Hipsterfest 2012

HipsterAs we near the festival in Chicago’s Lincoln Park, the humid air is heavy with music and the streets become gooey with flannel. The gate is being manned by two men in black jean shorts, and we are relieved that there is no cover charge. We enter and are soon swimming through a sea of too-tight T-shirts and trucker caps. Our goal today is a secondhand book store located somewhere on this street, Collin is looking for a French cookbook and I am searching for a book of Charles Bukowski’s stories. We can’t hear anything as we move along to avoid being gobbled up by the festival.

It’s impossible to hear anything other than the band trying desperately to be cool and uncool at the exact same moment. Still, we look at each other just as everything dawns on us at the same second.

It’s always interesting when you realize something at the exact same moment as someone else. Dual recognition often occurs in movies to convey the idea that two characters are so intelligent, savvy or in tune with each other that one of them can’t possibly win the thought before the other one. As cool, smooth or even unnatural as these moments seem in movies, they are nonetheless intriguing when they occur in real life. Because at the moment when Collin and I are walking into the bookstore we have searched for, we both simultaneously and separately realize that we are in the middle of a hipster festival.

When I left the U.S. in 2004, I had no idea what a hipster was. This is made more surprising by the fact that I was a bartender on a college campus in Pittsburgh, and therefore completely surrounded by hipsters. I have strong recollections of bar customers in their 20s dressed in crappy vintage clothing, wearing nerd glasses and $3 hats with foam brims and mesh backs. There were T-shirts with phrases like: Tables by Herman, Jesus Loves You and Oakland, PA. Pabst Blue Ribbon was beginning its rise to immense popularity within the hipster community. Evidently, painful diarrhea is too cool for mainstream too.

There were bushy hairdos and sideburns and Converse All Stars. I recall conversations with hipsters to be fairly innocuous and yet glazed with pseudo-intellectualism and the misplaced arrogance that comes with knowing a huge secret that nobody cares about.

In the last eight years, hipsters have not only become a highly recognizable, referenced and mainstream subculture, they have also become one of the most loathed subcultures. I find this odd since they are a harmless group of people who only share a questionable fashion sense and an irrational love of Che Guevara’s face. What is odder is that I have been caught up in this dislike of hipsters. I grumble at the sight of a Pabst Blue Ribbon can and instantly attach judgment to a tight flannel shirts or ridiculous glasses.

We step into the bookstore, away from 10,000 people donning similar shirts and superior attitudes, and I attempt to stow my irrational judgment of people who have never wronged me. In terms of achieving this goal, this is the wrong place to be. The bookstore is swarming with straw fedoras and knee socks. Collin is asked to hand over his messenger bag and the clerk puts it among forty similar ones. We walk into the back of the fiction section, towards the Bs. We are stopped in our tracks by a small mesh (flock) of hipsters who are all flipping through Bukowski books murmuring words like: brilliant, ingenious and laureate.

As we retrieve Collin’s bag from its fifty or so twins, I grumble, “Damn hipsters hogging all the books I want.” The clerk hands Collin two or three other bags before finally giving him the correct one.

We step outside and look at each other. It’s always interesting when you realize something at the exact same moment as someone else…

  1. #1 by Andy on August 20, 2012 - 4:55 pm

    Oh, the irony of being a hipster before it was cool.

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