The Selling of Individualism

According to dictionary.com, a hipster is “a person who is hip.” After reading Grief’s and Khaled’s pieces, it is evident that a hipster is much more than this vague definition. Interestingly enough, neither article provided a concrete definition to hipsterism as “the hipster remains in popular discourse as more of an inchoate tangle of symbols, ideas and feelings than a clear category of individuals and behaviors” (Khaled 3). June’s first pin highlights how hipsters have become a stereotype that is indefinable and her words, “is an artificial creation driven by the social, political, and economic practices of American culture and consumerism.” People love to hate hipsters when in essence hipsterism is a myth created by society.

Although hipsterdom seems to be a current phenomenon, Khaled points out that there have been similar variations of this group for years. In the 19th century, bohemians were known as struggling artists who would try to sell artwork and were known to “engage in unconventional practices such as open sexuality, anarchic politics, and voluntary poverty” (Khlaed 7). In the early 20th century, beatnik culture emerged where writers made the sex and drugs lifestyle public knowledge. At times, beatniks would also be referred to as hipsters. In the second half of the 20th century, hippies evolved as a new counterculture inspired by the Beat movement.  Modern day hipsters followed this and are divided into further subgroups; for Grief, this is comprised of college graduates with too much free time and ‘trust fund hipsters.’ Khaled calls these wealthy hipsters, “bobos,” short for bourgeoise bohemians. This upper-class subculture utilizes the ideologies and practices of common hipsters into “ready-to-wear” (Grief 3). June’s pin of ‘trust fund hipsters’ provided a good example of two people who belong to this subculture— Peaches Geldof and Cory Kennedy. Jake’s pin of the cover of The New Yorker reflects the perspective of how mainstream media interprets hipsters today. Higher classes engaging in hipsterism seems inauthentic as they are utilizing their literal capital to gain cultural capital. Neither Jake nor June had a pin that demonstrated a hyper-version of the bobo. A pin of Miley Cyrus (post-Hannah Montana, of course) would have been appropriate, as she has become more ‘hipster’ since her days on Disney by cutting off her long locks, getting some tattoos, and changing her style to more vintage. Cyrus can be seen as contradictory as she still engages with her upper-class culture in wearing and owning designer goods while her overall fashion leans more towards practices of a modern hipster.

Grief and Khaled also mention that hipsters are known for being early adopters of trends and that “pride comes from knowing, and deciding what’s cool in advance of the rest of the world” (Grief 3). Due to this, hipsters are known to constantly change styles once the general public catches up with their trends. June’s pin from NYU Memes accurately describes this statement: “Got drunk in Bobst before it was cool.” It is funny how the stereotypical hipster glasses are drawn on to further mock hipsterdom. As the Internet and manufacturing practices have drastically changed and become faster over the years, there is a blur today between who started the trend and who is simply following the trend. It questions the value of authenticity since “now everyone can look interesting because they have the ability to consume conveniently” (Khaled 13). Although Jake’s pin from Look At This Fucking Hipster (LATFH) laughs at hipsterism, it reinforces how the masses have quick access to learn how to be ‘hipster’ from online sites and blogs. Stores like Forever 21, Urban Outfitters, and American Apparel are just some of the many stores that sell clothes that are influenced by this hipster culture. Therefore, selling individualism to the masses.

Hipsters seem to be both a reality and a fantasy due to society’s constant critiques and desires of this group. It seems like there is a little hipster in all of us because there is a drive to be an individual, which is inherently American. But can we all be individuals when we purchase clothing from similar stores? The line between individualism and conformity is most certainly in question today.

Individualism seems to be a goal in men’s magazines and fashion as well. According to the reading by Frank, the Peacock Revolution is what initiated the movement in men changing their stance on clothing. June’s pin from Austin Powers exemplifies the new look of men, which shifted from “a standardized dress code” to males “suddenly favoring rapid and extreme changed; diversity instead of uniformity” (Frank 187). Frank mentions that Pierre Cardin, a menswear designer, sold his fashions during this Peacock Revolution. A pin of some of his designs or advertisements from the 1960s would have been great in order to illustrate an image from the time rather than an image replicating the styles of the time.

Men’s magazines wanted to take part in this shift in menswear and promoted the idea of men alternating their dress from bland suits to outfits that can match “the limits of their own personality and inventiveness instead of following the patterns of dress set by other men in their professional or social milieu” (Frank 189). June’s pin of Andy Warhol and Edie Sedgwick was suiting to introduce the influence of Mod fashions on menswear in the sixties. However, a pin that showed off their outfits (in color) would have been a nice visual representation to demonstrate Mod fashion and what it looked like. A black-and-white photo just does not give Mod fashion justice, as the styles were known to be over-the-top colorful and elaborate, but her celebrity reference was on point.

In the White piece, the author discussed how men’s magazines would speak to him and other men. At one point White said, “Details was offering to show me how to buy the appropriate gear so I could become just as individualistic” (White 67). Therefore, the magazine was able to sell this idea of individualism to a consumer.

This is how Dockers was able to make a ton of money in men’s fashion in the eighties. They sold “this idea of nonfashion” to appeal to men who did not care about clothes, but due to their purchases became inherently fashionable (Gladwell 5). A pin from either of the Dockers campaigns would have been a great image to depict the successfulness of the company reaching men and ultimately, how men consumed even more, although they had no interest in fashion.

Jack and June chose to focus their pins on hipsterism and the beginnings of the male fashion movement; it would have been interesting to see their choices if they had pinned images from some of the other articles. Both did a good job of finding images that represented the ideas in the readings while also adding something new to the discussion. The readings on hipsterdom and men’s fashion parallel in that the industry decided to mass-produce individualism. This is rather interesting and ironic, since selling distinctiveness causes conformity rather than creative dressing.

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