Harriet Walker: The curious death of the hipster

Related Topics

A new-ish video on YouTube (these things are birthed, made viral and killed off within a space of about 13 hours, so keep up) entitled Being a Dickhead's Cool is the latest lambasting of a cipher known in current youth culture iconography as "The Hipster". It features snapshots taken from street style blogs, club nights, American Apparel adverts and unsuspecting hipsters' Facebook pages, set to a jolly tune and song about moving to East London from Cambridgeshire, playing synths, riding a fixed-gear bike and claiming to work in the media when you're actually on the dole. (Full disclosure: I do actually work in the media, but only because I'm not at all hip.)

What's striking about this video is its pincer-like grasp of a concerted youth movement among a very specific demographic: the skinny jeans, the moustache deliberately reminiscent of a sex offender, the pallid skin and extreme ectomorph physique. The plaid shirts and NHS glasses, for which there is no prescriptive need. Those culture snobs who think all the great "isms" are over: here's one for you. It might be fairly insubstantial, but it exists nevertheless.

The other striking thing is that this video is very clearly made by a new breed of Hipsters mocking Hipsters for the benefit of other Hipsters. They're not the first subculture to have been loathed by the mainstream, but they're certainly among a minority that is loathed by their own piranha-esque adherents. The bourgeois lameness of Hipsterism was its main aspirational attraction before the credit crunch, when it was acceptable to live as a mime artist in Berlin and wear the same pair of jeans for 10 years before you started earning a crust. When those who went straight into jobs were square, and money was for losers.

But as it became rapidly apparent that the economy was even more shagged out than your average Hipster, the movement became an object of scorn. This sort of reflexive self-hatred is rarely seen among the young, who are generally so convinced of their own righteousness that they walk around with their eyes closed. Such integral malaise comes with age; it's why divorcees buy sports cars and trophy wives.

Being a Dickhead, along with blogs like Lookatthisfuckinghipster.com and Unhappyhipsters.com – both of which collect pictures of some of the more chronic cases of Hipsteriasis – are about as navel-gazing as the race of bright young things they purport to ridicule. "Look at these misguided empty souls", they trumpet, "so obsessed with their blogs and their deep v-neck T-shirts that nothing else matters to them." But these very bloggers probably own grey marl and anti-socially large beards, they may work in the media too; they're meta-Hipsters. You can't create a new movement simply by cussing the old one.

Youth subculture always sits uneasily with those who fear it – usually a mixture of prudes and bigots. The New Romantics came in for plenty of faggot-bashing; the grunge kids took the rap for not washing their hair (which they didn't, yeah? But it was part of a look, yeah?). Never before have the dirty-haired faggots attacked themselves. But where glam, punk and grunge all stemmed from music, and other movements sprang up around political factionism, the Hipster supports and believes in nothing. It's an entirely commercial movement founded on, in the first instance, smugness at the accident of being born middle class and, latterly, indignation at having been born middle class. And it has been perpetuated by the likes of American Apparel, which is now in trouble, Blackberry – those Hipsters love to stay in touch! – and hideous niche magazines that only ever publish one issue and are in the pay of corporate advertisers.

People have always hated the cool set and laughed off what the kids were doing as pretentious and weird. But it's a post-post-post-ironic sneer too far when they're laughing at themselves. We need a real "ism" to fill the void created by The Hipster.


React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist / Physio / Osteopath

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for o...

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager / Sales Executive - Contract Hire

£35000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This industry leader provides c...

Recruitment Genius: Project Coordinator

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Project Coordinator is requir...

Recruitment Genius: Area Sales Manager - Midlands

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

Read Next

Don’t pity me for eating alone, just give me a better table

Rosie Millard
Aerial view of planned third runway at Heathrow  

Heathrow expansion: This final 'conclusion' has simply fanned the airport flames

Chris Blackhurst
John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

Forget little green men

Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy
UK heatwave: Temperature reaches 39.8 degrees on Central Line - the sweatiest place in London

39.8 degrees recorded on Tube

There's hot (London) and too damn hot (the Underground). Simon Usborne braved the Central line to discover what its passengers suffer
Kitchens go hi-tech: From robot chefs to recipe-shopping apps, computerised cooking is coming

Computerised cooking is coming

From apps that automatically make shopping lists from your recipe books to smart ovens and robot chefs, Kevin Maney rounds up innovations to make your mouth water
Jessie Cave interview: The Harry Potter star has published a feminist collection of cartoons

Jessie Cave's feminist cartoons

The Harry Potter star tells Alice Jones how a one-night stand changed her life
Football Beyond Borders: Even the most distruptive pupils score at homework club

Education: Football Beyond Borders

Add football to an after-school homework club, and even the naughtiest boys can score
10 best barbecue books

Fire up the barbie: 10 best barbecue books

We've got Bibles to get you grilling and smoking like a true south American pro
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power
Ron Dennis exclusive: ‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

Ron Dennis shrugs off a poor start to the season in an exclusive interview, and says the glory days will come back
Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most