Hipsters have been around since at least the late 1990s (although this is a label that is applied in retrospect). It is only in the last few years that mainstream society has started wearing moustaches, ironic glasses and embrace indie and electronic music.
The magazine Flavorwirehas therefore asked eight American experts (sociologists, historians and cultural theorists): what will come after the hipster? Their answers are very interesting.
With Lana Del Rey’s meteoric, blog hype-fueled rise and rapid, SNL-catalyzed descent, the mere existence of MTV’s I Just Want My Pants Back and the trendy intellectual publication n+1 already taking a wishful backward glance at the subculture, hipsterdom appears to be on the wane. Have we reached a tipping point? If so, what’s next for American youth-based movements?
Here are some of the responses:
It’s difficult to talk about these groups as a “lineage,” because besides being groups that were associated with young Americans, they all had different levels of cohesion, formed in response to different social conditions, and produced different results. It seems to me that the beatniks and hippies were reacting more to society-level characteristics (conformity, political and cultural conservatism), whereas I associate the punks and “grunge” folks (slackers? Generation X?) with a cultural rebellion, reacting against a certain ossification in corporate culture (and especially music, although not exclusively). Interestingly, hip hop is missing from this list, and it seems to be doing both and neither at once, creating something new out of very limited opportunities. Hipsters seem to be a more general taste culture, embodying a number of different critiques of modern society in a more holistic, but I think less defined, way.
Predicting what comes after the hipster is almost as impossible as predicting the hippies would have been in 1959, or predicting the punks in 1967 (unless you knew that the Velvet Underground’s mostly-unheard debut album would give rise to a whole scene of like-minded folks a decade later). Subcultures usually form in response to some sort of perceived cultural conformity or hegemony. For me, today, that’s technology and the Internet, and in a way, some of today’s hipsters participate in some activities that try to eschew modernity (craft food and spirits, knitting, canning, etc.). However, I can’t see a youth subculture forming to react against modern technology, since it has become so intertwined with modern life.
I’m not sure that anything is going to emerge after the hipster, but not because we won’t have any widespread, cohesive youth cultures anymore. I think it’s possible that the hipster is just going to stay around indefinitely. As I said in my article “Generation Sell,” the hipster has been around as the dominant youth culture for way longer than anything that’s come before, and it occupies a place relative to mainstream culture that’s completely different. It’s not counter-cultural; it fits perfectly within the values of a large part of the mainstream, the so-called Bobos or bourgeois bohemians, which is what most members of the liberal upper-middle-class are. Hipsters are usually seen as consumers — “self-curators” who painstakingly select the music, movies, clothing and so on through which they construct their identities. More useful is to understand them as producers and distributors. Hipsters create Bobo culture. They make or sell or serve, or simply pioneer, what Bobos buy.
Of course, I could be wrong. The best bet for the next thing would be for something to emerge from the Occupy movement: less concerned about music and clothing, more concerned about politics; less concerned about differentiating yourself from the people around you, more concerned about working with them; less concerned about status, more concerned about social change; less ironic, more earnest; less polished, more grungy.
I don’t know whether the hipster was ever a cohesive subculture. It seemed more of a media creation than anything else, and as such it appeared coherent primarily from an outsider’s perspective. How many people do you know that actually call themselves hipsters? I don’t know any, or should I say the people I know that I consider hipsters only acknowledge that identity with sarcasm or irony.
So on the one hand, there appears to be this subculture called Hipster to the extent that we’ve learned to label certain clothing styles or mannerisms or values that way. On the other hand, many of the so-called hipsters I know are more concerned with being unique than they are being a part of something coherent.
[The] hipsters of the 2000s are a Millennial generation subculture (actually, a small, affluent niche of Millennials with enough cultural capital to discern hipness from a lack of hipness). Whatever comes after Millennials will find its own awesome or annoying forms of expression, and we just don’t know what it will look like because it hasn’t happened yet. But it’s probably safe to assume that like hipsters — whether of the 1940s and ’50s or of more recent days — the next waves of youth subculture will reject many aspects of square society, pick and choose elements of earlier styles or appropriate the styles of other cultures, define itself especially by its music and dress, and reject whatever label is given to it.
I predict that the hipster craze will pass, but the hipster will endure. Many subcultures exist in the side streets and alleys of mainstream society at any given time. These subcultures have their own distinct identities, and seek to differentiate themselves within the broader cultural landscape. Sometimes, a subculture will garner mainstream attention, as we’re currently seeing happen with the hipster, and the subculture may resent its newfound popularity. As the hipster subculture gains mass appeal, new adopters can diffuse or alter the hipster identity, causing the identity to become less distinct.
[The] “hipster” of today, at least as defined by my own observations and those of my students who are “in” that scene, is not one who is as much concerned with breaking or bending norms as he/she is with appearing to be different just for the sake of being different. It has become a superficiality of fashion and culture. The “hipster” of today doesn’t represent any kind of movement in the way that the Beats, Hippies, or Punks did. And, since so many of our taboos have been at least decriminalized, if not outright abandoned, what is there really to non-conform against? Not very much. That said, the other reason why it’s impossible to tell what’s coming next is because the “next thing” is always the product of a unique conflation of sociocultural, economic, technological, and political forces.
With one month left to go, looking back one thing is clear: the year 2011 has been a very poor year in indie music. Seriously: while 2010 had lots of musical highlights, from the albums High Violet by The National and Before Today by Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti to The Suburbs by Arcade Fire, and from all kinds of energetic electronic-indie and synth acts like Crystal Castles, Delorean, Phoenix and Two Door Cinema Club, to chillwave (which was okay for a while, with Neon Indian, Teen Daze, Luftwaffe), the past year I’ve heard almost nothing that blew my mind like those acts did.
This can mean two things: either the indie/hipster scene in 2011 is really in its dying phase, and depraved of originality – I really can’t stand every next Brooklyn retro-1980s synth-pop outfit with a “vintage” video clip; or I have heard it all and am getting old. Even the acts that are supposed to be at the top of today’s scene, like The Naked and Famous, M83 and the likes, to me in all honesty really sound like poppy rip-offs of stuff that used to be better and more original.
Last year, I had trouble putting together a ‘best of 2010′ list, because the supply was so big. In 2011, I’ll be having trouble filling it because almost nothing really cool or original came out. The one highlight I can think of is Cut Copy’s Zonoscope, and even that wasn’t exactly a game-changer.
I wonder what the next decade hype will be, actually: since every 1980s niche has by now been plundered, my bet is on either retro-1970s or retro-1990s music and trends. We’ll probably never see something new anymore.
But okay. Here’s a new 2k11 track that I actually do like. Yes, it’s synth once again… but this harks back to those early-1980s post-punk bands with an expansive sound, like Siouxsie and the Banshees and early U2, which is a niche that hasn’t been recycled that much yet. If you’re a sucker for “big” sounds, like I am, listen to this:
Here’s one sentiment I can say I don’t share: missing the pop monoculture. According to Toure at Salon.com, our culture is “poorer” today because we don’t have gigantic acts like Michael Jackson and Prince anymore, that everybody can gather around to and collectively love. This goes hand in hand with the decline of big TV and radio stations that everybody used to watch. There are no “massive music moments” anymore when, for instance, an album becomes a big hit. There is no real shared pop culture anymore with larger-than-life figures.
Well, personally, I have no longing at all to go back to that time. As a millennial, I’m old enough to remember the time when you only had one or two music stations on TV; a couple of radio stations; and the charts that were based on album sales. The time before The Internet, when you were dependent on this small set of big media to enjoy pre-selected pop music. Nowadays, I almost never watch TV or listen to the radio anymore, and why would I? It means listening to crappy music catered for the masses. I have the Internet.
What the author at Salon calls the “balkanization” of pop culture I totally applaud: the Internet has allowed people to get exposed to more music than ever before, and that is of great value. In fact, that’s the only real argument in favor of illegal downloading, I think: exposure to every possible music style of the past and present, expanding your knowledge of pop culture and, if you’re an artist, re-packaging that in something new. I think it’s great that a kid nowadays can listen to Joy Division and actually like it.
Of course, the negative drawback of this mass online availability of past music is the incessant retromania that has dominated the first decade of the twenty-first century. There was a time when music used to look forward, be futuristic, but that is no longer the case: instead, every past musical niche gets exploited and is re-packaged. The hipster is the ultimate personification of the Internet era: no longer think of something new, but re-use past styles again and again. Nowadays I think only electronic music is still forward-looking, but even there you find more and more retro tunes and vibes. I wonder when something that is totally new will emerge; but before that, I guess first the entire musical and stylistic past must be dug up and re-used again.
That’s something else, however, than missing the time of mainstream pop culture. I’m glad the domination of the musical-industrial complex is over, thank you very much. If that means missing what Toure calls “generational moments”, well, so be it.
I live for those times when an album explodes throughout American society as more than a product — but as a piece of art that speaks to our deepest longings and desires and anxieties. In these Moments, an album becomes so ubiquitous it seems to blast through the windows, to chase you down until it’s impossible to ignore it. But you don’t want to ignore it, because the songs are holding up a mirror and telling you who we are at that moment in history.
These sorts of Moments can’t be denied. They leave an indelible imprint on the collective memory; when we look back at the year or the decade or the generation, there’s no arguing that the album had a huge impact on us. It’s pop music not just as private joy, but as a unifier, giving us something to share and bond over.
Actually, I should say I loved Massive Music Moments. They don’t really happen anymore.
The epic, collective roar — you know, the kind that followed “Thriller,”“Nevermind,”“Purple Rain,”“It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back,” and other albums so gigantic you don’t even need to name the artist — just doesn’t happen today. Those Moments made you part of a large tribe linked by sounds that spoke to who you are or who you wanted to be. Today there’s no Moments, just moments. They’re smaller, less intense, shorter in duration and shared by fewer people. The Balkanization of pop culture, the overthrow of the monopoly on distribution, and the fracturing of the collective attention into a million pieces has made it impossible for us to coalesce around one album en masse. We no longer live in a monoculture. We can’t even agree to hate the same thing anymore, as we did with disco in the 1970s.
If you’re under 25, you’ve never felt a true Massive Music Moment. Not Lady Gaga. Not Adele. Not even Kanye. As the critic Chuck Klosterman has written, “There’s fewer specific cultural touchstones that every member of a generation shares.” Sure, Gaga’s “The Fame Monster” spawned several hit singles. Adele’s “21″ and Jay-Z and Kanye West’s “Watch the Throne” were massively popular. Kanye’s brilliant “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” was beloved and controversial and widely discussed enough to give a glimpse into the way things used to be. But those successes don’t compare to the explosive impact that “Thriller” and “Nevermind” had on American culture — really, will anyone ever commemorate “21″ at 20, the way the anniversary of Nirvana’s album has been memorialized in the last month?
Numbers don’t tell the whole story about how these cultural atomic bombs detonated and dominated pop culture. But at its peak, “Thriller” sold 500,000 copies a week. These days, the No. 1 album on the Billboard charts often sells less than 100,000 copies a week. What we have today are smaller detonations, because pop culture’s ability to unify has been crippled.
I miss Moments. I love being obsessed by a new album at the same time as many other people are. The last two albums that truly grabbed an enormous swath of America by the throat and made us lose our collective mind were “Nevermind” and Dr. Dre’s “The Chronic.” They sprung from something deep in the country’s soul and spoke to a generation’s disaffection and nihilism. They announced new voices on the national stage who would become legends (Kurt Cobain and Snoop Dogg) and introduced the maturation of subgenres that would have tremendous impact (grunge and gangsta rap).
No connection is made. Pop music has historically been great at creating Moments that brought people together. Now we’re all fans traveling in much smaller tribes, never getting the electric thrill of being in a big, ecstatic stampede. It’s reflected in the difference between the boombox and the iPod. The box was a public device that broadcast your choices to everyone within earshot and shaped the public discourse. The man with the box had to choose something current (or classic) that spoke to what the people wanted to hear. Now the dominant device, the iPod, privatizes the music experience, shutting you and your music off from the world. The iPod also makes it easy to travel with a seemingly infinite collection of songs — which means whatever you recently downloaded has to compete for your attention with everything you’ve ever owned. The iPod tempts you not to connect with the present, but to wallow in sonic comfort food from the past.
Back when MTV played videos, it functioned like a televised boombox. It was the central way for many people to experience music they loved and learn about new artists. Thus MTV directed and funneled the conversation. Now there’s no central authority. Fuse, where I work, plays videos and concerts and introduces people to new artists. But people also watch videos online, where there’s an endless library of everything ever made but no curation, killing its unifying potential.
These days, there are many more points of entry into the culture for a given album or artist. That can be a good thing — MTV, after all, played a limited number of videos in heavy rotation. Now there’s the potential to be exposed to more music. But where there used to be a finite number of gatekeepers, now there’s way too many: anyone with a blog. This is great for the individual listener who’s willing to sift through the chatter to find new bands. But society loses something when pop music does not speak to the entire populace.
Hollywood, too, is struggling to unite us. “Star Wars” and “The Matrix” and “Pulp Fiction” were so big they changed American film — as well as our visual language and Madison Avenue. You didn’t need to actually see the films to feel as if you had consumed them. Their impact was so pervasive, they seemed to bang down your door and announce themselves. The Harry Potter films and “Avatar” stand out for the size of the marketing and ticket buying associated with them. But did they bring large, diverse swaths of America together? Did they speak to something deep in the American soul?
It really seems to speak from a deep-seated insecurity of the author, doesn’t it? Please, go explore music that isn’t spit out over the masses and find a niche you like!
The hipster kids are getting younger and younger these days. Check out this clip featuring kids in the disco by Hamburg producer and dj Tensnake. Tensnake is a producer who sorta combines the good sides of the mainstream sound of some popular dj’s with a more qualitatively appealing edge: in tracks like this one and Coma Cat you’ll hear disco, dub, Balearic, Chicago and acid house influences.
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My work explores the relationship between postmodern discourse and skateboard ethics.
With influences as diverse as Nietzsche and John Lennon, new tensions are created from both traditional and modern layers. Ever since I was a child I have been fascinated by the traditional understanding of meaning. What starts out as triumph soon becomes corroded into a dialectic of power, leaving only a sense of nihilism and the inevitability of a new understanding. As spatial forms become frozen through boundaried and critical practice, the viewer is left with a glimpse of the possibilities of our condition.
My work explores the relationship between gender politics and emotional memories.
With influences as diverse as Blake and Francis Bacon, new synergies are crafted from both simple and complex meanings.
Ever since I was a teenager I have been fascinated by the theoretical limits of relationships. What starts out as hope soon becomes corroded into a cacophony of greed, leaving only a sense of nihilism and the inevitability of a new understanding.
As temporal forms become clarified through boundaried and critical practice, the viewer is left with a glimpse of the edges of our condition.
Everybody wants to be creative these days. By being creative you can convince the world that you are indeed a unique individual. But can a person’s creativity be improved? You could try to be creative in the way you dress, get a funky haircut, grow a sophisticated beard, take a class in clowning, or get stoned. Or you could do everything at the same time. It probably won’t permanently boost you creativity though.
What will do the trick is a newly discovered method, explained in this article by Art Markman. What it comes down to is that during the creative process you have to imagine you are doing the work, solving the problem, or drawing the picture, for somebody else. That will enable you to “escape the curse of your specific knowledge” and “avoid simply repeating the solutions you already know about”. If that still sounds a little vague, just read the article, I think it makes sense:
A paper by Evan Polman and Kyle Emich in the April 2011 issue of Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin provides just this kind of straightforward demonstration.
One of the factors that often prevents people from doing something really creative is their existing knowledge. If you are writing a song, it is hard to come up with something that is very different from what other people have written, because you are reminded of melodies that you have heard before. If you are solving a problem at work, there is a tendency to focus on solutions that people have used in the past to solve similar problems.
So how do you break away from the influence of the past?
Polman and Emich make use of construal level theory. This theory, developed by Yaacov Trope, Nira Liberman and their colleagues, suggests that we think about things that are near to us in space or time in specific terms, but we think about things that are far from us in space or time in more abstract terms. For example, when thinking about a trip you might take to Paris next summer, you might focus on how much fun it would be or how great it would be to sit in a café and watch the world go by. When thinking about a trip to Paris you are going to take next week, though, you focus on what you are going to wear, how you are going to exchange money and what you will do when you encounter Parisians who speak no English.
Polman and Emich reason that if you are trying to think creatively, then generating some distance between you and the problem you are solving might enhance your creativity. Indeed, some research by Jens Forster, Ron Friedman and Nira Liberman in a 2004 paper in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology suggests that this might be true.
To create a sense of psychological distance, Polman and Emich had people perform a variety of tasks that tap creativity. They either performed these tasks while thinking about themselves or when thinking about someone else.
In one study, people were asked to draw aliens. Tom Ward has done research on creativity and has shown that most people who draw aliens give them lots of properties that exist in animals on earth: they often have two eyes and are symmetric, with similar limbs on each side of their bodies. In other words, most people do not draw creative aliens. They are stuck using their knowledge of animals, even when they are trying to do something really novel.
In one of Polman and Emich’s studies, people were asked to draw an alien for a story they would write later, or they were asked to draw an alien for a story that would be written by someone else. A group of independent raters then looked to see how many properties the aliens had that are not typical of animals on earth. The people who drew aliens for themselves used many fewer novel properties than the people who drew aliens for someone else to use. That is, people were less creative when drawing for themselves than when drawing for someone else.
These results suggest a simple way of helping yourself to be more creative. When you are in a situation where you need to escape the curse of your own specific knowledge, pretend that you are being creative on behalf of someone else. That will help you think about the problem more abstractly and avoid simply repeating the solutions you already know about.
Promotional knit beer sweaters from the 70s and 80s. All of these sweaters were unearthed by me, rescued from moldy basements, plucked from dingy backwaters and ripped from the backs of greasy shitleopards. Unfortunately none of these trophies are for sale.