hipsters and are they really to blame?


We all think we know what makes a hipster. From the outside, we seem to think it’s a bit like the rules of Fight Club.


  1. You do not talk about being a hipster.
  2. You DO NOT talk about being a hipster.
  3. You’re a graphic designer. Or a barista. Or you’re studying psychology part-time and waiting tables at night. In cool restaurants. Where diners aren’t sure what the ingredients on the menu actually are.
  4. You look like a lumberjack but you’ve never lifted an axe.
  5. You order deconstructed single origin long macchiatos.
  6. You ride a fixie. Or a skateboard.
  7. You only shop at organic supermarkets.
  8. You have a worm farm on your balcony and don’t generate any rubbish.
  9. You have ironic tattoos.
  10. And wear cardigans.
  11. And what about the waxed moustache?
  12. Or the thick rimmed spectacles?
  13. Or the dapper cheese cutter cap?


The thing with defining hipsters is that they can’t actually be defined. Because then they would fit into a category and in so doing, become mainstream. And hipsters are not mainstream. Hipsters are complicated.


In the face of all this vagueness, the question must be asked then, do hipsters even exist? Have we, as a society working through gentrification, the rise of the middle class and the avalanche of choice in all domains, used the hipster as a scapegoat?


People in society label others for a variety of reasons. Often it is because there is a tribe mentality that pushes us to shun those that are not of our tribe. When it comes to the practice of labeling a portion of our community as hipsters, perhaps it is more about deflecting attention away from our own insecurities regarding the influence of cultural capital, to coin a phrase from renowned sociologist, Pierre Bourdieu.


If we were to distil Bourdieu’s extensive studies down to their essence, it’s all about taste. His epic piece, “Distinction,” published in 1979 is an explanation of how admiration for art, appreciation of music, and even taste in food, came about for different groups. Distinctions of taste become the basis for social judgment.


In a society such as ours where we have incredible access to knowledge, food, and opinion at every turn, taste, moreover good taste, becomes a commodity we can trade in. And sometimes it overwhelms us and we need to blame someone.


 And sometimes our so-called expertise is really just a bit ‘emperor’s new clothes,’ a misguided desire to be up with the play.”


Solomon’s claim in Ecclesiastes that “there is nothing new under the sun” is a concept we constantly seek to repudiate. We have a stream of iPhone updates, hybrid foods, and new ways of drinking coffee passing before us every second of every day. And we want to keep up, be abreast of the trends. We want to know everything. In fact, we believe that we do. We are all food critics and fashion experts and anthropologists.


And sometimes our so-called expertise is really just a bit ‘emperor’s new clothes,’ a misguided desire to be up with the play. Sometimes a photo of a breakfast dish goes up on Instagram and has something to do with salted caramel and desiccated Amazonian grapes and bagels and ice cream all thrown in together and there are emojis of joy and statements about possible death if the aforementioned rainbow is not in the person’s mouth forthwith.


The hipster didn’t create the deconstructed coffee or the milkshakes with all the stuff on top and yet more stuff oozing out over the sides, or the abundance of pulled pork on menus, we all did. We all did when we demanded that our coffees be made in a way other than the way the trained barista makes it. We all did when we accepted paying $21 for a piece of toast, a poached egg, half an avocado still in its skin and a sprinkling of pink Himalayan salt deconstructed on a piece of wooden floorboard. We all did when we went from embracing turmeric lattes to squealing over mushroom lattes while desperately trying not to see them as soup.


If anything, those we refer to as hipsters, tend to be more economically and environmentally viable as a tribe. They are often seen wearing vintage and op shop inspired fashion, they encourage recycling and reusing and use public transport or cycles to get around. They work in collectives and encourage artisan industry. They forage and value the role of bees within cities. They are not racist or sexist. They just are who they are and get on with their lives.


And perhaps we should too.


Jo Rittey is a freelance writer who wants to live in a world where apostrophes are used correctly and smiles are genuine. When she’s not roaming the streets of the northside in search of great food, she likes getting lost in beautiful films and having wildly enthusiastic discussions with her friends.

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