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Buffetbelly

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The Sad Science of Hipsterism


The Psychology of Indie Bands, PBR and Weird Facial Hair
Published on September 8, 2010
Behold the hipster, the stylishly disaffected breed of twentysomethings whose fog of twee whimsy envelopes Williamsburg and the East Village. Most who encounter the hipster in its natural habitat respond in one of two ways: derision or ridicule.
But science does not cast judgment. Its goal is to explore and explain dispassionately, whether the object of study be the noble eagle or the lowly nematode. So what does science have to tell us about this fascinatingly misunderstood breed, the indigenous North American hipster?
Surprisingly much.
In a paper in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Consumer Research entitled "Demythologizing Consumption Practices: How Consumers Protect Their Field-
Dependent Identity Investments from Devaluing Marketplace Myths," authors Zeynep Arsel and Craig L. Thompson delve deep into the phenomenon of hipsterism, and in particular its most abiding mystery: if everyone hates hipsters, why would anyone want to be one?











The long and short of it is that they don't.









In general, psychologists who study consumers understand that people are largely motivated to spend money not just on things that they materially need, but that bolster their sense of identity. They purchase not just goods and services, but mythologies. Imagining themselves as rugged, rebellious patriots, they buy a Harley-Davidson. Imagining themselves as respected and well-heeled, they buy a Lexus.
Hipsters, though, follow a different paradigm. Their problem is that their purchases tend to place them within a category whose mythology they despise. That's right: Nobody likes hipsters, not even hipsters.
As Arsel and Thompson put it, the beats of the '50s and hippies of the '60s and '70s, both of which had an admirable authenticity about them even if you didn't care for the particulars, eventually gave rise to "the millennial hipster," which "came to be represented as an uberconsumer of trends and as a new, and rather gullible, target market that consumes cool rather than creating it." As examples of the dorkification they cite online parodies of the iconic Mac v. PC ads and this viral YouTube video.
The upshot being that any people who legitimately enjoy all the trappings on hipsterhood -- the authors mention Pabst Blue Ribbon, Puma, and the trucker hat -- must psychologically distance themselves from the demographic group of which they are so clearly a part. And so their subconscious brains have to work double time so that they can convince themselves that the things they buy do not reflect on their true character.
Arsel and Thompson interviewed hipsters and asked them how they dealt with the problem of being identified as such. The answer, they found, was to "demythologize" the hipster experience, that is, to psychologically reclassify their own behavior as being separate from the aggregate activity that the rest of the world lumps together as "hipster." They interviewed one consumer, identified as Scarlet, who told them:
I'm not gonna lie, I shop at Urban [Outfitters] sometimes, only when it's on sale of course... I like doing a lot of the things that are the hipster thing to do, but I do them because I like to do them, not because they're the cool thing to do. And because I am immersed in the social scene where there are a lot of hipsters, people mistake me for being one of them."
The deeper irony is that those who try to assert their independence from the commodification of identity wind up tapping into another marketplace myth, what the authors call "the myth of consumer sovereignty." This is the idea that by assiduously selecting from all the identity markers available for purchase, a person can assemble one that authentically reflects their true self independent of the marketplace. Some of the hipsters that Arsel and Thompson talked to are well aware of the futility of this project. Said one, identified as "Tom":
I don't necessarily know every single weird obscure band. I don't necessarily want to. But I mean, yeah, who do I hang out with? I hang out with like a bunch of tattooed indie dorks. So, yeah, I guess I am but I wouldn't self-identify, I think. I'd listen to stuff that's outside the mainstream or it's like I dress weird compared to the majority of the population. I just try not to think about it too much. The minute you start identifying with a subculture... you kind of lose individuality, surrender part of your identity, and we don't wanna do that.
This, then, is the essence of being a hipster. Pretending you aren't one.
UPDATE: For more PT-inflected insight into hipsterology, check out news editor Andrea Bartz's side project, Stuff Hipsters Hate, a blog that is now also out in book form.
UPDATE 2: Some commenters have complained that the demographic group in question has not been defined with sufficient rigor. The following video should help.
http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/extreme-fear/201009/the-sad-science-hipsterism
 
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theronin23

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The thing this article and the writers don't realize, and they kind of got played with this, true hipsters NEVER identify as such. It's not that they don't WANT to be, but it's like the guy said and they misinterpreted "The minute you start identifying with a subculture... you kind of lose individuality, surrender part of your identity, and we don't wanna do that." SO, as long as they don't self-identify, instead of owning what they are and running with it, it just becomes another label society has placed on them, maaaaan.
 

BigChaz

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I belong to a very exclusive minority: me.

It's the best club, in my opinion.
 

Jay West Coast

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I know this is the BHM forum, but am I the only one who is at least *slightly* bummed there aren't more pics of women in this thread?
 

BigChaz

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I know this is the BHM forum, but am I the only one who is at least *slightly* bummed there aren't more pics of women in this thread?
You could pretty much say that for every place in the world though to be quite honest with ya.
 

BigChaz

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Yay! Can we call the club 'Esther and Chaz against the world'?
Why is your name first? It's my club! :mad:

Well, you are pretty awesome and hot so you can be first. I am chill like that. The only thing I request is that we change "world" to "universe".
 

Esther

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Why is your name first? It's my club! :mad:

Well, you are pretty awesome and hot so you can be first. I am chill like that. The only thing I request is that we change "world" to "universe".
'Chaz and Esther against the universe'

It has a good ring to it :)
 

sfpaul

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I'm not a hipster. But there are certain coffee shops and vegan bistros I won't enter here in RI because I'm afraid to be surrounded by so many hipsters that one of them tries to talk to me about poetry.
 

powderfinger

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I saw Panda Bear last weekend and there was a bunch of chunksters, both of the male and female genre, oh so many cute chubby hipster girls with their half sleeves and sun dresses, and more portley dudes with beards and Parliament lights dangling from their PBR soaked lips than you could shake a stick at. The fat hipster is on the rise, and I can't say I don't like it.
 

thirtiesgirl

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I saw Panda Bear last weekend and there was a bunch of chunksters, both of the male and female genre, oh so many cute chubby hipster girls with their half sleeves and sun dresses, and more portley dudes with beards and Parliament lights dangling from their PBR soaked lips than you could shake a stick at. The fat hipster is on the rise, and I can't say I don't like it.
Gah. Wish I coulda been there. ...Wish the hipster guys wouldn't smoke so damn much, too, but I'm still dumb enough to see it as a 'relationship project' type thing...most of the time. Being an older biddy now, I think I've mostly gotten over it.
 

Bearsy

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So I follow this on my Tumblr(for outfit ideas) and like two days ago I'm scrolling through my news feed, passing Harry Potter and gifs and memes and rants and all of a sudden I'm met by a fat guy with his dick out.
Totes not what I signed up for, haha.
And cause I'm a whore, my Tumblr is right here.
 

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