While the subcultures of prior generations resisted the oppressive nature of capitalism, most hipsters do not — at least not really. Mainstream America sells hipsterhood right back to the hipster, and the trendy hipster is more than happy to buy skinny jeans from Urban Outfitters for $75 a pair. As Douglas Haddow writes for Adbusters, the hipster is “less a subculture” and more a “consumer group — using their capital to purchase empty authenticity and rebellion.”
Like other subcultures, hipsters also display a keen interest in self-expression.
Allen Ginsberg, a beat poet, broke out of the repressive structure of conventional poetry and wrote in free-verse, a form he felt was less restrictive of poetic expression. Musician Janis Joplin, in her rendition of “Summertime,” shows no vocal restraint, singing not for the sake of music, but for self-expression.
This intense investment in self-expression exhibited by members of previous generations culminates in the image of the hipster. The hipster becomes the parody of a culture desperate to express individuality. Ginsberg expresses himself through poetry, Joplin expresses herself through music and hipsters express themselves through consumer choices. The hipster has unbending preferences as a consumer and isn’t shy about expressing them, favoring vintage over contemporary and organic over conventional products.
The hipsters I know buy vinyl records, shop at thrift stores and eat organic food to express an identity. The hipster who buys vintage — before it was cool to do so — has classic, timeless taste. The hipster who chooses Whole Foods over Wal-Mart is a well-informed friend of the environment. The hipster who wears scarves in July can be a fashion non-conformist, in spite of the blistering Arizona heat.