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Friday, 24 August 2012

Losing my edge to anti-hipster prejudice

For how much longer will people sneer at “hipsters”?

You’d think, um, it’d maybe go out of fashion or something. But no, it’s still with us. It’s the new cultural prejudice that's safe to indulge. Even revel in. Supposed “liberals”, who'd studiously avoid crass remarks about race, gender, disability or age, will go out of their way to insult small pockets of people they've decided deserve it.

Should a conversational opportunity present itself - usually all it takes in London, for example, is for someone to mention Dalston or Shoreditch - then you'll usually hear the anti-hipster sneerers piping up immediately. “Oh, it's all hipsters in Dalston. Let's go somewhere else”. “God, I'm so sick of the skinny jeans and all the silly hipsters”. Or you’ll see self-satisfied hashtagged tweets from the sneerers describing something they’ve seen and immediately pigeonholed with a knowing #Shoreditch. (You're the Boss, the Neutral Observer, immune to all this immaturity and amused by it in your laconic way, but always ready to chop it down to size).


Yes, the put-downs are fun (supposedly), they’re easy. And they’re er, what? Funny? No, not really. Or maybe just moderately, to the confirmed anti-hipster, but even then only in an excruciatingly grim way (like racist jokes). So they’re group-confirming or something? Perhaps they bind a litle cohort together with a shared idea of what’s “normal” or “valid” or “fashionable without being ridiculous or contrived”. Hmm. Well it’s certainly true that anti-hipsterism is shared and is sort of revalidated by people laughing (ie sneering) along with the joker.

Hipster attacks are supposed to be wonderfully watertight, insulating the attacker from any suspicion of hipsterism and immediately placing them in a “safe” zone. And I think there’s a double game going on here where the anti-hipster brigade likes to feel hip enough to be in fairly close proximity to their targets while retaining the right to slag them or their locations off whenever the urge arises.

All in all it’s a nasty business. It’s a sort of cultural racism for the urban middle classes (or rather, a superior, smug subset). Every time I weave through Shoreditch on my way to a gig I recall the anti-hipster put-downs. Small-minded liberals betraying their own illiberality and insecurity. It makes you warm to people who are their targets, possibly playing in a band that night ...

And in the end, apart from the fact that some people simply get a kick out of putting other people down, I reckon anti-hipsterism is about insecurity. As LCD Soundsystem’s superb Losing My Edge has it, the anti-hipster bigots might simply be afraid they’re losing their edge to “the kids ... coming up behind .... to better-looking people with better ideas and more talent”.

Ah, but then again, James Murphy is a New York hipster, so what does he know?

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