The Word “Hipster” Is So Over

Why is Philly obsessed with this passe delineation? We need to strike it from our vocabulary.

Fishtown-frankford-avenue-photo_Jeff-Fusco-940x540

Photo | Jeff Fusco

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?”

“People.”

“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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  • Drew

    I personally never saw the term ‘hipster’ as negative. Then again, I went to UArts and I never objected to being lumped in with ‘hipster’ culture. I generally found my hipster contemporaries to be relatable and forward-thinking. Maybe people try to use it with a negative connotation, but I think ‘hipster’ is a blanket term for an individual who represents any aspect (or aspects) of counter culture. This is something I would wear with pride, given the tremendous influence counter culture has on the trajectory of the mainstream. How about instead of eradicating it from our vocabulary, we give it the credit and positive connotation that it deserves?

    • puremercury

      The problem is how much groupthink and just plain silliness there can be within hipster-related scenes. Whimsy without context. Oddness without individuality. Studied affectations. Things like that are all too common. Common to the point of making this subculture decidedly NOT countercultural in the least.

  • Jennifer Robnett

    agreed. it can definitely be a positive term. i think the author here means that in the context it is most often used it is reductive, lazy and coming from someone who’s more than a little glib. if i were trying to imply that the people at a certain bar were not worthwhile company or homogenous as far as looks/tastes go i might use the term but it would be the tone of my delivery that would be most telling.

  • FRANNY

    Just like a hipster to say this.
    http://memegenerator.net/instance/46937055

  • http://www.association4uniqueteens.com Julia Howard

    I love Edith Piaf

    • Alex

      Simply the best.

  • Nfl All Day

    The problem is YOU PEOPLE (Myself included I suppose), waisting time debating the societal impact of the word hipster as if it were the N-WORD! You know who makes these type of non issues into national debates that all too often pre occupy our culture while we stand, literally, on the verge of World War 3 with Russia???????
    HIPPSTERS!
    Get over yourselves.

  • Chefaholic

    Get over yourself