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The evolution of The New York Times' favorite buzzword: 'Hipsters'
The term is "a kind of shorthand for all things young or urban or tight-jeaned or ironic or tattooed or … whatever."
So hip.
So hip. Adam Berry/Getty Images
T

he New York Times is back in Brooklyn again, awkwardly documenting a trend that just won't go away: Young people being young people. This latest entry is a humor/trend-spotting piece for the Grey Lady's Style section called "How I Became a Hipster" (formerly "Will.i.amsburg," though the title was changed overnight).

You'll remember that in 2010, standards editor Philipp Corbett asked the staff to cool it with everyone's favorite buzzword — "hipster" — which the paper had sprinkled throughout its pages more than 250 times the year prior.

Indeed, it often seems as if the Times is purposefully trolling Brooklyn hipsters, says Ben Yakas at Gothamist. Consider it the paper's "low-hanging fruit."

Let's take a brief stroll down memory lane, shall we?

"Inching Its Way Back Onto the Lip"
Published: Jan. 7, 2009
What is it? An observation that men sometimes grow facial hair
Key excerpt:

The beard, that onetime symbol of rural cluelessness, has become a badge of urban hipsterdom. This has grown to include a spectrum of variations, from a week's slackerly growth to a handsome Czar Nicholas II beard to a full-blown Rutherford B. Hayes thicket.

"Even Hipsters Seek Soul Mates"
Published: Dec. 4, 2009
What is it? A poem
Key excerpt:

You: Student Hair Stylist,
Me: Need a Haircut

You: a blonde hairstyling student
in need of a head of man hair to practice on.
Me: the guy with a moustache and glasses,
clearly in need of a haircut.

You approached me at the hipster burrito truck
and said you needed a hair model.
I said I couldn't commit to showing up
that early in the morning.

"It's Hip to Be a Young, Creative Urbanite!"
Published: March 17, 2010
What is it? A meta-analysis of the term itself
Key excerpt:

Many would like to see the hipster — the word, to say nothing of the person behind it — go the way of the dodo. Only problem: Those who would retire the word can't help using it. [Ed. note: LOL]

This point was made Tuesday night by Paolo Mastrangelo on NYC The Tumblr, who noted that even some prominent anti-hipster voices, including one writer at Gawker, resort to using the term as a kind of shorthand for all things young or urban or tight-jeaned or ironic or tattooed or … whatever. It just works.

"The Hipster in the Mirror"
Published: Nov. 12, 2010
What is it? A navel-gazing think piece by the co-founder of a hipster publication
Key excerpt:

A year ago, my colleagues and I started to investigate the contemporary hipster. What was the "hipster," and what did it mean to be one? It was a puzzle. No one, it seemed, thought of himself as a hipster, and when someone called you a hipster, the term was an insult. Paradoxically, those who used the insult were themselves often said to resemble hipsters — they wore the skinny jeans and big eyeglasses, gathered in tiny enclaves in big cities, and looked down on mainstream fashions and "tourists." Most puzzling was how rattled sensible, down-to-earth people became when we posed hipster-themed questions. When we announced a public debate on hipsterism, I received e-mail messages both furious and plaintive. Normally inquisitive people protested that there could be no answer and no definition. Maybe hipsters didn't exist! The responses were more impassioned than those we'd had in our discussions on health care, young conservatives, and feminism. And perfectly blameless individuals began flagellating themselves: "Am I a hipster?" 

"Generation Sell"
Published: Nov. 12, 2011
What is it? A story about how young people can sell goods or services to make money
Key excerpt:

Ever since I moved three years ago to Portland, Ore., that hotbed of all things hipster, I've been trying to get a handle on today's youth culture. The style is easy enough to describe — the skinny pants, the retro hats, the wall-to-wall tattoos. But style is superficial. The question is, what's underneath? What idea of life? What stance with respect to the world?

"Another Start-Up, but This One Is a Church"
Published: Nov. 24, 2011
What is it? A story about a new church in San Francisco with a congregation of mostly 20-somethings
Key excerpt:

Aaron Monts, pastor of Ikon Christian Community in San Francisco, stood before his flock on a recent Sunday, resplendent in his version of churchly garb: a tan hoodie, plaid shirt and sneakers.

Mr. Monts spoke about the Occupy Wall Street protests, making a comparison to the Gospel of Luke and Jesus's devotion to the poor. "If we lived out what Jesus preached," he said, "there would be a revolution."

Heads in the congregation nodded: young men in untucked T-shirts and jeans and insouciant 20-something women, a crowd that otherwise might be seen pedaling fixies in the Mission or sipping brewed-by-the-cup coffee at a trendy cafe.

At Ikon, hipsters — the city's latest bohemian generation — have found religion.

"All Roads Lead to Wythe Avenue"
Published: July 18, 2012
What is it? A Venn diagram comparing Manhattan and Brooklyn, which maybe aren't so different after all
Key excerpt:

By 9 p.m., the action had moved downstairs to the Reynard, the hotel's handsome restaurant with Art Deco-style lamps and a splintered wood-beamed ceiling. The restaurant was booked, so Brooklyn scenesters, like members of the indie band TV on the Radio, may have to eat frisée salad with house bacon and poached egg at a communal table with a group of Japanese tourists dining on arctic char and spring vegetables. ...

Of course, there were still the usual hipster staples (yes, covered in tattoos and with beard), along with the uppity professionals and the young families with one child in a stroller and another in the oven. But now they share air with an influx of European and Asian tourists in search of the "trés Brooklyn" experience (a phrase so twee that it is now routinely mocked), along with a swell of Manhattanites drawn to the neighborhood’s newfound cachet.

"Montauk's Hipster Fatigue"
Published: Aug. 3, 2012
What is it? A disputable portrait of class warfare 
Key excerpt:

At its most superficial level, the fedora featured in the signs represents your basic hipster. And to some extent, it's just part of what is shaping up as a countrywide anti-hipster movement. Something about artisanal tattoos; a bespoke, frontiersman beard; and, yes, a fedora perched atop the head just so is sending some people around the bend.

In these parts, the image of the hipster is also a stand-in for a more deeply seated suspicion that the whole look provides cover for a more privileged crowd that is intent upon importing to your neighborhood higher real estate, food and drink prices — and a new attitude that says, "I'm richer than you, I'm hipper than you and, gosh darn it, some things are going to change around here."

"How to Live Without Irony"
Published: Nov. 17, 2012
What is it? We have no idea
Key excerpt:

If irony is the ethos of our age — and it is — then the hipster is our archetype of ironic living.

The hipster haunts every city street and university town. Manifesting a nostalgia for times he never lived himself, this contemporary urban harlequin appropriates outmoded fashions (the mustache, the tiny shorts), mechanisms (fixed-gear bicycles, portable record players) and hobbies (home brewing, playing trombone). He harvests awkwardness and self-consciousness. Before he makes any choice, he has proceeded through several stages of self-scrutiny. The hipster is a scholar of social forms, a student of cool. He studies relentlessly, foraging for what has yet to be found by the mainstream. He is a walking citation; his clothes refer to much more than themselves. He tries to negotiate the age-old problem of individuality, not with concepts, but with material things.

"Creating Hipsturbia"
Published: Feb. 15, 2013
What is it? A story about hipsters making tiny, artisanal humans together and moving out of the city
Key excerpt:

As formerly boho environs of Brooklyn become unattainable due to creeping Manhattanization and seven-figure real estate prices, creative professionals of child-rearing age — the type of alt-culture-allegiant urbanites who once considered themselves too cool to ever leave the city — are starting to ponder the unthinkable: a move to the suburbs.

But only if they can bring a piece of the borough with them.

To ward off the nagging sense that a move to the suburbs is tantamount to becoming like one's parents, this urban-zen generation is seeking out palatable alternatives — culturally attuned, sprawl-free New York river towns like Hastings, Dobbs Ferry, Irvington and Tarrytown — and importing the trappings of a twee lifestyle like bearded mixologists, locavore restaurants and antler-laden boutiques."

"How I Became a Hipster"
Published: May 2, 2013
What is it? A parody of the movie Avatar, only with hipster stereotypes instead of blue aliens
Key excerpt:

To get the true Brooklyn experience, it became clear I needed to do some of my visits while riding young Brooklynites' vehicle of choice, a fixed-gear bicycle. [Ed. note: Oh no! Be careful.] A grizzled older gentleman rented one to me at Zukkies bike shop in Bushwick, but not before asking me four times if I'd ever ridden one, and telling me "I couldn't do it." On a "fix," you see, you can't coast or backpedal, you're always moving forward: the shark of the bike world.

Chris Gayomali is the science and technology editor for TheWeek.com. Sometimes he writes about other stuff. His work has also appeared in TIME, Men's JournalEsquire, and The Atlantic.

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