27 July 2010

How To Grow Your Own Hipster; or: How My Parents Did It.

According to UrbanDictionary.com, a "hipster" is defined as the following:
Hipsters are a subculture of men and women typically in their 20's and 30's that value independent thinking, counter-culture, progressive politics, an appreciation of art and indie-rock, creativity, intelligence, and witty banter. ... Although "hipsterism" is really a state of mind,it is also often intertwined with distinct fashion sensibilities. Hipsters reject the culturally-ignorant attitudes of mainstream consumers, and are often be seen wearing vintage and thrift store inspired fashions, tight-fitting jeans, old-school sneakers, and sometimes thick rimmed glasses. ... Despite misconceptions based on their aesthetic tastes, hipsters tend to be well educated and often have liberal arts degrees, or degrees in maths and sciences, which also require certain creative analytical thinking abilities. Consequently many hipsters tend to have jobs in the music, art, and fashion industries. It is a myth that most hipsters are unemployed and live off of their parent's trust funds.
Hipsters shun mainstream societal conventions that apply to dating preferences and traditional "rules" of physical attraction. It is part of the hipster central dogma not to be influenced by mainsream advertising and media, which tends to only promote ethnocentric ideals of beauty. ... Hipsters are also very racially open-minded, and the greatest number of interracial couples in any urban environment are typically found within the hipster subculture.
Although hipsters are technically conformists within their own subculture, in comparison to the much larger mainstream mass, they are pioneers and leaders of the latest cultural trends and ideals. For example, the surge of jeans made to look old and worn (i.e. "distressed"), that have become prevalent at stores such as The Gap, American Eagle, Abercrombie and Fitch, and Hollister, were originally paraded by hipsters who shopped in thrift stores years before such clothing items were mass produced and sold to the mainstream consumer. The true irony here is that many of the detractors of hipster culture are in fact unknowingly following a path that hipsters have carved out years before them. This phenomena also applies to music as well, as many bands have become successful and known to mainstream audiences only because hipsters first found and listened to them as early-adopters of new culture. Once certain concepts of fashion and music have reached mainstream audiences, hipsters move on to something new and improved.
Because of the rise of various online photo-blog and social networking sites, insights into urban hipster culture is reaching sheltered suburban audiences at an exponential rate. Cultural "norms" have been deconstructed by hipster culture as a whole. Hipsterism is often dismissed as just an image thing by some, but the culture as a whole is effecting changes in society, leading to feelings of insecurity and resentment in people who are no longer a part of the cultural ruling class. ... Anti-hipster sentiment often comes from people who simply can't keep up with social change and are envious of those who can.
Note: this is definition #1.  Further definitions from the website are unnecessary after this comprehensive one, and can get quite demeaning.

"No, we're not shopping there."
In my teenage years, when my ideas about how the world should work were still forming, I was growing up in a household with two younger siblings, a mom in grad school, and my parents got in early with the housing boom and purchased/built a new house.  Understandably, we didn't frequent the Gap or Abercrombie, where a single item of clothing was frequently over $20 (and still is).  We'd hit Target or Kohl's with a vengeance.  And clothes had to LAST.  I had several pairs of jeans growing up that would rip and tear all over, and it wasn't until I grew or a hole developed in the crotch that I'd give them up.  Every rip, every tear, I wore as a badge of honor and a testament to my active lifestyle.  Now, it's the "cool" thing to buy these pre-ripped jeans.  I don't understand it.  Why do that when you can make your own?
Also, the placement of the local thrift store next to my karate school made spending time there an absolute breeze.

"You can listen to whatever you want."
I don't think that when my parents gave me my first alarm clock radio in the second grade that they intended for it to set me on the path of hipster-hood, but it eventually did.  I started by tuning in to the local country music station.  The primary reason for this was because my Dad hates country, and I didn't want him in my room (at the age of nine...).  When the station I had been tuned to went off the air, I had to find a new one.  I discovered "104.1 The Point," a now-defunct alternative rock station.  I didn't understand the concept of a station that played a little bit of everything, including local bands, but I liked it.  Nay, I loved it.  And I still do. I've bounced from alt-rock station to alt-rock station which, while they typically are phased out after a few years, always pop up somewhere else.  My "current" favorite is MPR 89.3 The Current which, in addition to being mainly alternative rock and also a generally amazing mix including local bands, is completely member-supported public radio, and the only commercials they have are for themselves.
Also, The Current received a vouch from Wil Wheaton, who, upon discovering it last night while touring in Minneapolis, proclaimed via Twitter: "I think The Current from Minnesota Public Radio is my new favorite radio station."  Upon reading that this morning, my nerd-heart gave knucks to my hipster-heart in victory.  (Actually, there was an awkward moment where my nerd-heart went up for a high-five, and switched to the fist mid-air.)

"Oh, that's just Neil."
My dad's wonderful cousin, Neil, has been a constant presence on the periphery of my life since my childhood.  Ever since my family was still young enough that my grandmother had Christmas with her sisters at Gram and Pappy's house.  Now, we're Facebook friends, and it turns out he's had run-ins with a few of my friends at work, and they all adore him.  He's always stuck out in my mind as a person in my family to look up to as being connected to his family, his community, and his job.
Oh, yeah, also?  He's gay.  Always has been.  And it's never been a big deal.

"So.  Where do you want to go to college?"
I remember high school.  Not well, but I do remember it.  I remember that awkward time where my future depended on where I went to school.  I toured three campuses - all alma maters of my parents - the University of Minnesota, the College of St. Catherine, and the University of St. Thomas - and applied to all three.  I had very distinct expectations and things I wanted from each school.  I liked the U for its architecture program, St. Thomas for its varied liberal arts degrees and co-ed campus, and St. Kate's for its varied liberal arts degrees and women's campus.  When I got the nod from St. Kate's and St. Thomas, and the U deferred my application, I knew I was destined for a liberal arts degree.  My "architecture major, English minor" dreams turned to an English major, philosophy minor, and a single math class that I hated.
After my whirlwind tour of the campuses - a day at the U, and a day spent half at St. Kate's and St. Thomas - I quickly realized that St. Kate's was my favorite of the three.  There I spent four years, developing a well-rounded education on a campus deeply rooted in the community and yet welcoming of all walks of life.  Even men.  They just couldn't live there.

Looking back on how I was raised, it's easy for me to see why I've ended up in the particular niche I'm in right now.  It's all their fault.