College Media Story Idea: Student Hipster Culture

Hippies are so twentieth century. The new band of students living outside the lines of mainstream fashion and popular culture are hipsters.

As University of Arkansas student Kelsi Ford described hipsters in a recent Arkansas Traveler report, “They whiz by on campus on fixed-gear bicycles. They wear American Apparel T-shirts, accessorized with non-prescription glasses and piled on braided and beaded bracelets. They lounge in hammocks and play the guitar. . . . They sip lattes . . . and go to indie shows. . . . They drink Pabst Blue Ribbon at parties and give off the vibe that they just don’t care.”

In a list of the “Most Hipster Colleges” published last month, The Huffington Post placed Grinnell College on top, in part because its Iowa location makes it “pre-cool (or maybe post-cool) . . . like mom jeans, giant teddy bear sweaters, and aviator glasses.” The list overall seems to honor schools awash in students who turn their backs on everyday things such as top-40 music, Greek life, and organized sports.

A separate column by Jacob Walker in The Chimes at Michigan’s Calvin College more succinctly defines various hipsters. Among the species he has identified:

Hipsterus classicus: “This is the true hipster . . . an entirely insincere individual. Everything this hipster does is done for the sake of irony.”

Hipsterus dooficus, or hipster doofus: “[T]the hipster doofus, unlike the true hipster, is an entirely genuine individual. It is as if they fell in love with the hipster lifestyle while simultaneously failing to pick up on the key to that lifestyle: irony.”

Hipsterus musicus: “[C]an be found in the record store or the smallest local performance venue, always ready to tell you about some band nobody has ever heard of. Musicus likely carries around a half-broken guitar, a banjo or increasingly, a ukulele.”

Hipsterus historicus: “[O]bsessed with decades past, and usually expresses this through vintage clothing, listening exclusively to classic rock and folk and the possession of an unreasonably detailed knowledge of American history.”

In a brief Q&A below, Ford shares some more insight into all-things hipster.

To start, what is a hipster?

A hipster is defined by the music a person listens to, the clothes they wear, the people they associate with, the places they like to hang out, and their attitude toward mainstream culture. When I think of a typical hipster, I envision someone in oversized, non-prescription glasses, skinny jeans, and an American Apparel V-neck T-shirt. They listen to indie rock bands like Vampire Weekend and Death Cab for Cutie. They only associate with other hipsters. They hang out at coffeeshops, bookstores, and vintage boutiques. They avoid mainstream music, movies, clothing, and hang-outs.

What are the reasons behind the rise in student hipster culture?

My generation is much more tolerant of people being “weird” than past generations. These days, many people think it’s cool to be different. Young people today feel like they can follow new trends without being criticized so much by their peers, unlike with our parents’ generation and before. They wear what they want, listen to what they want, watch what they want, and do what they want.

From your research, what is the common time in someone’s life to become a hipster?

People are most likely to start following the hipster trend in high school or college. Young adulthood is usually the time when people experiment with new trends, because they’re constantly trying to discover themselves and figure out who they want to be.

What were the biggest misconceptions about hipsters that you came across during your reporting?

Some of the people I spoke with while doing research for this story assumed that all hipsters were snobs. A few of them also told me that hipsters are fake and follow hipster trends just for attention. While I agree that some hipsters are certainly snobby or fake, I would say that there are people in every group who fit into those categories. Out of all the people I spoke with, not one admitted to being a hipster. One guy said, “I don’t think I’m a hipster, but I’m not mainstream either.” That was the closest I got to an admission. Some also made fun of hipsters. I read a quote online recently that said, “FACT: 93 percent of the people making fun of hipsters are hipsters.” After researching this story, I agree with that quote completely.

2 Responses to “College Media Story Idea: Student Hipster Culture”
  1. promotingu says:

    I found your blog on a top 25 list of college blogs and I have to say I’m glad I did. From an old hippie this article was a great, fun read.

  2. This was such an interesting post. I go to UCSB where there are a ton of hipsters, and I’ve started to really like and appreciate the culture. Very different from what the previous “hippies” were, I would assume. Thanks for the info!