A few years ago, I told someone I lived on Frankford Avenue in Fishtown. Their response was to grill me on the status of then newly opened Barcade.
“I mean, what kind of bar is it?”
“I don’t know,” I said. “A bar with arcade games.”
“Yeah, but like… who goes there?”
“But what kind of people?”
“I don’t know. People who like arcade games?”
“Yeah, but like… hipsters?”
This exchange angered me and after spending some time processing it, I’ve come to the conclusion that the word “hipster” is over. Done.
In Vice magazine earlier this year, Dan Ozzi argued: “The problem is that we’ve lumped too many subcultures and stereotypes into the definition of the hipster. As a result, the word as an insult has become completely meaningless.” (I’m sure you’re thinking, “Of course the article was in Vice.”) The article also argues that the actual stereotypical grouping has radically changed over the years, rendering it even more meaningless.
To wit: Merriam Webster defines “hipster” as a person who follows the latest styles, fashions, etc. or a hip person. Wikipedia tells us that “hipster” is a term popularly used to denote a contemporary subculture in North America and Europe primarily consisting of Millennials living in urban areas. And then Urban Dictionary hones in on “hipster” in a 700-word definition that is longer than this whole op-ed piece.
The problem is that the word at once describes no one and everyone. Most people ascribe to notions that they perceive as being cool and hip. Meanwhile, society is constantly telling us what is cool and what is not. What flavor of cool we choose to subscribe to is defined by our own individual tastes. Whether it be the Eagles, the latest St. Vincent album, vintage radios, North Face jackets, Edith Piaf, or artisanal bacon, we do what we do and it is what it is.
But we continue to use the word hipster to marginalize, judge and belittle others — like a red flag of the user’s own insecurities. If the word hipster was used to empower or praise people, I wouldn’t be calling on all of you to ban its existence. But for now, the word’s connotations are judgmental and negative.
We are better than this, Philadelphia.
The word hipster is old. It’s done. We have used it and now we need to move on.
We need to harness the power of the individual who does what they want to do. Maybe because it’s cool. Maybe just because they like it. Instead of being identified, we need to self-identify. That is, ultimately and epically, what makes Philadelphia a city of individuals and … cool. That belief in we are going to do whatever we want. We wear pajamas pants to Wawa to go get a hoagie, watch drag queens perform in dive bars, ride our bikes naked, support our sport’s teams regardless of score, and march down Broad Street dressed in sequins. Haters gonna hate on Philly, but we are still gonna do us.
The Huffington Post listed 31 reasons why we are the most “underrated” city. While it was likely written by a New Yorker who slummed it here for a weekend, the piece does offer a great ranking of some our best attributes. But who cares about being rated? We don’t do this shit to get high marks. We do it because it is who we are and as a city — we get it.
So Philly, take the word “h*pster” out of your vocabulary. We as a city are way too cool for such trifling delineations. Maybe the rest of the world will follow suit. And yes, I’m a man wearing skinny jeans.
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