The negative chatter directed toward hipsters has reached a fever pitch. Since I don't live in Brooklyn, where most of the hipsters and their haters seem to reside, I've observed this dynamic from a safe distance. But some recent anti-hipster screeds that have appeared in high-profile publications like U.S. News and World Report and The New York Times, both directed at the hipster diet, have dragged me into the fray. Now it's personal. I might not be a hipster, but I believe in their right to eat whatever they want.
With commentators getting their panties in a bunch over brunch, a defense of hipsters and their favorite meal
The U.S. News piece argued that hipsters are hypocrites because they eat bacon and drink craft beer, which contradicts their predilection for things like locally grown kale. A New York Times op-ed went after brunch, because hipsters like to eat it, and hipsters are annoying, especially when they eat brunch. (Next: Oxygen is bad because hipsters breathe it).
Before I get into the details of these curious arguments, let's back up for a moment and get clear on what "hipster" means. A simple definition provided by Google reads: a person who follows the latest trends and fashions, especially those regarded as being outside the cultural mainstream. As I perused the many other stabs at defining hipsters, I noticed that several made them out to be the opposite of some aspect of Britney Spears, such as this excerpt from the book HipsterMattic by Matt Granfield, which also addresses the matter of what these people eat.
"While mainstream society of the 2000s (decade) had been busying itself with reality television, dance music, and locating the whereabouts of Britney Spears's underpants, an uprising was quietly and conscientiously taking place behind the scenes. Long-forgotten styles of clothing, beer, cigarettes and music were becoming popular again. Retro was cool, the environment was precious and old was the new 'new.' Kids wanted to wear Sylvia Plath's cardigans and Buddy Holly's glasses — they reveled in the irony of making something so nerdy so cool. They wanted to live sustainably and eat organic, gluten-free grains. ... The way to be cool wasn't to look like a television star: It was to look like as though you'd never seen television."
The U.S. News piece, by Amir Khan, titled "The Hypocritical Diet of the Hipster," is based on the assumption that hipsters eat a lot of bacon and drink a lot of craft beer, which negates the healthy hipster habits of riding their fixed-gear bikes around and eating things like Brussels sprouts. "In addition to bacon-wrapped-everything, craft beer — which tends to be higher in calories than mainstream ales and lagers — is a mainstay in a hipster diet," Khan explains.
The New York Times piece, by David Shaftel, is called "Brunch Is for Jerks." It avoids explicit use of the H-word, but it's clear who Shaftel has in mind as he uses hipster code words like "West Village" and "proudly bedraggled" to describe the annoying brunch eaters as they wallow in their weekend gustatory leisure. And he quotes author Shawn Micallef, whose book, The Trouble With Brunch, doesn't shy away from calling out hipsters by name as part of the problem with brunch. Micallef describes, for example, "... the super hipster brunch, where you want to go to the place that has the smallest number of tables and everything is artisan and local and perhaps vegan."
Shaftel, for his part, laments:
While Sundays were traditionally reserved for family, we now have crowds of unfettered young(ish) people with no limitations on their pursuit of weekend leisure ... Here, and many other places, friends have become family and brunch the family gathering.
The friends aren't the problem, of course. Brunch is. Seasoned with the self-satisfaction of knowing the latest and hippest brunch boîte and the pleasure of ordering eggs Benedict made with jamón Ibérico and duck eggs, something so fundamentally conformist can seem like the height of urban sophistication.
The people who make fun of hipsters, ironically, are the new hipsters, a point that a New York Times reader named Barbara, commenting on Shaftel's piece, summed up nicely. "Disliking something because hipsters like it is quintessential hipsterism. Genuinely liking or disliking things for their own sake is the cure. I happen to love breakfast, and so naturally I love brunch."
I happen to think eggs Benedict made with jamón Ibérico and duck eggs sounds pretty damn good. Like bacon and eggs, but better.
It seems that the war on hipsters has turned into a war on foodies. They're both sloppy, ill-conceived wars, full of contradictions and built on suspect assumptions.
While Khan claims that hipsters are bonkers for bacon, others, like Micallef, suggest that hipsters are vegan. This is the kind of problem you have when you take aim at a large, diverse, and ill-defined segment of the population and try to make sweeping generalizations about it.
It's also worth noting that Khan's argument that bacon consumption makes hipsters hypocritical is based on the outdated idea that saturated fats are at the root of heart disease, the evidence for which is crumbling as we speak.
Khan's assertion that hipsters are hypocritical because they drink craft beer flies in the face of multiple claims that the hipster beer of choice is Pabst Blue Ribbon, and others that are gluten-free. Meanwhile, Khan's Twitter profile mentions that he's a "homebrewer." Wait, what?
As for Shaftel's assertion that annoying brunch eaters irredeemably taint the practice, then what, pray tell, are we supposed to do with Mom on Mother's Day? "Sorry, Mom, you get oatmeal because I can't deal with hipsters."
To the people hating on the gentle hipsters, my question to you is: What have they done to you? How is their diet, or other aspects of their lifestyle, negatively affecting your quality of life? Is it annoying that they seem to be having more fun than you? Are you some kind of white knight stepping in to defend Britney?
It's time to leave the hipsters, whoever they are, alone. There are many more pressing matters with which to concern ourselves than what other people are eating, and at what time of day, and how internally consistent that diet is. I won't blame you for fretting about global warming, or the situation in the Middle East. But if you're worried about hipsters, then maybe you're the one with too much time on your hands.
It's hardly different than going to Europe and sniveling at the Europeans in their damn outdoor cafes. Or worse, it's like getting on someone's case for whom they choose to love. If it's not infringing on your life, it's none of your business what they do. Go away. Get a life.
The only hopeful takeaway I can see from this recent lunacy is that perhaps, finally, the anti-hipster trend has jumped the shark.
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