Speed Reads


Why all hipsters dress the same, according to math

Jonathan Touboul, a mathematician at the College de France, decided the best way to prove why hipsters all share the same love for things like PBR and thick-rimmed glasses would be with cold, hard, numbers. His as-yet unpublished paper, "The hipster effect: When anticonformists all look the same," looks at the "non-concerted emergent collective phenomenon of looking alike trying to look different."

In Touboul's mathematical model, Bloomberg observes, he programmed the "hipsters" in his equation to do the opposite of whatever the mainstream chose to do:

Touboul observed that if he set the model up so that the anticonformist actors were immediately aware of the decisions of the mainstream, their choices didn't follow any particular pattern. But if he built in a lag to how long it took the anticonformists to find out what everyone else was doing — if, as in the real world — they only knew what people in their immediate environment were doing at first, and only gradually learned what the rest of the world was doing, then their choices started synchronizing. In other words, they started doing the same thing as the other anticonformist hipsters. [Bloomberg]

But before you hipsters go spurning math for finding you out, know that Touboul admits his study isn't the be-all, end-all explanation for your propensity for fair-trade coffee and fixed-gear bicycles. "It's not a deep study of the sociology of hipsters," he said. Phew.