“As for the noun form, here’s the bottom line: “hipster” is a broad category that encompasses so many different groups as to be utterly worthless. It seems to me that the most common group of so-called “hipsters” are the stylish, artsy residents of urban places like Williamsburg and Silver Lake. However, these kind of bohemians are more or less a permanent part of the urban ecosystem. Aesthetic styles of bohemians shift (e.g., from grunge to alternative to hipster since the 1990s), but the demographic remains constant….With “hipster” being applied to so many hetereogenous groups (bohemians, rich young people, anyone who has ever worn clothing associated the hipster aesthetic), it is a term so vague as to be useless. We can continue to use the adjectival “hipster” to refer to the aesthetic style, but social scientists would be better off being more specific about the group of people they’re describing (e.g., young, rich, educated, fashion forward, liberals, bohemians, music fans, etc.).”
The above is a nice summary of my irritation with the overuse of the term hipster. To tack on to the points about hipster as a noun, I struggle with an analysis of a group that does not use ’hipster’ as a point of self-reference (Granted not all groups use the labels assigned to them as a point of affirmation or reference but many do). I have never met anyone that identifies as a hipster and yet, somehow, everyone is a hipster by virtue of doing something ‘hipster-like’ (e.g., skinny jeans, black jeans, reading Pitchfork, etc) in this esoteric world where ‘hipster’ is a way of putting people down who act like jerks/crack jokes you don’t understand/rub you the wrong way.
Perhaps this is my own baggage coming through because I, as well as many of my friends, have been labeled hipsters for our tastes in food, music, or aesthetic preferences and none of us identify as hipster. Shit, none of us identify as hip- most of us are just nerds whose identities are basically variations of us nerding out about stuff we love (I’ll save the points about taste, class, culture, etc for another post). But in this esoteric world of hipstering/hipsterness, nothing externally delineates our earnest passion for the aforementioned categories as genuine interest rather than just being a hipster or an obsession with coolness. I’m obviously being a bit flippant here but my point is that I too agree that talking about a category of hipsters is somewhat suspect because to all intents and purposes calling a person a hipster is the social equivalent of saying they’re an obnoxious, erudite pariah. It’s a form of othering. I agree with Andrew’s points in the above post that hipster in its noun use is useless as an analytic concept: studying hipsters as a group would be would like a sociology of assholes. To be fair, I think a sociology of assholes would be far more interesting than a sociology of hipsters.