Language helps us define our world: the objects around us, the ideas we have and our sense of self. Although they are usually misleading, labels and stereotypes are especially useful when we’re trying to determine where we belong. The one label I hear the most is “hipster.”
Not only can my music be hipster, but my bike and hometown can be hipster as well. Is the label really that useful as a classification system when nowadays it seems that everyone has a little bit of hipster in them?
Last summer, while helping a friend look for road bikes on Craigslist, I was shocked to discover that he didn’t know about the hipster culture. I told him that riding a yellow fixed-gear would mean that in a month, Arcade Fire would become his favorite band. The joke was lost on him. With the help of Urban Dictionary, I immediately enlightened him with a definition of the “hipster” stereotype.
In my eyes, a hipster only wears clothes from a thrift shop, American Apparel or Urban Outfitters. Hipsters love Pabst Blue Ribbon and non-Starbucks coffee and tea. Hipster hotspots include San Francisco, Brooklyn, Portland and Seattle – all prime locations to ride their fixie bicycles.
With music that sounds ironic and/or counter-culture, music festivals like Coachella and Outside Lands are prime places to find hipsters. While wearing their Ray Ban glasses, hipsters enjoy reading independent magazines and viewing groundbreaking art at galleries and in alleys.
According to the satirical (and hilarious) blog Stuff White People Like, white people and hipsters have a lot in common: loving Banksy, hating on people who wear Ed Hardy, using Moleskine notebooks, inking on ironic tattoos. So, does this mean that all white people are hipsters?
Hipsters also share many attributes with hippies. A love for tea, bicycles, world peace and grocery co-ops all would make for excellent small talk while waiting in line for the bathroom at a campground. Hipsters and hippies share the same root word, but do they share the same essential characteristics?
Hipsters seem to have a lot in common with other labeled groups, which goes against the very nature of using the hipster label as a means to distinguish people. That’s, like, ironic.
I think I might be too surrounded by the hipster and hipster-esque way of life to properly define the stereotype. Maybe the only way we can define “hipster” is to determine what “hipster” isn’t. Let’s look at another label of our generation: “guido.”
For most Californians, the guido stereotype might be a foreign concept, unless you watch the MTV hit “Jersey Shore.” Luckily, because my twin sister goes to school in Washington, D.C. and has an Italian-American friend from New Jersey who hates the stereotype, I know a thing or two about the guido label.
Guidos and guidettes are usually Italian-Americans from New York and New Jersey. They allegedly spend their time partying or preparing for partying with the routine GTL (they are either at the gym, tanning or doing laundry). Their clothing style is unique. Guidettes wear short, tight dresses and Bumpits. Guidos rock Ed Hardy shirts and spiked hair.
Hipsters and guidos fall at two opposite ends of the trendy stereotype spectrum. Maybe that juxtaposition explains why seeing Michael Cera, a quintessential hipster actor, get a guido makeover from the cast of “Jersey Shore” in a January 2010 issue of People magazine made me laugh for a solid two minutes. I’m hoping he guest stars on the show soon and opens a frozen banana stand.
I think I can safely say that dealing with stereotypes is a common occurrence in the typical, modern American life. Whether based on racial, cultural, physical or any other characteristics, stereotypes can have positive or negative connotations. I hated being labeled as a band geek in high school. But, I like being labeled as a nerdy, honors student.
Classifying people makes this crazy world a little more understandable. Because they bring people with commonalities together and are the foundation of countless comedy routines, labels can be a good thing. But, we have to be careful.
When based on ridiculous things that aren’t true, stereotypes can be hurtful. Not everyone can fit into a cookie-cutter description. A human being is way more complicated than a seven letter word.
Next time you see that guy wearing the striped cardigan in the CoHo, actually have a conversation with him before writing him off as a silly hipster. He might surprise you.
CORRIE JACOBS dislikes some labels, especially the ones that come with nutritional facts. Share your least favorite stereotypes at email@example.com.