The term “hipster” is thrown around more than bras at Coachella. At the slightest glimpse of thick-rimmed glasses, a can of Pabst Blue Ribbon or Ray Bans, people are quick to call someone a hipster — only to be met with a denial that they are in fact, a hipster. This tired cycle of useless name-calling has been going on for years and needs to come to a end, but the BC government disagrees.
In anticipation of a predicted labour shortage, the government launched a $15 million ad campaign to encourage youth to join the work force. Featuring signs stating that “Hipster is Not a Real Job,” the campaign received a slew of media attention — mostly negative, pointing out how it alienated its audience and distracted from the desired message.
Nobody — no matter how tight their jeggings — will look at this poster on public transit, drop out of their fine arts program and enter the workforce, because nobody self-identifies as a hipster — and rightly so. Classifying yourself under a blanket term reduces your style, artwork or social causes to something done purely for the sake of image. In a time where culture is mass-produced and brands have commoditized uniqueness to the point of making the alternative the mainstream, a person’s individuality is at a high premium: one way of protecting this is by rejecting all-encompassing stereotypes.
At this point, the word “hipster” has become so vague and overused that anyone from the starving artist slaving over her masterpiece to the suburban tween buying out the discount rack at Urban Outfitters can be labelled one. The BC government made the mistake of implying that belonging to this theoretical subculture is a “job” — a deliberate choice — instead of a loose term draped over people straying from the supposed norm.
The term itself is completely ambiguous: hipsters only exist to those who are defining them, for the definition is pejorative in nature and remains exclusive to those creating it. As Dustin Glick explains in his Hipster Theory of Relativity, “a hipster can only exist in comparison ... it’s an adjective, like tall. If you’re 5’, someone 6’ is tall, but if you’re 6’, someone 6’6” is tall.” In other words, there is always going to be someone more alternative and pretentious than you, but you will rarely recognize yourself as being a hipster.
As a group that can’t seem to self-identify nor be concretely defined by others, the concept of a “hipster” is about as hazy as Lykke Li’s dressing room. That said, criticizing a group that theoretically does not exist is pointless, because they will never actually know that you are talking about them. If you call someone a hipster, they’re probably going to scoff and call you a bigger hipster; if you run a poster campaign telling people to stop being a hipster and get a real job, they’re probably going to take you less seriously the next time you try to appeal to them using youthful jargon.
This campaign achieved little except for devaluing British Columbia’s rich artistic diversity as a figment of superficial culture, and rousing a group of angry and confused students. Hopefully they will learn from their mistakes and actually choose an audience that exists — or recognizes their existence, anyway.
The remnants of chivalry still linger today, especially in the dating world.