What is a 'hipster' anyway?
According to Wikipedia a ‘hipster’ is a term that developed in the late 90’s that “became a blanket description for middle class young people associated with alternative culture, particularly alternative music, independent rock, independent film and a lifestyle revolving around thrift store shopping, eating organic, locally grown, vegetarian, and/or vegan food, drinking local or brewing beer, listening to public radio and riding bicycles.” Sure, that sounds like a comprehensive definition of a hipster to me. It is also a pretty canny summation of most of the Boulder-ites I know.
So, I thought to myself, why exactly are all these hipsters here? Downtown Boulder served as an easy answer to my question because it is a hotbed of hipsterdom: the perfect place to be or become a hipster. There is the local, independently run Boulder Bookstore to browse both hard to find and popular titles. There are dozens of coffee shops, each with its own distinctive cup of black coffee offering innuendos into its corresponding personality (my favorite is the cup-of-joe served up at Saxy (on 10th) with Trident (Pearl and 10th) coming in as a close second). New to Pearl Street is Goldmine Vintage (on the pedestrian mall), a vintage store that guarantees that you’ll walk out more hip than you did when you walked in (IF you’re willing to pay for their selective and premier taste). Pearl St. begins and ends with bike shops as bookends with University Cycles on the West end and Full Cycle at the East. Plus, Pearl St. is crawling with organic and local fare: Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, the new (and delicious) Crepes Ala Cart, and Lolitas’ market (Pearl and 8th) to name a few. But, all of this comes at a price and it leaves me wondering: can you really buy your way to wearing the title of “hipster”?
To see if there was something beyond consumer interest in the term, I looked into its etymology. ‘Hipster’ is a term meant to convey a sense of alternative originality, but the term itself is both borrowed and bought from 1940’s beat culture. Among those who helped determine the term’s territory is Boulder’s own Allen Ginsberg, founder of the Jack Kerouac School for Disembodied Poetics at Naropa University, centrally located on Canyon St. Back in their day a hipster lived in “an amorphous movement without ideology. It was [sic] more a pose than an attitude; a way of "being" without attempting to explain why.” If you weren’t hip, you were square and if you were hip you were a hipster.
Being a hipster is not just living in a culture of cool. It straddles a dangerous line between being something and being a shell that contains nothing. Critics have gone so far as to accuse the hipster of “appropriating styles of counter cultural movements while discarding everything that the style stood for.” While I suppose that it is possible for someone to be a borrowed shell that holds nothing, I have not yet met someone who is entirely unsubstantial. Boulder-ite hipsters are no exception. Pearl St. offers a context to find the inner hipster in you. To see people, mannerisms, styles, art and to adopt it. To try it on and take it for a spin. It’s a safe place to play, to see new things and to literally become part of the local scene. Try on the word hipster and see if you can redefine the word in the process of redefining yourself.