Never ones to limit our vocabulary, and ever ones to revel in the ever-expanding vastness of the English language (yes, hate as you may the English speaker, English is quantifiably vast, and increasingly so by the day), we have decided to remove one term from our city-related lexicon: hipster. Perhaps the last straw was this essay published in the New York Times on why “hipsters” are ruining Paris. While the “I-was-here-first-everyone-else-go-home” bent to the essay struck us as infinitely trite and so completely transparent, it was the writer’s unabashedly loose definition of the word “hipster” that troubled us most. His, and a growing many others’, definition of the term could be summed up as: “People in the 21st-century city who do things I don’t like.” What was once a word that signified in our minds a specific type of urban denizen, now could include you, or me, or anyone we know who lives in the American city (or global city for that matter) and enjoys it.
With the advent of the internet and social media, trends now appear and engulf the world over in a seeming matter of seconds. As such, it has become increasingly difficult, if not impossible, to discern any difference between people doing something because they just genuinely like it, and people who are just along for the pack-belonging ride (if it was even possible to discern that difference pre-internet and social media at all). Thus it is quite possible that you the contemporary urban resident enjoy many things that have some or much overlap with what would be considered “hipster” trends. You like a delicious cup of coffee that doesn’t taste like an ashtray? Hipster. You enjoy making your own pickles with friends, because homemade pickles are delicious and the company of others lovely? Hipster. You ride your bike as a means of transportation but wear nice clothes and not a spandex get-up because you just can’t see yourself in spandex, ever? Hipster. Virtually nothing, save going to work and working and coming home and eating a humdrum meal, is protected these days from the pejorative label “hipster.” So why use the word at all anymore? It has simply become another quick-and-easy means of discounting, discrediting, and scoffing at something one does not like in cities, a way to distance oneself from a genre of person or behavior, so one can derive satisfaction in saying, “I’m not that.” Well then if not that, what are you?
And here lies the core of the problem: criticizing and belittling have become national pastimes, while the tough business of actually creating new things, ideas, worlds – of making that scary leap from judging to creation – happens less and less. But it ought to. That we are slipping as a nation on the production/export scale is not news, but it is astounding how few people understand this phenomenon and its implications, not the least of which being minimal job growth due to a low-level of new production. There are cities – yes, HIPSTER cities – who are, however, attempting to buck the trend, such as Portland. And these efforts need to be recognized, reflected upon, tweaked, and borrowed, so that American cities can inch closer towards becoming the production powerhouses they once were and not simply centers of consumption, and, dare we say it, judgment.
We, us, at this blog and business, are at the core cheerleaders for American cities, not naysayers and curmudgeons, and as such we celebrate anyone’s interest in also being a cheerleader for American cities, living in them, and investing in them (yes, even bros). Thus we shall be removing hipster from our vocabulary, in all its diluted, complainy, judgey-wudgy, lackluster glory. The English language is vast, and we are sure there are many other words that might better fit the description we seek.