Keeping up with the right music, clothes, attitude and appetite for `the scene’ is a full-time job Feeling pressured? You might be a victim of `hipster burnout,’ and you’re not alone.
Teen 1: “Oh, here comes that cannonball guy. He’s cool.”
Teen 2: “Are you being sarcastic, dude?”
Teen 1: “I don’t even know anymore.”
Oh, the trials and tribulations of being a hipster in the Big Smoke.
Last weekend brought a flurry of too-cool-for-school events that would leave any ironic t-shirt or one-shouldered Flashdance top twisting in the wind. Depending on your level of hip, you were aware of or — even better — “on the list” at one or more be-seen events:
Thursday night featured the official VIP/media launch party of Marc Thuet’s new restaurant on Queen St. After that, you likely hit the Vice party at Spin Gallery (as they put it: “free beer + art + hip hop”).
Friday had young author/filmmaker/s–t disturber Harmony Korrine of Kids fame in town to speak at Ryerson (the long lineup left many cool film kids out of luck). There were also a couple of gallery openings: the jumping Boys Town jam at X-space. Meanwhile, graphic novel fans flocked to catch the Robert Rodriguez/Frank Miller noir opus Sin City.
Saturday saw U.K. next-big-things Bloc Party rocking the Opera House. There were also two magazine launches — City Bites, a foodie (promising never to use the word “foodie”) mag and Entrepot, for the smarty-baggy-pants set. After a long wait, it was finally possible to stop in and have a drink at Czehoski (Think globally. Drink locally) on Queen. And if a hot ticket defines hip, then some of you were off to see the witches in Wicked.
And these were just the events that this loser newspaper reporter heard of.
It was so much, how could anyone find time to update their LiveJournals, finish reading the new Sheila Heti novel, or get tickets for the just announced M.I.A./LCD Soundsystem show in May? They had to stay up to the wee hours just to kill a few more soldiers in the new Splinter Cell or druggies in Narc. And who had time to wait for the perfect iPod Shuffle moment to magically appear?
If this is a typical weekend for you, you may be susceptible to a condition we’ve decided to term “hipster burnout.” Sure, you have all the latest indie-rock CDs, the right art books, the latest ironic fashions, you make sure you are seen with the right people in the right clubs at the right times. But of course, it’s impossible to keep on top of every trend. At some point you will feel the need to unplug — if only for a while — especially once the gloriously busy days of summer are upon us.
The problem is, the minute you stop paying attention to what’s cool, you aren’t.
Still wondering what defines the elusive hipster? The Hipster Handbook calls hipsters people who possess “tastes, social attitudes and opinions, deemed cool, by the cool.” And according to the author, he was coming down with a case of HB when he started his satirical guide to everything cool.
“One of the main inspirations for it was that I was getting sick of it all. So (the book) was sort of a satire on people who do spend way too much time finding out what the new hip band is, the hot haircut, that sort of thing,” says Robert Lanham, who wrote the Handbook and its sequel, Food Court Druids, Cherohonkies, and Other Creatures Unique to the Republic. Both sarcastically classify types of hipsters, losers and wannabes.
Lanham thinks hipsters are in a sort of crisis now, which is partly their own fault — and partly the media’s.
“I think we really are at a point now where hipsters have gotten a little bit older, a little bit smarter and they’ve entered the mainstream and corporate America,” he says.
“So they (the media) know about the trends as they’re going on. … It used to be a trend would hit the underground, it would take six months for the mainstream to figure out what was going on, and then the trend would become passé. I think the shelf life on trends is a lot shorter.”
Which makes the likelihood of burnout all the more real.
But dudes and dudettes, we hear what you’re saying. You’re not a hipster. You just look, act and dress like one. Hunting this strange beast on the muddy streets of Hogtown is hard, because any true hipster will recoil at the idea of you casting such aspersions on their cultivated brand of cool.
The first rule of hipsterdom is there is no hipsterdom. If you’re trying too hard, you’ve failed.
“Therein lies the exact irony. At one point it would be very interesting to be defined as a hipster, whether it’d be in the days of Lenny Bruce or Jack Kerouac, or Andy Warhol, where they were clearly seen as hip,” says Jeff Stober, owner of the Drake Hotel (a.k.a. hipster central), and someone who describes himself as a “student” of this kind of stuff.
“It’s not hip to be described as hip.”
We looked high and low, and heard from many people who admitted to forms of burnout, but few would go on the record about it. One cool cat in town admitted to suffering from HB. He’s in a band — and yes, his records have been favourably reviewed by online tastemaker Pitchforkme-dia.com — and he admits he used to be more interested in following the cutting edge of cool, though now he’s lost interest. But considering the world he travels in, he’d still rather go nameless, and not take ribbing from other hip folk in town.
“I used to care more about following what’s going on, but not anymore. It takes a hell of a lot to impress me, and make me care. … It better be really, really good, whatever you’re offering,” says the recovering hipster.
“I think that every age group has an intense dislike for the ones following it and [looking back] you wonder, `Was I like that? Was I that cocky or self-assured and insistent that whatever I was into was the best thing and everything else was stupid or terrible or antiquated or whatever?’ And the answer is yes.”
So why bother always being on top of pop culture? Why bother always buying the newest music when the older stuff still sounds fine? Why should it matter what bar you order your $12 crap-tini at?
In short, why should you feel like less of a person for never having watched an episode of The Office (the British version, of course. As if you had to ask)?
This is what happens when books, movies, music, etc. stop being mere entertainment — something to pass the time — and become the tools we use to define ourselves.
Keeping hip is “a dance between insiders and outsiders. It’s sort of a form of rebellion, and everyone wants autonomy,” says Stober. “It constantly moves culture forward. What’s in the underground eventually bubbles up to the mainstream and changes it. That initial form of rebellion does become accepted, and that’s a good thing, since it fuels change, and society moves along with it.”
The cycle of hipness — the cool thing appears, word of mouth spreads, the media raves, the backlash begins, the hipsters move on — does get tiresome. Hence the burnout. That’s why so many hipsters are jaded. They act like they’ve seen it all (and though many have, it’s the act that’s important).
The ones who keep up with cool because they truly like it have a tendency to go pro — professional that is, and try and find jobs to tie to their passions. But that path can accelerate you toward HB.
“I’m of two minds about it,” says Shawn Phelan, who heads up Canadian marketing for trend-setting fashion label and magazine Vice, on hipness. “I mean I work around it all the time, so I’m immersed in it, but it can get pretty tedious trying to keep up. Besides, some of the trends that the media put forward just baffle me. Like girls putting fur on their boots. I don’t get that.”
He says Vice magazine promotes images of “unconscious cool,” a philosophy best shown in its popular “Dos” and “Don’ts” section, where street fashions are bitingly critiqued.
“A lot of the `dos’ are people just being themselves that we think look awesome, while the `don’ts’ are often people just trying really hard to be fashionable and looking foolish.”
Phelan says now that he’s in his 30s, he no longer cares too much. He says he doesn’t really follow fashion; he just maintains a uniform of sorts (cool jeans, a blazer, with footwear that changes for the season).
“As for music, I can do anything I want. If I want to go see Styx at Casino Rama, I will,” he says. “And I won’t enjoy it ironically. I’ll just enjoy it.”
Age definitely has something to do with the burnout — which can also be considered the opt-out. It’s harder to get excited about something that feels like a retread of an older trend. (Chuck Taylor high-tops, anyone?)
Even with all the talk of “30 being the new 20” (a suspect maxim spread by 30somethings), age has a way of making hip harder to get. Burnout comes naturally, once you start to feel more grown up. Besides, things like houses and — egads — children are the quickest ways to make sure you never have to worry about being hip. You won’t have any time for it, anyway.
But if you are still caught in the hipster mill and need a breather, there is a cure. It’s time to get away from it all. For urban folks in the summer, it usually means using all your schmoozing powers to snag a cottage invite. It’s an annual pilgrimage of sun, swimming and not much else. Maybe listening to the radio. Or finding “the bar” in a one-horse town and enjoying the AC/DC or The Eagles blasting over the jukebox.
Seek out the uncoolest thing you can find and enjoy it.
“Just make sure you’re not doing it ironically,” advises Lanham.
Hipster cred be damned. Autor: Raju Mudhar