What is a Hipster?

I was asked “What is a hipster?”

Here’s an answer I found:

Hipsters are a subculture of men and women typically in their 20’s and 30’s that value independent thinking, counter-culture, progressive politics, an appreciation of art and indie-rock, creativity, intelligence, and witty banter. The greatest concentrations of hipsters can be found living in the Williamsburg, Wicker Park, and Mission District neighborhoods of major cosmopolitan centers such as New York, Chicago, and San Francisco respectively. Although “hipsterism” is really a state of mind,it is also often intertwined with distinct fashion sensibilities. Hipsters reject the culturally-ignorant attitudes of mainstream consumers, and are often be seen wearing vintage and thrift store inspired fashions, tight-fitting jeans, old-school sneakers, and sometimes thick rimmed glasses. Both hipster men and women sport similar androgynous hair styles that include combinations of messy shag cuts and asymmetric side-swept bangs.

Here are some famous hipsters:

Tansfromers’ Shia LeBaouf

Johnny Depp

Zooey Deschanel

Kristen Stewart

Joseph Gordon-Levitt


Want to know how you, too, can be a hipster? Here’s a list:

Part One: Hipster Fashion

  1. Dress like a hipster. Fashion is just as important as your taste in music. While shopping at vintage stores remains a staple for many hipsters, this is not a given, nor does it need to be a part of the hipster wardrobe.

    • Know the labels. Several labels cater to the hipster scene; the more well-known include American Apparel, H&M, ASOS, CobraSnake, and Urban Outfitters.
    • Avoid buying labeled gear from stores run by the label itself (so very not nice consumerism). Instead, look for independent retailers because supporting obscure retailers is “totally deck”. For example, buy from aBasicAttire.bigcartel.com or the local mixed fashion store near you.
  2. Wear skinny jeans. The classic “skinny jeans” make the hipster look, both for males and females. Hipster men tend to be as skinny as the women. [1]

    • Basically, the tighter, the better.
    • Note that guy hipsters actually probably wear skinny jeans more than the girls (girls prefer leggings/jeggings/treggings).
    • Alternatively, for women, high-wasted pants (a.k.a. “mom jeans”) may also be worn.
  3. Wear glasses. Hipsters love ironic eyewear such as shuttershades, oversized plastic framed glasses, Buddy Holly glasses, nerd glasses, and — for those who can afford it — authentic Ray Ban Wayfarers of all the colors of the rainbow.

    • Some hipsters wear eyeglasses even though they have 20/20 vision! In this case, pop out the lenses or make sure they’re just regular glass.
  4. Wear ironic tops. For tops, the following are good picks: ironic tees, plaid shirts, cowboy shirts, and anything in gingham, plaid, checkers, paisley, vintage florals.
    • Many hipsters sport tops with appliques, images of animals or forests, other images, characters from children’s TV, and ironic sayings or even book covers.
    • Fitted hoodies are perfect, too.
  5. Dress vintage. Dresses are good for women, preferably vintage floral or lace. Granny’s closet is definitely a good source; however, you should know how to sew and restyle vintage clothing to fit you.

  6. Find suitable footwear. Hipster shoes include cowboy boots, Converse, and a range of flats.

    • Converses are no longer universal. They look great and you can wear them pretty much anywhere, but since everyone wears them, Doc Martens or any other vintage shoes are better.
    • If it’s trainers you’re after, see Classic Reeboks.
    • For girls, heels aren’t the most popular but feel free to wear them. Cute sandals, Keds, boots, and granny boots are not only more practical but also show how little effort you’ve put forth (even if it took you ages to find the perfect pair).
  7. Accessorize. There is a wide range of accessories, including large flower headbands, neon nail polish, pins, bright belts, bird necklaces, patterned and colorful leggings, etc.

    • Don’t forget your plugs, piercings, and random scars supposedly acquired through woodwork and other carpenter-like endeavors.
    • Appropriately ironic accessories are mandatory, such as things kids would take to school, like an animal image on a lunchbox.
    • Essentials include a courier bag (not a backpack), preferably something from Freitag, that can fit your MacBook, iPhone, and vinyl LPs (never CDs) of your current favorite band.
  8. Mismatch and layer. Layering or wearing things that don’t match together is very hipster. It’s that “I can’t be bothered” look that actually takes some planning until you get into the habit.

    • Remember that a hipster’s outfit never needs adjustment should you decide to go to the beach — keep all of your urban accompaniments for the sand and surf to ironically stick out of your element.


  1. Differentiate between essential and non-essential hygiene. There are a lot of impolite comments about hipsters not taking showers. The thing is, hipsters know the difference between essential hygiene and hitting a salon just to be turned into a carbon-copy; they’re also well aware of how to pull off the greasy or just-out-of-bed look with unaware effort.

    • While hipsters do shower regularly and clean their teeth, they’re just less interested in forking out money for hairstyling, spa sessions, pedicures/manicures, and large make-up kits because these are signs of conforming to cultural ideals of beauty.
    • Arguably, hipsters aren’t so interested in “making the most of their assets” because they see their entire self as an asset; from a self-esteem point of view, this is actually a rather healthy outlook.
  2. Keep your hair casual. Messy hairdos are just fine. The “bed look”, long unkempt hair, and hair that resists any attempts to stay flat without chemicals are acceptable looks.

    • Blurring gender lines with haircuts and styles is part of the hipster culture.
    • Greasy hair is considered okay by some in the hipster culture. That doesn’t mean you need to concur and a squeaky clean but uncombed do might be more your thing.
    • Some hipsters like to dye their hair in an obvious way.


  1. Make what’s old new again. This takes a mixture of frugality, respect for some of the past, and a desire to demonstrate that new things don’t define you. Naturally, you’ll need to wrestle with the inconsistency of this step with the fact that loving shiny new Apple products and brand new clothes from certain labels is also a side of a true hipster, but since we’re all contradictory deep down, the sooner we grasp these contradictions and accept them, the more whole a person we’ll be.

    • Commonly known old things associated with hipsters include Parliament cigarettes (and a devil-may-care attitude about smoking laws), Pabst beer, grandparent’s clothing (or thrift store finds), bicycles with fixed gears (often ridden to the night clubs), analog cameras, and recycling and reusing almost anything (ingenuity, common sense, and fun comes into this).
  2. Reject blind consumerism. Hipsters are into “niche consumerism”. If your purchase helps local retailers, the environment, the mom and pop retailer, and the craft sellers down the road, then it’s hipster.
    • In terms of rejecting materialism, you have serious competition these days. Tree-huggers, peak oilers, urban survivalists and frugalistas are right up there with you even though you may or may not have anything to do with such devotees. Learn about them, perhaps mostly just to distinguish yourself from them, and don’t be surprised when you work out that perhaps even your entire generation has adopted the anti-materialism message out of sheer necessity from the lack of jobs, money, and financial support that was once around, with Generation Y’s “secular spiritualists”, “deferred dreamers”, and the “dreamful dead” now outnumbering the “traditional materialists”.[2]


  1. Define your choice. Decide what it is about being a hipster that so appeals to you. It’s hard to stay passionate about a personal style that you’re adopting if you don’t have clear reasons why. For many people, being hipster is about being alert to the way in whichconsumer culture can easily subsume us and lead us, rather than us standing back and critically assessing it.

  2. Consider your reasons for adopting the hipster lifestyle:
    • You’re keen to openly display your love of anything indie, independent art, culturally-exposing literature, existentialist or nihilist philosophy, and superior cultural awareness (your finger is on the pulse of what’s rotten at the heart of everything).
    • You like the fashion style of hipsters. See above for what’s hip in clothes, hair, shoes, and accessories.
    • It’s a style that defines all that you feel matters right now. Or, you’re not actually that sure what it is you want for a style and you’re confused, flipping from idea to idea and back again. Don’t worry, hipsterism will allow you to fit right in, confusion and all.
    • Being a hipster provides the perfect excuse for sitting in a café sipping mocha latteswhile surfing on your Mac or iPad for hours each day.
    • You’re already quirky and you just want to confirm your quirkiness with others of your own kind.
  3. Be in the right age group. Hipsters tend to be in their teens through to their 30s,[3]today’s “extended adolescent” era consisting of existential angst, searching for purpose and inner worth, and asking the meaning of everything.
    • Of course, this doesn’t mean you can’t be a hipster at an older age, but the fact that as you age you get less bothered and upset about the way the world works, or doesn’t work, probably means you’re a) not so keen to be labeled anything, b) not in need of belonging to any sub-culture, and/or c) less angry than you used to be. It’s quite possible you’re also very discreetly steering the rudder of your own teens going through “issues” and you’re less than keen to adopt more of the same for yourself.
  4. Be where the hipsters roam. Hipsters tend to congregate in very urban settings and they’re connected globally thanks to the Internet. In the USA, you’ll tend to find hipsters in major metropolitan centers where “anything goes”. Be where there are independent art galleries, movie houses, bands, and people.

    • Think New York City, Chicago, San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, Minneapolis, and especially the Brooklyn, N.Y. suburb of Williamsburg (known as the unofficial hipster capital of the world).[4][5]
    • Places like Glasslands and Pianos will be right up your alley.
    • Los Angeles is also acceptable but be careful not to get sucked into the California culture.
    • For less urban USA, try to find any moderately large college town; and in some states, a college town might be the only liberal part of the state such as Austin, TX, or Lawrence, KS.
    • In the UK, London is your spot, in Canada, try Montreal[6], and in Australia, try Melbourne.[7]
  5. Be educated. Aim to go to college, as hipsters tend to be well educated in such areas asliberal arts, graphic art, or math and science.[8]
    • Do a lot of reading, even if it means sitting in the local bookstore using their space and not actually purchasing the books you’re siphoning up knowledge from. Seek to go to higher level education if you’re in your element at college.
    • Many hipsters base their career choices around music, art, or fashion.[9] While these areas of work aren’t essential choices, they are probably a natural outlet for a hipster’s creativity.
    • Education is what helps a hipster to be dismissive about the hue and cry of others; they know it’s just history repeating itself, or it’s all much ado about nothing.
  6. Be an early adopter. Hipsters tend to sense what’s worthwhile before the trend or item becomes more popular. Many bands become famous only after hipsters first flock to their unknown performances. Many clothing trends were started by hipsters, only to be hijacked later by mainstream fashion houses. Many technical gadgets are taken up by hipsters first, only to become mainstream goodies later.
    • Of course, the irony of being an early adopter hipster is that once the trend or item becomes mainstream, it’s time to move on to something else obscure and unrecognized. That’s the trouble with being such an independent spirit; you trailblaze but you also have to keep moving on.
    • If you’re really good at something like math, physics, medicine, psychology, political analysis, eco-awareness, etc., you might find yourself making amazing discoveries that are light years ahead of everyone else’s thinking. You know deep down that you’ve cottoned onto something that really matters and that it makes sense but others are not convinced because it’s the “great unknown”. Rest easy and be determined in your knowledge that some day, others will come round to your discovery.
  7. Don’t define yourself to others’ (denial). One of the key elements of being hipster has been to avoid the label. Don’t go around proclaiming your allegiance; to do so would be to start allying with those who like neatly tied-up boxes denoting who is what, when, and where.
    • The moment you define yourself too clearly is the moment you begin to stagnate and risk being captured by the status quo. Many a hipster will therefore deny their “hipster-ness” whenever possible.
    • To preemptively ward off the mockers, some hipsters have taken to extending their sense of irony to include even themselves by acknowledging and mocking their own hipsterdom (for example, wearing a tee that says “I hate hipsters”); that way, by mocking themselves first, no one else can effectively do it.
  8. Keep a pulse on the hipster community. When some new, obscure band is on Pitchfork (preferably before), you should know about it. Check out Brooklyn Vegan (even if you don’t live there), Stereogum, Gorilla vs. Bear, and the Hype Machine as often as possible, but don’t make it obvious that you check them every five seconds.


  1. Read hipster classics. Your reading sources are important because what you read connects you with other hipsters, informs you about cultural issues, and keeps you knowledgeable. There’s a lot to be read out there, so sort the wheat from the chaff and get into the things that matter most. Things to read include:
    • Hipster magazines, such as Vice, Another Magazine, and Wallpaper.[10] Foreign magazines are good too.
    • Great books and poetry by people like Jack Kerouac, Alan Ginsburg, and Norman Mailer. Any other books you think are great. Any books, period; reading books sets hipsters apart from a lot of people. Visit the political science, anthropology, and sociology sections of the bookstores and local library frequently.
    • Blogs by other hipsters. You might also be inspired enough to write your own blog frequently.
  2. Watch hipster cinema. Watch independent and foreign films, as well as attending independent theater productions, such as shows by Ann Liv Young. Watch Wes Anderson, Hal Hartley and Jim Jarmusch movies.
  3. Listen to newly emerging, independent music. Indie music is a big part of what being a hipster is all about. Turn to the endless and ever-renewing list of independent artists in the music scene, especially in the areas of nu-rave, minimalist techno, independent rap, nerdcore, Elephant 6, garage rock and punk rock.[11] </ref>
    • Hipster artists of note include Animal Collective, Grizzly Bear, Belle & Sebastian, Electric President, Stray Kites, Jens Lekman, Neutral Milk Hotel, M83, Neon Indian, Neon Neon, Margot & The Nuclear So and Sos, and King Khan and the Shrines.
    • Music blogs like Gorilla vs. Bear, Indiehere, /mu/, and Stereogum may help you with choosing suitable bands to listen to. Meeting people who are already into these bands will help you as well.
    • Perhaps the most popular hipster music website is pitchforkmedia.com. If they give an album a good rating, it must be quite hip.
    • One good way to decipher whether or not an artist is hipster is if your non-hipster friends to have never heard of them.


  1. Get the lingo and the attitude. While there will be many variations—part of the reality of hipster culture is that things change constantly—there are some things that are useful to know:
    • Remember to use perhaps the most important hipster line: “I liked them before they were cool.” Another good line given the recent spate of disasters is to say something like: “I donated to Haiti… before the disaster.”
    • Namedrop often. Talk about all the obscure bands you like that nobody you know has heard of. When your friends talk about a band you’re unfamiliar with, just say you’ve heard of them but not actually heard them. Look them up the next time you have a chance to. It’ll give you more cred.
    • Insult a lot of bands. If you love everything you’ll seem like a fanatic. Make sure to give off a vibe that you’re too cool and elite for a lot of bands.
    • If you would like to seem more educated and elite there is the key phrase ” I liked their first EP, but pretty much after that I never got into them.”
    • Use made-up words as often as possible. Or use real words that no one really knows the meaning of unless they look them up (eg. pulchritudinous, cordiform, and petrichor).
  2. Hone your humor. A hipster is known for their strong sense of irony and sarcasm. When asked a question, refuse to answer directly; instead, obfuscate, ask a question in return, or just be plain sarcastic.
    • Be sure to layer on the smirk to indicate your lack of seriousness, because it’s possible for the other person to mistake your sarcasm for sincerity.
    • For example: When in a theater watching a movie, and the person next to you turns to say, “Oh, my God, that was so cool! Did you see that?”, in a dry tone, reply something along the lines of, “No, I paid $12.50 to stare at the ceiling.”
    • Watch British comedies for examples of good uses of sarcasm you can borrow.
    • Have a sense of humorous perspective and don’t take yourself too seriously. Hipsters are often parodied, so knowing how to laugh at derision will help a lot.


  1. Start growing your own food and turn vegetarian. Use compost if possible. If you have absolutely no space to do this (not even a balcony or a window sill), go to a natural foods market instead. Eating meat isn’t exactly popular with the hipster culture, and many hipsters tend to be vegetarian or vegan. If you do eat meat, you must assert that choice as a cynical transcendence of vegetarians’ futile attempts to save the world— your sense of irony has already deemed that movement obsolete.
    • Fruit, coffee, Asian food, etc., are all hip foods.
    • You can’t really go wrong with lunch from Whole Foods.
    • Technically, hipsters are all a bunch of foodies and love making gourmet meals. If you can’t cook, get some good cookbooks today.


  1. Use social media. Female hipsters love to use Blogspot, Tumblr or WordPress taking photos with their Holga cameras of cross-processed and “dreamy-like” pictures of themselves in a field, by the ocean, in forests, in their hipster rooms. Their photography usually reflects their desire for beautiful and soft vintage things. If you know of a hipster girl that knows the terms “reblog” or “follow me on blogspot” then that’s definitely one of the indicators of a female hipster.

  2. Date other hipsters. The reason to “hook up” with other hipsters is that you’re much more likely to connect and see eye-to-eye on a range of issues. The all-American muscle guy or sorority-style tanned blond are not likely to be your type, so a fellow hipster is the answer.[12]
    • Look within your circle for suitable dates, and interracial dating is typical within the hipster sub-culture.[13]
    • Some hipsters may experience a problem with monogamy as that can feel like a form of being tied down. Then again, if you think that’s unique to hipsters, you’ve got a lot to learn about dating and commitment
    • If you break up with a hipster, text them it’s over or better still, have someone else pass the message on (try an internet break-up service). Nothing too emotional, OTT, or pain-acknowledging is ideal.
  3. Start dancing. If you want to spot a hipster, just turn around the next time you’re at a show and see them standing in the back discussing Stella or Pabst Blue Ribbon (PBR) in a can. Sometimes, if the music and setting is right, you will witness hipsters engaging in dance movements.
    • Hipster dancing, if done right, does not use so much of the hips as it does the upper body and arms. Lots of swinging your head back and forth but only do this if you’re not humiliated easily (and as a hipster, you really shouldn’t care).
    • Although you’ll rarely see hipsters dancing at shows, they tend to enjoy separate dance parties where they can dance to an array of more upbeat hipster dance music.

Handling Criticism

  1. Get prepared. Be aware that hipsterism is frequently parodied or derided because hipsters bug some people. You’re going to need to get used to disdainful attitudes and to work out the ways in which you’re most comfortable responding.

    • There will often be an insistence that your sub-culture is “less than” whatever it is the hater “believes” in.
    • Given the tendency for hipsters to follow progressive politics, it’s likely you’ll encounter occasional conservative disdain, so it’s probably a good idea to brush up on your responses to any standard ridicule.
    • As for people who poke fun at your fashion sense, remind the so-called trendy mass that their worn and torn jeans fashion was originated by hipsters who found the jeans in thrift stores and wore them years before they turned into mainstream fashion.[14](The “we did it first” is a familiar catch-cry of the hipster whose original ideas end up being incorporated into mainstream profit-making ventures.)
  2. Recognize the root of the problem. Realize that a lot of people who attack you may have deep insecurities about their own place in society and have very mixed ideas of what culture is, or how they reconcile the variant elements of culture with their own lifestyle and preferences. A little compassion for the most aggressive of the lost souls can go a long way, as you realize they’re not really attacking you personally but they’re expressing their utter confusion and irresponsible lack of deep thinking through of all the issues. It doesn’t mean you have to respect or like these people but reaching your own inner peace and understanding of where they’re coming from can ease things for you.
    • Know that geeks have an odd relationship with hipsters. While some are disdainful, other geeks actually realize that geeks often sit on the edge of hipster and occasionally meld with hipsters.[15] Mixing the obsessiveness of geek with the dismissiveness of hipster results in someone who is determined to get to the bottom of why everything sucks.
  3. Educate yourself. A wise hipster stays abreast of the criticisms of hipsterism to know what’s being said and to find the irony implicit in any criticisms. Instead of feeling defensive, spend some time reading the criticisms of the hipster counterculture.
  1. 1

So there you have it. Everything you need to know about being a hipster! :-/


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